Need Help?

Register now to gain access to the Arcadia Products Community Portal. Its designed to provide assistance to our Customers, Users and Contributors who want to integrate and get the best possible results from the Arcadia products.

The Benefits of Membership

Gain access to:
- Arcadia Knowledgebase.
- Troubleshooting Assistant.
- Product Documentation.
- Arcadia Products Forum.
- Live-chat and Technical Support.

Not Yet Registered?

Signing up is easy and takes less and 3 minutes. Take a moment to create a user account and get verified instantly. Register now to join the Arcadia Products Community to gain access into valuable tips and updates and the newest product releases.

Sign up instantly!

Lighting for large chameleon enclosures

I have a large Yemen (veiled) chameleon that I want to keep in a floor to ceiling-sized waterproof enclosure. Can you give me so tips, and how best I can light this accommodation? Keeping chameleons at home is getting easier and easier, especially with the advent of many new technologies. The sheer range of species being kept and bred in the home is also larger than I can ever remember. It really is good to see, and as a group of keepers, we are certainly starting to get it right. There are also some larger scale breeders setting up in the UK and in Europe and they will be providing us with quality animals now into the future. Many people are proactively keeping records and using the forums and social groups to spread word of all of their success and failures. We are now learning so much about these lizards. Housing Reptile keeping is evolving very fast at present. It is not so long ago that all we had to keep reptiles in what were converted fish tanks. Then the mesh topped and wooden vivariums arrived, and now there are specialist mesh chameleon enclosures. Many keepers are looking at options like these open enclosures, to give bigger and better options for ensuring these wonderful animals are safe and secure, in well-ventilated quarters. One new method that I have seen work extremely well involves using a secured and well-maintained hydroponics-style grow tent. These enclosures allow good airflow and by nature serve as one big reflector. This helps with heating and lighting the unit effectively. I have also seen converted wardrobes and shower cubicles used, mostly with good results if they can be sealed properly. As we know, all technology has limitations. It is up to the user to work around these restrictions, so as to achieve the end result that is required. The main issue with lighting in such a tall enclosure as you propose is that UVB does not travel well. This means the further that the light extends out from the lamp, so the weaker the dose will become. We also know that the bigger an enclosure, so the harder it is to generate and maintain good thermal and photo-gradients. Then there is general maintenance. The bigger something is, so the more there is to clean and also to go wrong. Having said all of that though, these factors should not put you off . Things can be workable, given the right understanding of the technology. It is possible to light and heat your floor to ceiling enclosure without too much difficulty. Lighting and heating Firstly, as always, we start with the wild animal. A quick search online regarding this species will quickly reveal the average UV index (UVI) and the typical length of exposure to sunlight per day that these lizards experience in the wild. You can then use this information to start to re-create these conditions in your own enclosure at home. You will also find information about humidity levels through the seasons and learn about local sightings of the species. You will see that this particular chameleon occurs in an area where it gets very hot for long periods and there is a very high UVI. Now we could take that to mean that these chameleons need to be blasted with heat and irradiated with UVB, but that is not the case. It is also a question of considering the chameleon’s wild behavior. It is not as if these lizards sit out in the open when the weather is at its hottest. This species is found basking mid-morning and late afternoon but is observed to hide away in the furnace-type heat of the day in its natural habitat. We then look at the thickness of skin and use this, along with the behavioral patterns, to decide upon a UV rich gradient. All of this is of course dependant on the full implementation of the light and shade method. Your enclosure is tall and rather thin, so your photo-gradient becomes top down rather than horizontal. You should therefore provide a light source that recreates the average level of exposure at the top branch and then descends into cooler temperatures and shade as your chameleon heads further down into the enclosure. Your lizard will then be able to use its power of tetrachromacy to adjust its level of exposure to the light source as and when required, in a very natural way. Heat can be provided from the top down as with the lighting, and as always, you must use a suitable thermostatic control system. I actually really like the Habistat Reptile-Radiator in these types of systems. This unit uses ultra-long wavelength infra-red to provide heat to the enclosure, and this is very close to the way that the sun gives us warmth. In your case, I would suggest the use of the D3+UV FLOOD would be most appropriate. This fitting is perfect for large chameleon enclosures, provided that it is installed correctly. The good news is that you actually get everything that is required to fi t the lamp supplied with it, in the box! The lamp is IP67 waterproof and has a very low wattage, being just 24 watts. It is also totally flicker-free and has a high output. You do not want the chameleon to get too close to the lamp or any UVB lamp, as this may provide the animal with a dose/exposure to UVB that is higher than it would experience in the wild. So set your top basking branch or vine no closer than 38cm (15in), measured from the lamp to the lizard. This will then be providing your chameleon with a suitable upper wild index of about 4-5 at its basking point. This fitting is perfect for all accommodation set-ups that are 0.9m (3ft) in width, or narrower, but it should not be used in enclosures that are under 76cm (30in) high if fitted internally. In the case of wider vivariums, a linear T5 system can be used instead . You must then think about hydration. Did you know that the vitamin D3 cycle is seriously impeded in a dehydrated animal? In short, all of the good work that is done with wild recreation, diet and enclosures can be almost nullified if the animal is not obtaining sufficient fluids in the manner that it is designed to. Drippers or mist/rain units are a very effective way of providing hydration in a natural way for a chameleon, allowing it to drink as it would in the wild, but obviously, be very careful if spraying, because water and electricity do not mix. It is also vital to make sure that all reptile enclosures are easy to ventilate. This will help to reduce any bacterial or fungal build up from stale moisture in the air. You may also decide to place a couple of simple computer fans in the system. These are usually two located at the bottom front of the enclosure and two more at the back, at the top of the enclosure. This then acts as “push/pull” ventilation, creating an air current. I also suggest that large plant tubs are used on a sealed tile floor. This will help greatly with cleaning, as you will be able simply to remove the pots and clean the vivarium without getting substrate everywhere. Using this type of enclosure offers a hygienic method of setting up and decorating a large enclosure for an arboreal species. © John Courteney-Smith Taken from “Practical Reptile Keeping” magazine

    Latest News