gecko-care

Chameleon Gecko Care Sheet

July 27, 2021

Chameleon geckos (Eurydactylodes sp.) is a 4-7” long, nocturnal, arboreal lizard native to the maquis scrub and sclerophyll forests of New Caledonia. They spend most of their lives in the lower section of the forest, and are generally not found in the canopy.

Chameleon geckos have a large triangular head, vertical pupils, a muscular prehensile tail, and large scales. Coloring is generally brown- or gray-green, with darker skin visible between the scales. Some species have a bright yellow stripe extending from the mouth to the ear.

Chameleon geckos are rising in popularity, and are similar in care to crested geckos. However, these intermediate-level pets are still sensitive to heat stress and dehydration. With good care, they are likely to have a 15-20 year lifespan.

Minimum terrarium size for chameleon geckos

The minimum terrarium size for housing a single chameleon gecko is 12”L x 12”W x 18”H. Of course, larger is always better, and strongly recommended!

Housing multiple chameleon geckos in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in tragedy if attempted.

Do chameleon geckos need UVB?

Technically they can survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting for chameleon geckos. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. Plus, chameleon geckos are known to occasionally bask in the wild!

The best UVB bulbs for chameleon geckos are:

  • Zoo Med Compact Coil Reptisun 5.0 UVB, 26w
  • Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
  • Arcadia ShadeDweller Kit

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!

Lights should be on for 10 hours/day during winter and 14 hours/day during summer to simulate seasonal changes in day length. Adjustments to day length should be made gradually over the course of the year. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for chameleon geckos

Despite the popular myth that chameleon geckos do well at room temperature, they do best with access to a low-temperature basking area. After all, they’re still reptiles, and that means they need a range of temperatures in their enclosure that allow them to thermoregulate.

Chameleon geckos should have a moderate basking temperature around 88°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe positioned in the basking area. The cool zone of the enclosure should stay around 75°F, and nighttime temps can drop as low as 65°F.

Provide heat for your gecko with a low-wattage incandescent bulb in a 5.5” dome fixture. White heat bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. 

Best humidity levels for chameleon geckos

Chameleon geckos are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 60-80%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.

Increase humidity by misting your gecko’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. Aside from raising humidity, this also provides your gecko with an important source of drinking water!

Best substrate for chameleon geckos

Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for chameleon geckos:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.

Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

How to decorate a chameleon gecko terrarium

An empty terrarium makes for a bored gecko, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

Since chameleon geckos are strictly arboreal, at bare minimum you will need a branch for your gecko to bask on and some live or artificial foliage for it to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

What to feed to a chameleon gecko

Chameleon geckos are omnivores, which means that they need to eat both plant- and animal-based foods to get the right nutrition. In the wild, they primarily eat insects and fruit. As pets, it’s best to feed them high-quality, specially-formulated crested gecko diet (CGD) supplemented by live insect feeders.

Prepared CGD should be offered 2-3x/week, with live insects also offered 2-3x/week. Crested gecko diet should be offered in a small condiment cup placed in a wall-mounted gecko ledge.

Best crested gecko diets: Pangea, Repashy, Leapin’ Leachie, Zoo Med, Lugarti, Black Panther Zoological, Gecko Pro

Feeder insects for chameleon geckos: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, mealworm beetles, black soldier fly larvae, flightless fruit flies

The key to balanced nutrition is variety, so make sure to offer a rotation of as many different foods as possible.

Supplements

You will also need a calcium supplement. We recommend Repashy Supercal NoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.

Water

Don’t forget a water bowl! This should be placed in the gecko ledge alongside the bowl for CGD. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

How to handle your chameleon gecko

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Fortunately, chameleon geckos are usually fairly handleable once they’re no longer flighty babies and feel secure in their environment.

Here are some tips for success:

  • Bribe them with food.
  • Don’t grab the gecko from above. Instead, scoop from below.
  • Support its entire body and all four feet.
  • Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
  • Put the gecko back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.

Your gecko may be a bit jumpy at first, so let it hop from one hand to the other until it has calmed down. 

Chameleon geckos will squirt a foul-smelling liquid when they are startled. This is unlikely to hurt you as long as it doesn’t get in your eyes, but it’s best to wash it off immediately when it happens.


*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!


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