Have you ever considered just how much you would need before you can buy and keep a chameleon? You’re sure not alone! It was after I got the first chameleon that I began to analyze just how much I was going to need to be able to adequately care for it. After a few months of owning a chameleon, I had garnered just enough of the right information to help anyone correctly estimate how much would be needed to care for a chameleon both in the short and long run. So are you ready to weigh your decision by the weight of your pocket? Let’s move right on!
So what is the average cost of owning a chameleon? As a chameleon owner, you would spend a basic cost of about $250 to prepare for the welcome of your chameleon and about $950 to $1,000 per year for its maintenance. This includes about $300 for veterinary contingency visit which may or may not be used. There are different aspects to think about when trying to analyze the cost of caring for a chameleon.
Without the right guide, the cost you may estimate for owning a chameleon may be grossly wrong and you may end up spending more than you bargained for. Although it is not important to have all the money ready before buying a chameleon, it is important to decide if you’re willing to spend such amount on chameleon care and if the money will be readily available when needed.
How much do chameleons cost? What does it take to provide them with a comfortable environment? What other miscellaneous costs will I incur? If you need proven answers to these questions, you’re on the right track already.
Initial Purchase Investment
How Much does A Chameleon Cost?
The cost of a chameleon depends on the breed and also on the location where it is gotten. For example, rare chameleons will cost more than more common domesticated chameleon pets. The cost of a chameleon is really an important factor in deciding to get one. When buying a chameleon, you would have to consider how much you have to spend on that particular breed of a chameleon, what special care it needs apart from other chameleons, what food it likes best, etc. So in the long run, you not only consider the cost of getting the chameleon from the breeder or pet store, but also other costs peculiar to the chameleon breed.
Before you get your chameleon, you have to look or a reputable local or online store where you can get the chameleon at a reasonable price and in perfect health. Also, it is better to purchase captive bred chameleons as they tend to be cheaper, healthier and less vulnerable to stress.
Veiled chameleons and panther chameleons are most likely to be captive bred. For example, veiled chameleons which are the best choice for beginners cost about $59.99 on Petco. This price could vary from $30 to $100 depending on your location or the age of the chameleon. Other chameleons such as the panther chameleon are more expensive.
The panther chameleon could cost as high as $189.99 and a Sambava panther chameleon could retail for as high as $299.99.(See more: 37 Cool Facts about the Panther Chameleon)
The Jackson’s chameleon costs about $50 to $100. (See more: 31 Amazing Facts About Jackson Chameleons)
However, as was discussed in a previous article (35 Cool Facts About the Veiled Chameleon), the veiled chameleon is the best type of chameleon for beginners because they tend to adapt to changes more easily.
How Much Does A Chameleon Cage Cost?
After you have decided on the type of chameleon to keep, the next step is to choose what type of cage it will live in. Of course, this comes with a price. As you are already sensing, the price you paid to get your chameleon is nothing compared to how much you will spend on other aspects of care for your pet.
The best cage for your chameleon is one which gives it just enough space to move around freely without compromising on other important aspects such as temperature, etc. It is important you prepare or purchase the cage for your chameleon before you bring it home with you. Also, you should have decided other such things as where to keep the cage, etc. Since chameleons grow rather quickly, you will need to get a cage for it not based on its current size, but rather, based on how big it will grow later.
There are different types of cages which are sold and can be used, but is important to note that the minimum recommended cage size for a pet chameleon is three feet (91 cm) x three feet (91 cm) x four feet (122 cm).
The cost of a chameleon cage ranges from about $44 to $189.
This of course depends on the size of the cage and also on the other specs of the cage. There are also many other options and types of chameleon cages on eBay. A baby screen cage costs about $30 to $60 depending on size. A baby glass terrarium costs about $40 to $80 also depending on size. An adult screen cage could cost about $80 to $110 for a 2’x2’x4’ cage, while an adult glass terrarium could cost about $200 to $300 depending on size. See more: Best Terrarium size for a Veiled Chameleon
While some people may go against the option of using glass enclosures, it does have some advantages. For example, it is of great use to people living in extremely dry or very cold temperatures. So if you live in such areas, a glass enclosure will help you keep your temperature and humidity level more stable.
In order to save yourself some money, you could watch some of the DIY cage tutorials (Watch the video below). Using this option, one can build a much bigger enclosure for a lesser amount.
Lighting and Temperature
After you have gotten the cage, it cannot be left just like that. It needs other features such as a good source of light. Every reptile requires a 12-hour light/dark cycle and enough of calcium in order to remain healthy. A UVA/UVB fluorescent bulb helps to supply the needed rays to help your chameleon absorb calcium properly. You will spend about $20 for a UVB bulb (Reptisun 5.0/10.0 linear fluorescent) or up to $70 for an Arcadia 6%/12% or Megaray bulb.
(Check the price on Amazon)
(Check the price on Amazon)
Apart from the UVB source, you also need a heat bulb. A regular household bulb which costs about $4 to $6 will do. (A 40 to 60w bulb will usually suffice). You may also need other light fixtures such as a linear fluorescent which costs about $10 and a spotlight fixture of about $5 for the heat bulb.
In order to monitor the temperature in the cage, you should place several thermometers at strategic places in the cage or you can purchase the Carolina custom cages reptile digital thermometer and hygrometer on a single probe. This goes for $15.99 on Amazon.
(Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon)
A functioning misting system is required in other to maintain the humidity of the enclosure. A spray bottle or pump sprayer will cost about $1 to $20. You could get a free dripper or have to pay about $15 for one. You can make a DIY dropped in order to save some money. If you prefer to use an automatic misting system, be prepared to pay between $100 to $200 for it.
(Check the price on Amazon)
One needs to consider what type of cage décor to use for the chameleon. It would not in any way be good to leave the cage bare. Some cages are sold with decor inside but they obviously cost more. The needed décors are plants and branches.
Plants to use will cost about $30 to $100. However, the important thing to note is that you must use live plants. Get just enough plant to provide adequate cover while leaving room for enough adventure in the cage. You don’t need to buy artificial vines and branches as you can make use of any branch which is nontoxic. On the plus side, these trees tend to be sturdier.
There is a need to have enough supplements with which to dust the insects and thus provide nutrient for your pet. Examples of the types of supplements you can buy include phosphorous-free calcium without Vit D3 which will cost about $6 to $12, phosphorous-free calcium with Vit D3 which will also cost about $6 to $12 or a multivitamin which will cost about $6 to $12.
There is also an option of getting the Rapashy Calcium Plus supplement which contains essential vitamins and calcium (all in one) for $8.99 on Petco.
Summary of the average initial purchase investment or basic costs
- Pet Chameleon $70
- Cage $100
- Lighting and temperature $50
- Misting (non-automated) $15
- Cage décor $ 50
- Miscellaneous (eg hose for draining, drain pan, Ficus tree, etc) $50.
This amounts to about $325 on average. You may get all these for a lot less or more as the case may be.
During the life of your pet, some of the things initially purchased may need replacement or servicing. The prices for these maintenance areas need to be calculated in order to have a true grasp of how much you may need per year to care for your chameleon. Areas, where maintenace is needed, include the purchase of food, the replacement of lights, purchase of more supplement, vet bills, etc.
Chameleons love eating live insects and may not even take as much as a second glance at dead insects. To get live insects such as crickets, butter worms, roaches, silkworms, hornworms, super worms, etc., you may need about $20 to $70+ per month.
This, of course, depends heavily on such factors as what type of insect you get, how much of the insects you get, and how often you get them. It is however much cheaper to buy insects in bulk online, and then house your insects at home and even breed them. After getting the insects, suitable containers are needed to house them in.
The housing or container for the insects will cost about $5 to $12. This also depends on the size of the container and how many you choose to get. So in total, you may spend an average of $60 on both the insects and their containers.
(Check the price on Amazon)
The effectiveness of the UVB bulb wanes with time so it must be replaced every 6 to 8 months for adequate UVB rays. Don’t wait until the bulb breaks or goes off before changing it. This is because even if you can’t see it, less and less UV is produced by the bulb even before it breaks.
This amounts to $20 bi-yearly ($40 per year on UVB bulbs). The heat bulb also doesn’t last forever and will burn out after a while and need replacing.
After a while, the supplements will run out, so they will also need replacing. Since the calcium without D3 is the most used supplement, it will need replacing first. The calcium without D3 is usually used 3 to 4 days a week for a male chameleon and 4 to 5 days a week for a female chameleon.
The calcium with D3 will only be used about twice a month and hence tend to last longer. These supplements will probably last you for years or until they expire so you don’t have to worry about a lot of costs coming from this angle.
(Check the price on Amazon)
Gut loading food
The feeders need to be gut loaded before they are used. This means a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, and other high-quality dry gut load will be needed. The price for the gut loading food will vary significantly with what ingredients you use to gut load, and how well you gut load. There is an option to purchase dry gut loads which offer excellent nutrition or make some yourself at home from appropriate and healthy ingredients ground together.
Like all other animals, there is a possibility of your chameleon getting sick. Therefore, you have to budget at least $300 to $500 for healthcare in case of an emergency visit to the vet. You may choose to do a yearly routine checkup on your chameleon or wait till it shows signs of sickness. However, chameleons don’t often show signs of sickness until the case is advanced. When the case advances, it is probably already an emergency.
Some routine tests are important. For example, it is important to perform fecal tests at least twice a year to check for parasites. The average price for this test is $15 to $20. So this amounts to about $30 to $40 per year on routine fecal tests.
(Photo Credit: Señor Trepador)
You may need to replace the live plants because they may get damaged from the chameleon walking on them. Also, you expect your chameleon to grow and it may become too big for the terrarium. If this happens, the live plants may have to be substituted for bigger ones.
Summary of the average maintenance costs
- Food plus gut loading ($60 ×12 months) = $720
- Lighting $40
- Supplements $12
- Vet contingency bills ($300. It may or may not be used).
- Live plants ($30. May or may not be used)
The amounts to a grand total of an average of about $1,100 yearly.
Of course, you don’t need to have $1,000+ in hand before deciding to own a chameleon, but it is important to know the long-term costs not to discourage you, but rather to prepare you.
These prices as already stated depend a lot on your preferences (for example getting an automatic misting system, using reflector fixtures, etc) and location. Online markets are very good choices to shop from because they tend to be cheaper. Don’t forget that you can also purchase some used items in order to save you a lot of costs. For example, if you know someone who is moving out of town or who has bought another cage, you can get the former cage at a much-subsidized price. Don’t forget to also disinfect everything you get before use in order to prevent infestation by parasites.
Always remember that the cost of a chameleon is always much lower than the costs of food, housing, and healthcare combined. Don’t base your costing on the price of the initial purchase investment alone.
What do you think about the cost of owning and maintaining a chameleon? Is it higher than you expected it would be? I would like to hear from you. Please leave your comments below!
If you find anything wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.