How Much Do Chameleons Cost?

How Much Do Chameleons Cost?

Before you adopt/acquire a chameleon, you need to consider the costs that come along. The costs aren’t just the initial price of the reptile but also its upkeep and tank setup. You may even need to add vet fees into the cost.

So just how much do chameleons cost? In terms of upfront prices, different species carry different prices. Similarly, adults and juveniles cost more than hatchlings. The price of a chameleon can range anywhere from $20 to $300.

The setup can cost as much as $800 or as low as $400. The initial cost is usually the highest. Of course, you don’t need every single product from the start. Vet bills and medical treatments can also increase the cost significantly.

Cost Of A Chameleon

Panther chameleon in enclosure

Summary Of Initial Costs

SuppliesPrice
Vertical Terrarium: Zoo Med ReptiBreeze Open Air Screen Cage (24 x 24 x 48 inches)$170
Plants and Decorations$80 – $100
Insects for the first month$15
Supplements for the first few months: Repta Calcium and Repta Vitamin $15
Mister/Dripper:  Zoo Med The Big Dripper or Exo Terra Spray Bottle$13
Thermometer/Humidity gauge: REPTI ZOO Reptile Terrarium Hygrometer$16
Heat Lamp: Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulb$8
Heat Fixture: Fluker’s Mini Sun Dome Reptile Lamp$13
UVB Lamp, Reflector, & Fixture: Sunblaster T5 Fixture Reflector Combo & ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO UVB Lamp$50
Temperature Controller (Thermostat): BN-LINK Thermostat Controller $40

The initial estimated cost of caring for the chameleon and providing an enclosure: $440

There are several chameleon species commonly kept as pets. The three most common species include the veiled chameleon, the panther chameleon, and the Jackson chameleon. Specimens can be as low as $30 or as high as $300. Designer specimens are usually more expensive. An example is the ambanja panther chameleon can cost as much as $500.

Chameleons prefer to be left alone. It is best to only handle them when necessary.

Average price range: $30 to $300

Veiled Chameleon 

Veiled Chameleon eating crickets
Veiled Chameleon eating crickets
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific Name: Chamaeleo calyptratus
  • Other Names: Yemen chameleon, cone-head chameleon
  • Average Adult Size: 17 to 24 inches (43 to 61 cm)
  • Diet: Live insects
  • Average Lifespan: 5 years
  • Average Price Range: $30-$150
  • Where to buy: CBreptile.com

Veiled chameleons are the most popular species kept as pets. They are easy to breed. Their popularity means they are the most affordable chameleon out there. Hatchlings go for as low as $30 while healthy adults may cost $100. Morphs can cost up to $500.

This chameleon doesn’t like to be handled. Regular handling can be stressful for the chameleon. It is best to handle them when necessary. They are quite easy to care for. This makes them excellent for beginners.

Panther Chameleons

panther chameleon on branch
Panther chameleon on branch
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific Name: Furcifer pardalis
  • Average Adult Size: 6.7 to 8 inches (17 to 20 cm)
  • Diet: Live insects
  • Average Lifespan: 5 years
  • Average Price Range: $100-$350
  • Where to buy: Tortoisetown.com, CBreptile.com

Panther chameleons are more expensive than veiled chameleons as they are more colorful. Additionally, they are more difficult to care for when compared to the veiled chameleon. However, there is no need to worry, these chameleons are easy to take care of and are excellent for beginners.

Babies cost anywhere between $100 to $200. Adults and subadults cost around $200 to $300. Males are also usually more expensive than females since they are more colorful and produce brighter colors.

There are also designer panther chameleons. These are unique morphs and can cost up to $500.

Jackson’s Chameleon

Jackson's Chameleon (jacksonii jacksonii merumontanus) on branch
Jackson’s Chameleon (jacksonii jacksonii merumontanus) on branch
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific Name: Trioceros jacksonii
  • Other Names: Kikuyu three-horned chameleon, three-horned chameleon, or Jackson’s horned chameleon
  • Average Adult Size: 6 to 15 inches (15 to 38 cm)
  • Diet: Live insects
  • Average Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Average Price Range: $50-$200
  • Where to buy: CBreptile.com

Trioceros jacksonii has three horns on its head. This distinguishing feature makes them easy to identify. This reptile species has a life expectancy of 5 to 10 years. Males can grow to 18 inches although 10 to 15 inches is more common and realistic. Females are smaller and adult females can be as small as 6 inches.

Trioceros jacksonii is moderately priced and generally costs between $50 and $150.

As with other chameleons, Trioceros jacksonii prefers not to be disturbed. Frequent handling can stress the reptile.

Cost Of Set Up

The enclosure isn’t the only cost to consider. You also have to account for the contents such as vegetation, substrate, and heating.

The Enclosure

 A vertical terrarium works best for chameleons as they like to climb. This terrarium can have branches for the chameleons to climb up.  While you can start with a small terrarium and then increase the size of the enclosure when they get bigger, it may be best to get a large enclosure once and for all.

A screened enclosure with the following dimensions are ideal for an adult chameleon – 24 (length) x 24 (width) x 48 (height) inches. The Zoo Med ReptiBreeze Open Air Screen Cage is one such excellent enclosure.

This black anodized aluminum screened cage costs about $170.

Plants and Decorations

As with any vertical terrarium, you need to provide plants that reach the top of the enclosure. This allows the reptile to climb up for warmth. Plants to provide include medium-sized vines, and foliage. The foliage provides hiding spots while the vines provide horizontal perches on which the chameleon can rest and bask.

Artificial plants and non-toxic live plants can be planted in the enclosure. Some recommended plants include fern, pothos, hibiscus, Schefflera, and Ficus. These plants also help maintain the moisture levels in the enclosure.

In addition to this, you can also have a few branches and jungle vines such as the Exo-Terra Forest branch and jungle vines.

You may need to spend about $80 on plants and decorations.

Food

Veiled Chameleon eating crickets
Veiled Chameleon eating crickets

When it comes to feeding, you may want to vary the food offered to the reptile. Crickets are a favorite of these reptiles. However, this shouldn’t be the only food of choice. Other food items to offer include waxworms, mealworms, and even locusts.

Adults eat once every two days. Juveniles feed once a day. And hatchlings eat daily, sometimes even twice a day.

Chameleons only eat live prey so you will need a constant supply of live prey.

Feeding the chameleon cost about $100 a year. $3 worth of food should last about a week and a half.

Supplements

Supplements ensure that the reptile gets the needed amount of vitamins and calcium. These supplements come in powder and liquid form. Supplements should be offered just once a week. Dust the live food fed to the chameleon with the supplements once a week. Liquid vitamins can be mixed into the reptile’s water supply.

Repta Calcium and Repta Vitamin are examples of two supplement brands you can use. These cost $15 in total.

Hydration needs

Chameleons don’t realize that they can drink from water dishes. As such you need to find a way to provide hydration. You simply need to provide water droplets, similar to morning dew and rain droplets on vegetation. Simply mist the enclosure twice a day for 2 minutes to provide the chameleon with water. Don’t spray the reptile but rather the leaves and branches in the screened cage.

Misting also increases the humidity level in the enclosure. A simple spray bottle can be used to provide the needed moisture. A dripping system can also be used. You place the dipper at the top of the enclosure and it will drip water on the leaves below.

The Zoo Med The Big Dripper is an excellent choice, so is the Exo Terra Spray Bottle.

This should cost you about $13.

Thermometer And Humidity Gauge

I recommend getting a pair of thermometers if you’re a beginner. This ensures you can always monitor the temperatures within the enclosure at all times. A single thermometer will do. But two thermometers are better. You can have one thermometer at the warm end and another at the cool end.

A humidity gauge also needs you to keep track of the humidity level within the enclosure at all times. Most reptile terrarium thermometers also measure the humidity levels within the enclosure.

The Exo Terra Thermometer is an excellent dial thermometer.  The REPTI ZOO Reptile Terrarium Thermometer/Hygrometer is also an excellent choice.

A thermometer/hygrometer combo will cost you about $15.

Thermostat

A dimming thermostat is an excellent investment. A thermostat ensures that the temperatures don’t get too high. This also offers peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about the enclosure becoming too hot. This can lead to the death of the reptile.

I recommend acquiring a dimming thermostat for the heat lamp.

A thermostat should cost about $40. The BN-LINK Thermostat Controller is a good choice.

Timers

These aren’t compulsory, but offer peace of mind. Chameleons require 10-12 hours of light every day. To ensure that the lights aren’t off or on for too long, you can use automated timers to turn the lights off and on that the exact times every single day.

Two timers will work just well. One to turn the heat lamp on and off, and another to turn the UVB light on and off. There are even timers that can operate several switches at the same time.

The BN-LINK 24-Hour Timer can be used to automate the lights. Timers should cost about $12 apiece.

Heat lamp

Chameleons require heating. A heat lamp is the best way to go. With heat lamps, the top of the enclosure will be warm while the bottom part will be cool. The reptile can move between these zones to regulate its body temperature.

Heat should be provided with a heat bulb. The basking spot needs to be quite warm, with temperatures of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You need a 100-watts heat lamp such as the Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulbs.

Heat lamps should cost about $5-$10 per bulb. I recommend Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulbs. The dimmable  PAR 20 50W halogen spot bulbs also work well.

UVB Lamp, Reflector, & Fixture

Chameleons require UVB lamps to provide the required levels of UVB. You need to remember that the UVB levels provided by these bulbs reduce over time. You need to replace the UVB bulb once every 6 months. The starter kit is easier to use and install. I recommend this for starters. This kit contains a fixture, a 5.0 bulb, and a reflector.

Altogether, this should cost about $50. A good fixture with a reflector is the  Sunblaster T5 Fixture Reflector Combo. This goes well with the ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO UVB Lamp.

Heat Lamp Fixture

The heat lamp for this enclosure outputs a lot of heat. As such you need a fixture that can withstand high temperatures. When visiting your local pet shop, make sure you get one with a ceramic socket and not a plastic socket.  This ensures that the heat doesn’t melt the bulb socket. 

A heat lamp fixture shouldn’t cost you more than $15. There is a lot to choose from including the Fluker’s Mini Sun Dome Reptile Lamp or the Fluker’s Repta-Clamp Lamp.

Vet Costs & Insurance

Some costs can be difficult to pin down. An example of such a cost is an emergency trip to the vet’s office. Illness and injuries can be unpredictable. In addition to this, regular checkups are always a good idea. Checkups can cost anywhere from $25 to $100 a year.

Treatments also cost money. Keeping the enclosure clean can help prevent these illnesses and the treatment costs that come with these.

Insurance can also help buttress future medical expenses.

Electricity Costs

The cost of electricity varies from one town to another, even from provider to provider. As such, I can’t easily give an estimate. However, these are the pieces of equipment that require the most power in the setup.

  • A 100-watts heat lamp that runs 12 hours a day.
  • A 36-watts UVB tube that runs for 12 hours each day.

Conclusion

Chameleons require several products to live a healthy life. To begin with, these reptiles require an enclosure. This is referred to as a terrarium. The enclosure needs warmth, thus a basking bulb.

A heat fixture/clamp lamp is needed to hold the basking bulb in place.

You also need a sprayer to provide moisture/water, a fluorescent bulb that simulates sunlight, a fluorescent hood, and instruments such as a thermometer, hygrometer, and thermostats to monitor and regulate the temperatures within the enclosure.

The cost in the first year is always the highest. This can be as low as $250 or as high as $1500.

If you have any questions or additional information, comments are always welcomed.

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