Hints and Tips

By Allison Banks


Banks, A. (2003). Hints and Tips. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, March 2003. (http://www.chameleonnews.com/03MarBanksHints.html)

This month, one of our author/readers, Allison Banks, has volunteered a list of some of her own hints and tips regarding chameleon keeping. If you have any hints and tips of your own that you would like to share, whether you have one or ten, send them to our Assistant Editor, Bill Strand at webmaster@chameleonnews.com. He will compile them and release other "Hints and Tips" columns as we get enough.

Catching loose crickets: Turn off all lights in the house in late evening except one where you are sitting. They are attracted to light and will come right up to you. Then grab them or plop a plastic box or bowl over them.

Dusting feeder insects for chameleons who don't like dusted insects: Don't "shake and bake" them. Put them in a container with dust and lightly press them down into it with a finger or a paper towel so the dust sticks to their undersides. The fussy cham won't see it until the feeder is already in its mouth.

Holding higher humidity in large indoor cages: I get a supply of clear vinyl shower curtains at Home Depot. They are only a few dollars. Hang them from back and/or sides of the cage by the pre-set holes (no tearing, and they look fairly nice). This also protects walls/furniture from overspray. When you want to clean them just switch to another one and run them through a wash cycle with vinegar or hard water stain remover or hose them off outdoors.

Substrates: I know substrates are not usually the best idea, but I found one that worked well for me (if you absolutely need help maintaining higher humidity). It's Care Fresh, that recycled sterilized paper pulp. It resists mold amazingly long! It absorbs water, doesn't smell, and if it is swallowed just degrades into wet powder. I used it in a Chamaeleo deremensis cage in high altitude Colorado. I dampened it, spread it in the cage and packed it down. If the substrate is compressed the crix didn't seem to hide underneath. Chameleon poop was easily picked up off the surface, and I just put it out in the garden when changing it. I could also put paper towels or newspaper on the surface.

Water catch trays for cages. Those new "soft trays" by Apogee Reptarium work under a chameleon cage and you can cut a drain hole. Also, hydroponics supply houses have these large "flood tables" made from ABS plastic that come in fairly large sizes. There are channels molded into the bottoms that you can use to direct water to one point for draining. You can even get them plumbed with a drain valve. When deciding what size you want to build you cage to, get the tray first! Set the cage frame on plastic jar lids or rigid furniture leg caps (the ones that keep the legs from scratching hardwood floors) so the frame is slightly out of the water.

Cutting holes in screen for cords etc. To keep the hole from fraying and tearing I hot glue a plastic washer over the cut like a grommet.

Protecting tongues from substrate: To keep chameleons from picking up potting soil on tongues and keeping loose crickets from burrowing cut a piece of fiberglass window screen to shape and tuck it over the soil. Water and air get through but nothing else does.

Ficus trees: A better large Ficus is Ficus alli...much sturdier and hardier than benjamina.

Placement of an Ultrasonic Humidifier: Don't put an ultrasonic humidifier (the room type) directly in a chameleon cage...the relatively high humidity level in the cage tends to condense inside the unit causing damage and a short life. I thought this was an OK idea until I tried it...replaced 2 new units within 3 months. They stopped emitting fog even with the fan running. I took one apart and found moisture and corrosion everywhere.

Two rooms from one "Rainmaker": If you have one RainMaker type unit but cages in two rooms, drill a small hole in a wall and run the pressure hose through to the other cage. The pump that comes with the unit easily pressurizes a nozzle up to 30 feet away. But, any elevation you need is easier to get right at the pump rather than at the far end of the hose. The hole is easily patchable later. When I had to move and sell the house my realtor was stunned and worried about the free range room. She saw it again without occupants with great relief!

Allison Banks

Allison Banks is currently a wilderness management planner for Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in SE Alaska. She has a degree in wildlife Biology and Management from Oregon State Univeristy and has worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for about 15 years in National Wildlife Refuge System management and endangered species recovery programs. She started her chameleon addition in 1994.


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