What Should I Put in the Bottom of My Chameleon Enclosure?

Reptile enclosures have to meet the needs of your pet. Setting up the bottom of the enclosure is just as important as creating the right temperature and humidity because it is the foundation of the habitat. Here are six suggestions for setting up the bottom of your chameleon enclosure. 

1. Know the Structure of Your Reptile Enclosures

The structure of your chameleon's enclosure will impact how you set up the bottom of the habitat. Make sure you research the different cage materials and flooring types before purchasing your cage. 

Wood, glass, plastic, or aluminum mesh are the most common chameleon cage materials. The cage must be well ventilated and meet the minimum size requirements for your pet.  

There are three main types of flooring:

  1. Solid floor panel
  2. Screen floor panel
  3. Removable floor tray

The flooring you choose can make cleaning up after your pet simple. A removable flooring panel can help you clean the habitat easily, especially if you put substrate at the bottom of the enclosure.

If you do not want to put substrate at the bottom of the enclosure, we suggest you use a screen floor panel for easy cleaning. 

2. Choose a Substrate

Many people put a substrate at the bottom of their chameleon's cage to make cleaning easy. Substrates are bedding materials placed at the bottom of the habitat. They are not required because chameleons do not spend much time at the bottom of their habitats. 

The most common substrates to put at the bottom of a chameleon enclosure include:

  • Smooth stones
  • Paper towels
  • Reptile carpet
  • Newspaper
  • Coconut husk fibers

Substrates to avoid include:

  • Sand
  • Cedar chips
  • Sharp rocks
  • Gravel 
  • Kitty litter

Substrates can make your chameleon habitat look complete but are not entirely necessary. If you use a substrate, spot clean it regularly and replace it per the package directions. You will need to replace most substrates every other week or monthly. 

If you forgo placing a substrate at the bottom of the habitat, clean the flooring routinely and remove any standing water. 

3. Plan for Drainage

Chameleons need humidity to thrive. You must mist them daily or have a mister system in their habitat. With the humidity, you will need to plan for drainage. Excess moisture must have a place to go to avoid the accumulation of standing water in the enclosure.

Standing water combined with the chameleon's waste can create a breeding ground for bacteria. A buildup of bacteria can make your chameleon sick. 

Removable floor trays and screen panels have a built-in drain system. Excess moisture will fall through the bottom of the habitat and collect in the bottom of the drain pan. 

If you have a solid floor cage, you must make modifications, so water doesn't pool at the bottom of the enclosure. One option is to drill small holes in the floor where water might collect and then place a collection tray under the cage. 

4. Choose Enriching Decorations

The base of your enclosure is also the base for any decorations you put in the enclosure. Chameleons love climbing branches. Decorations should be usable and enriching for your chameleon, such as:

  • Twigs
  • Branches
  • Small Logs
  • Bamboo
  • Ladders
  • Plants
  • Vines
  • Flowers

You can also place other items, like small statues, at the bottom of the cage. Your chameleon will typically leave these things alone. Statues and figures are more for your enjoyment and are purely decoration. 

5. Have Climate Controlled Areas

Chameleons prefer a warm, humid climate. What you need at the bottom of the cage will depend on your ability to control the humidity. You can place a fogger or mister at the top of their enclosure to increase the humidity level. Items you put at the bottom of the enclosure can soak up moisture or repel it.

If you need a more humid environment, you do not want many items to soak up the moisture your chameleon needs. For a less humid climate, you can place substrate and other items at the bottom of the enclosure to soak up moisture so there is no standing water. 

Your chameleon will also need a heat source. When you set up the heat source at the top of the habitat, verify that there isn't anything at the bottom of the enclosure that will overheat and harm your chameleon. 

6. Plan for Food and Water Needs

Chameleons don't drink water from a dish, so there is no need to put a bowl or water feature at the bottom of your reptile enclosures. Your chameleon will drink water from leaves, branches, and other structures available at all heights throughout its habitat. You want these items at all levels of your chameleon habitat. 

Chameleons will sometimes eat food at the bottom of their enclosure. The live food you place in the enclosure should not be able to slip through the substrate tray to avoid being eaten by your chameleon.  

Get Your Reptile and Supplies from Spectrum Chameleon

Spectrum Chameleon is California's premier reptile breeder. Our purpose is to responsibly breed reptiles, like chameleons, bearded dragons, and iguanas. We sell reptiles, supplies, and other merchandise so you can raise your pet easily and confidently. Contact us today if you have any questions about your reptile enclosure.