You might have considered owning a chameleon if reptiles are your thing. There is something exciting about the way it changes colors.
It provides a lot of enjoyment to the owner minus the fear of actually getting harmed as you would have if you owned a snake.
Whether you have already made up your mind or still having doubts, let this be your guide in deciding on whether to finally purchase your dream pet or completely abandon the thought.
What Does it Take to Own a Chameleon?
You would have your fixed one-time costs and your recurring costs when you are looking to care for chameleons. Apart from these, you must be aware that taking care of these reptiles also require a lot of time and attention. You should have very good time and resource management skills.
The first fixed one-time cost you need to pay for would be the price of the chameleon species you want. Whether you are a looking to be a serious chameleon breeder or just an enthusiast, you will spend for your pet’s shelter.
As a responsible reptile owner, you should also take into consideration that you would have to spend for your pet’s health. Your visits to the veterinarian depend on how you take care of them and where you bought your chameleons.
Be aware that they may have health issues as the different chameleon species are delicate. These will comprise your recurring costs of owning a chameleon.
One-Time Fixed Cost for Having A Chameleon
- The Chameleon Itself
You should do your research as to what species of chameleon you would like to buy. There are many species of chameleons and they all come at different prices. The individual characteristics of the species affect the prices which can start at around $30 up to $800 or even more.
A veiled chameleon, for example, is retailed at $79.99 at Petsmart.
The male panther chameleons price can be higher than the price of their female counterparts. This is because they are larger, exhibit more coloration, and have a longer lifespan.
A panther chameleon’s price in Sacramento Chameleon usually starts at $185 and at $274.99 in Blackwater Reptiles. However, you can start your search with your local reptile society. The experts there can give you a list of responsible and ethical captive breeders in your area.
Choosing a local chameleon breeder can greatly reduce prices, especially if you will personally pick up your chameleons.
- Ready-Made Cages And Enclosures
There is also a need to have appropriate enclosures or cages for your chameleons. You must choose a size appropriate to the breed. Do take care that they do not get exposed to extreme temperatures. There should be enough space for them to roam and places to hide if they don’t feel safe.
You can also just buy a ready-made cage that’s big enough for your chameleon. It can retail for $56 on eBay. But if you’re up to the task, you can build an enclosure for your chameleon.
The ready-made enclosures are perfect for chameleon owners who do not want to deal with the hassle of building a livable setup. The manufacturers make pricier enclosures that include drippers because chameleons do not drink from static water sources. They also have plants and perches with the package.
There are companies that just manufacture cages and enclosures. The bundles comprise the essentials of chameleon keeping like drip pans for runoff water and perches for the reptiles. They can add basking lights to the setup as well, depending on the need and budget of the client. It’s up to the buyers to design their setup as they see fit.
Dragon Strand offers different cages for every stage of a chameleon’s life on a pre-order basis. It usually pools orders first and builds cages every two or three months. It has cage builds for breeders and enthusiasts.
Prices for breeders:
- For 0-3 month-old chameleons, you would need nursery cages: starts at $244.
- For 4-8 month-olds can use a compact cage system: $198.
The company also makes cages specifically for females and males.
- Breeder cage: upwards of $194.
- Keeper cage: $104 and up.
- Male enclosures start at $ 128.
For the serious chameleon enthusiasts, Dragon Strand has cages appropriate for 3-month olds to live in until they become adults.
- The large atrium enclosure bundle can set you back $462.
- The medium atrium enclosure bundles start at $242.
What Are Included When Purchasing a Chameleon?
Buying a chameleon from a legitimate breeder or pet store has its advantages. It may be a bit expensive but you can be sure that you would take home a healthy pet as certified by a licensed veterinarian, enclosed in a temporary cage for easier transport, comes with a starter kit that comprises of food to last a few days, among others.
On the other hand, buying from backyard breeders can possibly give you the lowest possible price but you have to gamble with the quality and health and possibly won’t give you the usual freebies.
Recurring Costs of Owning a Panther Chameleon
Food – Your recurring costs would revolve mostly around food if you have healthy chameleons. It’s good that they are omnivores so you have great options when it comes to feeding them. Captive chameleons are given crickets because they are very easy to source.
You can buy online per piece from Petsmart or per 1000 count from Petco. The former sells them for $ 0.13 to $ 0.14 each while the latter sells the crickets starting from $ 35.99 for every 1000.
Responsible chameleon owners make sure that their pets do not get food fatigue. These are what experienced owners throw in their diet for variation:
- Mealworms start from $ 3.79 in Petsmart while Petco sells a 500-worm pack for $ 21.69. You
- Vegetables: you can grow them or buy them for cheap at the grocery.
- Cockroaches: You can buy your first stock of Dubia cockroaches for $14.99 on eBay.
Vitamins and Supplements – To make sure that your chameleons are healthy, it is necessary that you give them vitamins. It would also be great if you gut-load your crickets with nutrients before feeding them to your reptiles These are usually dusted directly onto their food. Most breeders and owners use brands like:
- Calcium Plus from Repashy which retails for $ 8.99 on Petco.
- Fluker’s High Calcium Cricket Food costs $ 3.73 on Petsmart and $ 3.79 on Petco.
Vet Visits and Medicines – Your veterinarian bills will vary depending on the quality of the chameleons you bought. It is common that they would have internal parasites but the likelihood of that occurring is lesser in the captive-bred chameleons. Here are some points to remember:
Always have at least $500 set aside as an emergency veterinary fund for your chameleon. It’s never a bad thing to be prepared for any incident.
- Average walk-in veterinarian visit can cost at least $30.
- Vitamins/Medications per visit: costs start at $10.
- Laboratory tests costs:
- Fecalysis: starts from $25
- Blood count and blood chemistry procedures start from $50.
You may have to buy other medicines or vitamins at the vet’s office to take home. To save on veterinary procedures, pet insurance comes in handy. It is relatively cheap because it can only set you back at least $8 a month like the plan with Nationwide Insurance. Or you can avail of PetAssure’s discount plans for veterinary services for as low as $9.95 a month.
Again, ask your local reptile society for veterinarian recommendations. Your vet must have enough verifiable experience with reptiles if they are not reptile specialists themselves.
Different Cost Drivers of Owning a Chameleon
There are a number of factors that can affect the price of the panther chameleons. If you already looked online, every breeder or online seller has a different pricing scheme for their products.
One factor is the species. There are 11 distinct species of panther chameleons. The rarer the species, the higher the price. The Ambilobe and Nosy Be species are the most common.
Some breeders also cross-breed chameleons with desirable characteristics. So if the breeder has been successful in producing a line that has superior coloration, then the price of those chameleons will go up.
Because of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), shipping chameleons internationally is more controlled. Permits and licenses are required to ship to and from the United States.
CITES aims to restrict trade of chameleons that have been caught from the wild so certifications that they are captive-bred are also in order. The added paperwork can drive up the price of chameleons as well.
Things to Consider in Shopping for Your Favorite Reptile
Your first consideration should always be the breed or species of chameleon. If you want a more colorful or larger species, the panther chameleon is the way to go. Just make sure you buy from trusted breeders.
It is not advisable to buy chameleons from international sources. Chameleons are very sensitive and they can get injured or die while in transit.
You should also be wary of scammers that pose as legit chameleon breeders. Always refer to your local reptile society or trusted online chameleon forums. The information they give are reliable and can be vetted.
You should test out samples of food for your chameleons before buying them in bulk. They might not like roaches or worms. If they do like these alternatives to crickets, you can grow them on your own for your reptile’s food supply.
Also, make sure that the vegetables are washed thoroughly to remove any pesticides or parasites that may be present.
Breeders also recommend that you buy the baby panther chameleons. The cost to buy a baby chameleon is lower. However, they cannot guarantee the sex of the chameleons you would be getting at this stage.
The ideal age to buy these baby chameleons would be at least 4 months old. While you are not sure how they will look like until they’re 8 months old, it is possible to know their possible colorations if you know how their parents looked like.
Reptiles Magazine’s Chameleon Care Sheet is a great resource for beginners. It provides helpful tips, from what to feed your chameleon down to the tendencies of your reptiles.
It would be a wise move to talk to experienced and trusted chameleon owners so you would know the reptile’s usual temperament as a species. You should know their usual behaviors so you would not get alarmed over things that fall within normal range.
Finally, make sure that you are ready for all the responsibilities of caring for these reptiles before you even buy anything. The chameleons can be very pretty to look at if they are well-cared for and healthy.