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The Average Cost of Maintaining a Chameleon

Cost Chameleon

Chameleons are rather expensive pets. They are amazing creatures that require a lot of care and monitoring. The cost of a chameleon varies according to the species, age, and size. You can probably expect a chameleon to cost $30 to $300.

So you have just bought a chameleon, and now there are many setups required for your chameleon, like a terrarium, UVB lights, trees and plants, a heating pad, food, supplements, thermometer, as well as automatic feeders, a travel cage, and vet bills. Throughout the life span of your chameleon, you may spend around $2000 or even more per year.

How much does a Chameleon Cost

Buy your baby chameleon from a well-known breeder or get help from a veteran chameleon owner. This is important to ensure you are purchasing a healthy reptile.

For beginners, it is best to buy a veiled, panther, or Jackson Chameleon as they are the easiest to care for.

The cost of owning a baby chameleon will vary based on its size. Veiled, Jackson, Sahel, and Graceful chameleons will range between $20 and $80. The cost of a baby panther chameleon is higher because of its unique coloration. They range between $150 and $400.

Cost of Wide Variety of Chameleons

Chameleon Species Size of the chameleon Cost of the chameleon
Panther chameleon 16 – 22 inches $300
Veiled chameleon 10 – 22 inches $50+
Jackson’s chameleon 8 – 12 inches $35+
Dwarf Jackson’s chameleon 7 – 8 inches $75+
Ambilobe Panther chameleon 16 – 22 inches $300+
Four-Horned chameleon 10 – 14 inches $100+
Parson’s chameleon 16 – 28 inches $1,000+
Cuban False chameleon 6 – 7 inches $150
Pygmy chameleon 3 – 4 inches $50+
Bearded Pygmy chameleon 3 inches $50
Usambara Pitted Pygmy chameleon 3 inches $50
Carpet chameleon 7 – 8 inches $200+
Ambanja Panther Chameleon 16 – 22 inches $300+
Meller’s chameleon 20 inches $150+
Senegal chameleon 6 – 8 inches $30+
Fischer’s chameleon 8 – 15 inches $100+
Flap-Necked chameleon 8 – 12 inches $50

What kind of chameleon should you buy?

The most common pet chameleon species which can be purchased easily are,

  • Veiled chameleon
  • Panther chameleon
  • Jackson’s chameleon

Among the three common types of chameleons, the panther chameleon is the most expensive one, ranging between $200 and $500, whereas the veiled or the Jackson chameleon would range between $30 and $200.

It is better to buy a baby chameleon instead of a grown one since it costs less. It does require a lot of care and maintenance for the first 5 or 6 months. If you are a beginner, go for the veiled chameleon because they adapt to new environments quickly.

Compared to male chameleons, female chameleons are cheaper because they lay eggs and can be used for breeding. But the food cycle is complex for the female chameleons and they tend to fall sick easier during the gestation period.

Male chameleon color patterns are more beautiful and have a longer life span compared to females, but the cost of a male chameleon is far higher than a female chameleon.

How to cut down on the cost of a chameleon

You can adopt a chameleon from a reptile adoption service. This is a very rare opportunity because chameleons usually won’t be available for adoption. It is a sad situation when the owners of a chameleon can’t maintain it, so they either leave it for reptile adoption services or abandon their pet in the park.

If chameleons are available for adoption, then they will usually cost around $50 or $75, irrespective of species. While adopting, ask the caretakers whether they have a cage that is suitable for your adopted pet. This will cut down on the majority of your costs.

Budget Calculation Chameleon

You can buy a second-hand chameleon after thorough research. Owners will sell their chameleon if they are not able to take care of it or if the chameleon is sick. Before buying the chameleon, consult a vet or a reptile expert to ensure the chameleon is healthy.

Buying a second-hand chameleon is a gamble, you either win or lose. If the owner of the chameleon is moving to another state where a chameleon is not allowed as a pet, then most likely they will sell their pet for a reasonable cost. When buying the second-hand chameleon, ask for the chameleon’s medical record so that if they fell sick, your vet can identify the problem easier.

When you buy a chameleon from a breeder it will cost higher. The breeder may charge you around $50 or $300, depending upon the type of chameleon. The main advantage when you buy a chameleon from a breeder is you will get a variety of choices.

How much does the cage setup cost?

Chameleon cages should be tall, rather than wide, because chameleons like to climb. They won’t spend much time on the ground.

The cage setup costs more than your chameleon because you have to keep plants, UVB lights, a heating pad, thermometer, and more.

Chameleon Cage 2

The chameleon enclosure should be tall for climbing and spacious enough to provide a thermal gradient. For a male chameleon, the minimum size should be 2 feet long x 2 feet wide x 4 feet high.

If your cage size is smaller, your chameleon will feel stressed and get sick more often. They won’t grow much and their life span will decrease. You can’t go wrong with buying a large cage, but don’t buy a smaller cage at the beginning. Eventually, you will end up replacing the small cage, which will additionally cost you, and then you will also have to set up the whole new cage.

Types of Terrarium

Name of the cage Image of the cage Size of the cage in inches(l*b*h) Price
Glass cage 17*35*12 $179.84
36*18*24 $256.21
60*36*60 $2188.38
96*36*72 $3868.49
Acrylic cage 28*16*16 $19.07
24*17*20 $24.52
25*19*13 $29.95
48*48*42 $58.18
Mesh cage 5*5*7 $8.84
13*13*18 $19.41
48*24*60 $1512.97
48*24*72 $3638.08
Screen cage 18*30*30 $92.15
18*18*31 $97.88
24*24*48 $117.42
38*18*48 $274.80

Cost of trees and plants for your chameleon

You have bought a chameleon and a chameleon cage. What’s next? Now you have to put some plants, trees, and branches inside the cage. Chameleons spend their entire life on trees and plants, so it is important to choose good, non-toxic, and easy-maintenance plants.

The three main purposes of plants and trees in a chameleon’s cage are:

  • Climbing
  • Hiding
  • Drinking water
Ficus Benjamina Chameleon

You can either use fake plants or live plants. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. When you use artificial plants, your chameleon will miss how it feels to be surrounded by natural plants and trees.

Live plants have more advantages than disadvantages. They help to:

  • Maintain the humidity level of the cage
  • Provide fresh air
  • Increase the oxygen level in the cage

With live plants in the cage, it is enough if you mist the cage twice per day, as the plants maintain the air’s moisture. Shedding and respiratory problems won’t occur if the humidity is maintained, but artificial plants can’t provide this.

Plant Cost
Pothos $15-23
GRAPE IVY  $8-35
WANDERING JEW $6-10
BOSTON FERN $20-40
FICUS BENJAMINA $50 -100
DRAGON TREE $15-25
PARLOR PALM $15-50
BROMELIAD $20-45
TI PLANT $15-20
ARECA PALM $14-200

Cost to provide appropriate temperature and lighting

The temperature, lighting, and humidity level play a major role in your chameleon’s health. Without maintaining those parameters your chameleon will often feel sick and you will end up paying more for treating your chameleon. So to avoid those medical expenses, here is how you can maintain the cage parameters.

The cage temperature to maintain for an adult chameleon is a range of 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 27 degrees Celsius). 

For baby chameleons, the cage’s temperature should be maintained around 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

A UVB light source is required to provide a natural, sunny environment and vitamin D, and it is also necessary for digestive purposes.  Keep the light on 12 hours per day, and don’t forget to turn it off at night. Do this to teach your baby chameleon a day-night cycle. UVB lights cost around $20 for a UVB bulb (Reptisun 5.0/10.0 linear fluorescent) or up to $70 for an Arcadia 6%/12% or Megaray bulb.

The common options for additional heating elements in the cage include:

  • Heat lamps
  • Heat rocks
  • Heat tape
  • Ceramic heaters
  • Heating pads

Apart from the UVB bulb, you will need an extra heating element like a heat bulb with 40/60watt which costs around $4 to $6. To monitor the temperature of the cage, you will need to attach a thermometer, which costs around $16 to $20.

The UVB light or the heat bulb should be replaced every 6 to 8 months. For one year, you would be spending $40 for these alone.

60% to 80% relative humidity is the standard humidity for adult chameleons. It is better for baby chameleons when they are supplied 75% to 80% relative humidity constantly.

The best way maintain humidity level inside the terrarium is to:

  • Mist down the cage twice per day
  • Keep a water dripper
  • Keep a humidifier inside the cage
  • Do not place the cage near heaters, AC units, or windows
  • Keep a hygrometer in the enclosure at all times to maintain the humidity

To maintain the humidity of the cage you would need a spray bottle or a sprayer, which would cost around $1 to $20. You can get an automatic misting system, which would be between $100 and $200. This will be useful if you go on a long trip and leave your pet at home.

Supplements

It is not enough to provide tasty food for your chameleon: you have to make your pet healthier as well. In this case, you would require additional vitamin and calcium supplements. The essential supplements required for your chameleon are:

  • Phosphorous-free calcium without Vitamin D3 (costs about $6 to $12)
  • Phosphorous-free calcium with Vitamin D3 (costs about $6 to $12)
  • Multivitamin (costs about $6 to $12)

Food costs

Chameleons are insectivorous, which means they eat insects and worms. The common insects you can feed to your chameleon are crickets, butter worms, roaches, silkworms, hornworms, super worms, etc. They would cost about $50 to $100 per month.

You have to provide shelter for the insects as well, and in that case, the cage or container for the insects would cost around $5 to $12. You will need to feed, or gut load, the insects with fruits and vegetables. This cost depends upon you because fruit and vegetable costs vary according to location and time.

Medical expenses

The medical expenses for your chameleon are difficult to estimate. In case of emergency, you should be ready to spend around $300 to $400 per year. Your chameleon needs a yearly health checkup. Don’t wait for it to show symptoms of disease or infection!

Your chameleon will need fecal tests twice a year so that you can prevent any kind of infection at an early stage. The average price for this test is $15 to $20. This amounts to about $30 to $40 per year on routine fecal tests.

Pet insurance

Pet insurance is not a necessary cost, but you can cover the medical expenses and any theft or death of your pet. This kind of insurance will help you when you have unexpected medical expenses for your pet. We can’t determine the cost of it because different insurers offer different amounts. You can expect an average cost of about $200 to $300.

Final thoughts

When you calculate all the required items, like the initial cost of the chameleon, food, gut loading, supplements, lighting, plants, and medical expenses, it could cost you around $1500 per year. Apart from these, the lighting and the automatic humidity system might be turned on for more than 15 hours, which will also increase your electricity costs.

There are several ways to cut down on a few costs. You can breed the insects for future pet food, which cuts down on the purchase of insects, and you can buy certain items in bulk, which will definitely save you a few dollars. If you buy a second-hand chameleon and cage, you might even save a hundred dollars.