Too densely planted too big cages - an ongoing paradox…


The reality of the tendencies in chameleon husbandry is astonishingly like on a swing. From one extreme to another one.

Couple of years ago, we had an issue that almost all chameleons were dehydrated. Nowadays, after installing all the devices, like mist-kings, and other misters, foggers, humidifiers, drippers, droppers etc., we have sometimes to shout: stop, beware, it is a chameleon, not a frog and not a fish.

Some time ago, the cages looked terribly empty with just a few branches and a horizontal log eventually with few fake plants inside. Nowadays, the second extreme happens. The cages are fully planted with plant matter like in a jungle. And again, we have to shout: be careful, most chameleons do not live in jungles, but usually on its edges where the density of vegetation is lower. They like it airy and spacy, they do not like it too dense, so they need to crawl through leaves.

Some time ago, the cages were so small so that a Chameleon had troubles to turn, and the environment was equal in all the corners of it. Nowadays, some people create huge cages 6 to 8 feet tall and wide!

And again, we have to warn: it is not easy to make such a cage properly…

Let's get an insight in some of these aspects, name the most frequent mistakes and rectify them. We focus on the size and foliage…

Same, as the distribution of vital factors across the scales are building bell curves in temperature, humidity, ventilation, radiation, and so on and so on, all the technical aspects have same distribution:

Too little means wrong.

Too much means also wrong.

The optimal range somewhere in and around the middle brings the best solution for life, health and welfare of our chameleons.

This is the first rule.

The second rule is: do not try to be smarter than mother nature. Always get as much info as possible how it is in the wild and try to meaningfully and not stupidly imitate it in the sense of "naturalistic chameleonoculture". read more about the definition here:


Please, do not overdo with plants. The reasons are as follows:

It is not natural.

Chameleons do usually not live in dense vegetation. They hate any touch on their bodies, as the only occasion when this happens is when they are predated (and females when they are forced to make love by the males

They like space and air and they like to watch and see around and frankly, most of the time they spend not in the greenery, but on branches, which are leafless (go to my website and see many many more :

or se many videos on youtube:

If there is too much vegetation, the lower ⅔ of the cage will be unsuitable for the chameleon to stay. And,

It will use just ⅓ of the generously offered space and waste ⅔ of it - for nothing. Usually, the lowest ⅓ does not get enough light, neither for plats growing nor for the chameleon to see properly - plants would die there whatever you do and cham will not see proper too. The only option how to solve it is an additional light source either in vertical manner or eg incorporated into the background. But this is technically very hard to do. For the same reason, abscond from using plants with big leaves. They block everything, especially all types of light.


For indoor caging, higher than 4ft cages are not used, as you simply can not illuminate them properly with a light on top. Either the top is too intense or the bottom is not illuminated enough.

We as humans are not really good in assessing the intensity of light… from oustide, the cage seems to be full of light. But what seems to us still full of light, the chameleon sitting just ½ ft from the source can perceive as dark…

The law of physics sounds: the intensity of light is reversely proprtional to sqare of the distance from the source…

Therefore, in the distance of 2ft, the intensity of light is 4times less than at 1 ft and at 3ft 9 times less…

Outdoors, there is no differece between the peak of Anapurna and London as the source is 150M km from both

(of course, in reality reduced a bit through smog, clouds etc, just as a model example…

Technically and practically it means: whatever is more than 3ft from the regularly used light sources has not enough light for the chameleon to use. Therefore, if building huge chameleon cages, do not make them high but make them max 4 ft high but GO FOR WIDTH! Small cages for chameleons can traditionally be high, but huge modern cages need to be wide. The logic of the availability of light is in detail explained here:

3. I understand that for aesthetic reasons, the backgrounds are often made imitating some stone walls. It is of no to very little use for the chameleon and if you leave it in dark or gray colors, it will "eat" lots of light and make the cage, even darker. Chameleons do not live in the wild in anything that reminds on such environment as I demonstrated many times, they do not live in caves! What they see is actually white and blue skies through the branches and leaves. Therefore, I strongly recommend to paint the background at least in its upper half white and blue. It looks great, and it will be much more natural. See this


Get inspired by the natural biotopes of chameleons

Do not over-plant the cages, use safe plants with small leaves.

Do not use cages higher than 4 ft for indoor husbandry

Author: Petr Nečas