In this post, I’ll reveal the 11 reasons why choosing a glass cage is a decision. And you can make your own judgment decide which cage you’re going to purchase.
Dealing with Chameleons can be a difficult chore for owners who are not experienced in taking care of them. Most reptiles can survive in generalized conditions.
Chameleons, however, require the conditions on their habitats to be as close to their wild habitats as much as possible. That is why in the early days of rearing chameleons, most of them don’t typically survive for more than a few months. Thus they were regarded as the “holy grail” of reptile care.
So much so that the general belief in the early days of Chameleon rearing was “if you can care for a chameleon, you can care for any other reptile.”
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What Kind of Cage is best for Your Chameleon?
These days though, people now understand more about these exotic animals, now chameleons can live for years in enclosures instead of the few months they were known to live for. However, it hasn’t made the attention that has to be devoted to chameleon care any less. From feeding your chameleon, to knowing when it is suffering from physical injuries and stress-related ailments, to make sure it gets the optimum conditions for it to thrive, the chameleon owner has to pay constant attention to his/her pet. Unfortunately, chameleons are not particularly social animals, so they cannot express their displeasure with unpleasant conditions the way other social animals can.
A major problem that pet chameleon owners face when they acquire their new pets is where to keep them. In order to ensure that your chameleons grow properly and do not suffer from stress-related illnesses, you have to find a location, where they can get enough heat, where there are leaves to perch on and to drink dripping water from, where there are no other chameleons to attack them. The cage should also be in a humid place because chameleon skin tends to dry in hot conditions and need constant moisture.
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A Glass Cage can be a Good Choice?
A chameleon cage can be made of different materials. Some people even advocate making your chameleon cage with glass. The people who say this say so mainly because in cold and temperate places, glass conserves heat. This helps your chameleon to maintain its constant temperature.
Also, a glass enclosure is well protected and there is little or no chance of your pet getting exposed to sudden cold draughts. In fact, glass is the preferred material for chameleon enclosure construction in a cold humid climate. This is because other kinds of cages provide too much ventilation, and this affects the humidity of the cage (which means the owner has to work extra hard to spray the enclosure with water and keep the humidity at the precise level of the natural habitat of the chameleon).
This is why chameleon care experts advise that the only situation when you can consider a glass terrarium is if your terrarium is indoors, out of the reach of direct sunlight or you live in a place where the climate is cold.
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
11 Reasons Why Housing Your Chameleon in A Glass Cage is A Bad Choice
Other than the kinds of conditions above, experienced chameleon owners and vets often say that it is not advisable to make your chameleon cage out of glass. As much as putting your chameleon in a glass cage has its advantages, here are a few disadvantages of making your chameleon’s cage with glass.
Aggression and Territorialism
Chameleons are very aggressive and territorial animals.
They do not do well with other chameleons, even those of the same gender or the same species. Because glasses tend to reflect, the chameleon might start to see reflections of itself in the mirror.
Unfortunately, chameleons are not good with self-recognition, so your pet might see its own reflection and start attacking it, thinking of it as an intruder. Even if it doesn’t sustain injuries from continuously bumping against the glass, it can get stress-related complications from having to wonder where the strange chameleon has come from and why it is matching its own aggressive displays. This is particularly common in the case of veiled chameleons, panther chameleons, and Jackson chameleons.
There is no chance that the screen cage will show the chameleon its own reflection, so all the stress that a chameleon in a glass enclosure is prone to have already been eliminated from the chameleon in a screen enclosure.
Glass Affects Ventilation
Another reason why vets don’t recommend glass cages for your chameleon is ventilation.
Chameleons are creatures of wide open spaces. As a result, they require a lot of air and UV light. Chameleon care experts have pointed out that not only is lack of air likely to cause respiratory problems for your pet, it is also next to lack of UltraViolet lighting, as one of the conditions will most likely lead to your pet chameleon’s death.
Glass is difficult to ventilate properly and as a result, it is not good for chameleons. Glass is solid and does allow a lot of stagnant air, which contributes to respiratory diseases in chameleons more than anything else. Where a glass enclosure traps air and may recycle stale air to your chameleon. The screen cages ensure that your chameleon has a constant fresh supply of air and it avoids the respiratory problems that often affect chameleons that live in poorly ventilated terrariums.
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
Glass enclosures are notoriously difficult to drain.
Chameleons require a lot of water in addition to good ventilation, and therefore if you spray your chameleon with water several times in a day you will soon find your cage full of water, as well as dangerous microorganisms that can harm your chameleon.
Some owners say they drill a hole at the base of the glass box, but that is also at risk of shattering the glass (since glass is very brittle). With a screen cage, this issue isn’t faced as water easily drains out by itself.
Poor Radiator of Heat
Glass is also a poor radiator of heat.
At periods when chameleons need heat in their enclosure, glass can prove useful to use in their enclosure. However, there are periods when the chameleon does not need much heat and it is at the period that the heat radiated by the glass can cause stress to your pet.
Chameleon owners in particular mention that when a chameleon is shedding, it needs less heat and more moisture (since its skin tends to dry and flake). At this time, glass makes a very terrible radiator of heat. It can thus make your chameleon stressed and miserable. (Read more: Why is my chameleon shedding? (Caring Guide))
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
Furthermore, glass tends to radiate heat and thus if you leave your chameleon out in the hot sun without protection, it can sustain lamp burns from touching the heated glass. (Lamp burns happen when the animal moves too close to a heat source (not necessarily a lamp), and it gets burnt).
Lamp burns can cause serious emotional distress to the animal. The burns can also turn septic if it is infected by harmful microorganisms. A lot of chameleon owners counter this effect by having an air conditioner close by. However, for the air-conditioner to have an effect, it has to be on all day long. However screen cages can’t trap heat in its material, this makes it safer to use.
Owners who also put their chameleons in glass cages also report a growth on the glass. Limescale, a hard, off-white chalky deposit commonly found in kettles and hot water boilers and pipes.
It is found in places where hot water has evaporated. Since glass tends to conserve heat in hot weather, if you spray your chameleon in the sun, limescale will eventually begin to build on the glass. Limescale will make your glass enclosure unattractive and extremely difficult to clean.
Injuries to the Chameleon’s Tongue
Another disadvantage of using glass to build an enclosure for your chameleon that experts have talked about is tongue damage to your pet.
Chameleons catch food (which is mostly flying insects) by shooting out their long tongues at it. Since glass is hard and at the same time transparent, the chameleon will think the space is empty when it tries to catch the fly perched on the glass.
This can cause long term damage to your chameleon’s tongue. Screen cages are made of materials that are light and lower level of visibility. Even if your chameleon is trying to catch food outside its enclosure, it wouldn’t be faced with the risk of injury to its tongue.
Cost of Installing Cage
Chameleon owners have complained that glass is quite expensive, and it is the general rule of the thumb that the bigger the chameleon, the bigger the enclosure designed to keep the chameleon in.
This means that in some areas, some bigger chameleon species like Panther chameleons, veiled chameleons, and Jackson chameleon owners might have trouble finding a glass enclosure that they can fit their pet in. It is not that chameleons, even Jackson, and panthers, are particularly big animals, it is because Chameleons in the wild tend to patrol a wide territory (relative to body size).
Once you add décor to it, it becomes a downright pain to move. Therefore unless you have sturdy pieces of furniture to support it, a glass cage is not a good choice for you. You could, however, opt for the screen cage with relatively lower installation cost as the materials used are relatively inexpensive and available.
Read more: Best Terrarium size for a Veiled Chameleon
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
Glass cages are difficult to build
Furthermore, screen cages are very cheap and easy to build, unlike glass which can be very expensive.
Therefore it is likely that you will find a screen cage that is the appropriate size for your pet at a fraction of the cost of a glass. For example, chameleon owners report that Exoterra glass, the kind of glass that is recommended for keeping reptile pets in costs as much as four times the price of a screen cage.
So if you are on a budget, you are better off with a screen cage. Because it is cheap, it can be built up to any size which means that you no longer have to worry about how you are going to fit in your large Jackson or Panther chameleon into your screen enclosure.
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Glass Is Brittle and Breaks Easily
Glass is brittle and a mistake in handling may cause it to fall and break.
Therefore you have to be careful about how people approach your terrarium. The screen cage terrarium is made of durable materials which makes it extremely sturdy. Where the glass cage is a pain to disassemble and carry when you are moving house, for example, the screen cage is easily dismantled and assembled again.
Another reason why a screen cage is a preferable option to the glass cage is that the screen cage is more durable than glass.
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
Affects the Humidity in the Chameleon’s cage
The screen cage is also good for chameleon owners who live in hot humid areas.
As has already been mentioned, glass is a poor reflector of heat, and as has been mentioned, it tends to recycle hot and stale air. Therefore Even if the chameleon owner sprays moisture into the chameleon’s enclosure regularly, it could turn the chameleon’s enclosure into a sauna instead of cooling it off. It is also worthy of note that if you are going to be keeping your chameleon outside, then it is not worth buying a glass cage, you should go for a screen cage instead since it is very much lighter and easier to move.
Another reason to go for a mesh cage as a chameleon owner is that you can have a view of your chameleons at all times. As we have discussed, a screen cage is not likely to fog over and be covered with limescale. Thus it is easy to see observe your chameleons without necessarily moving close to it. This also has another upside, in that the screen cage is easier to clean and does not get disfigured like a glass enclosure would. It also has better drainage and will not likely fill with water and put your pet at the risk of drowning. Also, the risk of stagnant water containing microbes that can harm your pet is absent in a screen cage.
Not Good for Inexperienced owners
Chameleon care experts advocate keeping your pet chameleons in screen cages.
If you are just thinking about or you just got your first chameleon pet, care of chameleon generally depends on the species you are getting, their needs vary from humidity to temperature and so on, but they do share some common needs, so to be on the safe side it is advisable to start out with a screen cage since it already takes care of most of the needs of your chameleon.
You can now adjust as time goes on and you know more about the needs of your chameleon. This advice is especially for new chameleon owners who don’t have much experience in terms of enclosure placement for chameleons and who don’t understand much about chameleon habits.
All Arboreal Animals need fresh air and a good temperature gradient, and chameleons are no exception.
Photo Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
The Hybrid Cage?
These days, chameleon owners are going the hybrid cage route for their pets. A hybrid cage is a cage that is made of both glass and screen.
Hybrid cages vary depending on the preference of the pet owner. Some cages are equal parts glass and screen, some are more screen than glass, and some are more glass than screen. The good thing about a hybrid cage is that it combines the good parts of both glass and screen enclosures and none of the downsides.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider a hybrid cage for your chameleon.
Firstly an enclosure with a screen side helps to maintain the ventilation of the enclosure. Glass enclosures restrict ventilation, while screen enclosures allow too much of it. A hybrid cage retains just the amount of air, such that the humidity is not compromised, yet the chameleon is not affected by stale air and respiratory problems.
This also solves the problem of location. You can use your hybrid cage in a hot climate ( the screen cage parts make sure that the enclosure is not as hot and dry as to give your chameleon lamp burns) as well as in a cold climate (the glass parts make sure that the enclosure doesn’t lose that much humidity). Since we have already mentioned that the optimal moisture and humidity is retained, it saves the chameleon owner the time and effort that will be otherwise spent spraying the chameleon.
Hybrid cages also minimize the problem of weight. Hybrid cages are obviously still heavier than screen cages constructed from any other material, but they are obviously not as heavy as glass cages. Therefore they are easier to move around.
There are also the expenses. Since the cage is not full glass, it will not be not as expensive as a glass cage. This means you can afford to extend the boundaries of your glass cage and you don’t have to worry about the enclosure cost.
For some example: https://www.customcages.com/hybrid-reptile.html
Hope you find this post helpful. If you find anything wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update it as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.
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Anderson, V. (2014) “captive Enclosures” article retrieved The Chameleon Care and information Centre on www.chameleoninfo.com
Choosing the Best Cage for your chameleon. Retrieved from www.sa-chameleons.com
Microclimates and Gradients. Retrieved from www.chameleonbreeder.com
Dragonstrand: Screen cages versus solid cages for chameleons. Article retrieved from www.dragonstrand.com
Pet Chameleon Cages and Habitat. Retrieved from www.chameleoncare.net
Screen or Glass cages? Article retrieved from www.chameleonforums.com