Conditions change during the winter, so make these modifications for cold weather caging to improve the comfort of your chameleon!
1: Avoid Heat Vents…This is very important to consider for cold weather caging because heat vents from above or below your chameleon cage can have a very negative impact. Heat and moving air will dehydrate your chameleon quickly, as well as suck out humidity from the cage.
2: Improve Humidity…Humidity can drop by 50% in the cold dry of winter. As of this writing, indoor humidity is only 23%. The minumum humidity required for a chameleon’s comfort is 50%, which can be achieved by plants. As plants respirate naturally, they release moisture into the air maintaining a 50% humidity standard in the immediate vicinity. The plants will dry out faster though, so you will be required to water more than you do in the summer – twice a week should suffice. You may also want to spray more often, as the general rule is to spray every 1-2 hours AFTER all water has dried from a previous misting. In the summer, this may take 2 or 3 hours, but in cold weather caging it could take less than 1 hour. A good cure-all for humidity is an ultrasonic fogger; available on Amazon for $39.51 . And if you don’t already have one, a Mist King is the only way to mist, also available on Amazon for $129.00
3: Avoid Drafts…Not only do heat vents cause a draft, so do cold windows. If you place your hand at the bottom of a window, you can feel the cold air falling off the window pane. This is because warm air hitting the window becomes cold rapidly, and gets heavy, thus falling. It is very important for cold weather caging not to place your chameleon cage by a window. It is also very important to elevate your chameleon cage during this time of year. The air in a room can vary by 10-15 degrees or more from floor to ceiling. Elevating your chameleon cage on a table or chair, so the cage is mid-level in the room, will encourage stable temperatures. If you have the chameleon cage on the ground, the cold air will be a constant threat to temperature and humidity in the cage.
4: Improve Light Cycle…Lighting does change in the tropics, though not as much as it does in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. For one half of the year, Daylight lasts from about 5am to 6:30pm, and for the other half it lasts from about 6:20am – 5:20pm…..the longest day being 13hrs 15mins, shortest being 11 hours. For the few months of winter, it is okay to cut back the light cycle by 1-2 hours per day until Spring. This will signal to your chameleon what it’s already feeling – that it’s winter! The best way to provide light cycles is with a digital timer, like this one available on Amazon for $12.99.
5: Avoid Overfeeding…Your chameleon isn’t stupid. It knows it’s winter and has 100 million years of evolution honing its senses. The natural light, humidity, and temperatures are all indicative of a seasonal change even though it’s indoors. This means there will be less of an appetite. Offer food, but don’t panic if your chameleon doesn’t eat as much during the winter. Adults are known to go on hunger strikes lasting a week or longer, and young chameleons may eat half as much as normal. Because of this, it is more important than ever to offer high-nutrition items and to gutload properly. Silkworms, hornworms, butterworms and phoenix worms are excellent choices and will provide some fat to keep body weight up.
Guru Tip: Don’t place any humidifiers or heaters that blow air, close to your chameleon cage. The forced airflow may do more harm than good. We have seen people place humidifiers directly on cages, which blew cold humid air into the cage, affecting the health of the chameleon. This is why the Zoo Med Fogger mentioned above is good, as it allows humidity to naturally ‘fall’ into the cage. We have also seen people try to place heaters that blow heat, on the ground near the chameleon cage, causing dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity – it’s better to point the heater in the opposite direction!