Chameleons are one of the most unique and fascinating pet lizards.
If given the right care, they can make amazing pets. But there is a cost that comes with buying a chameleon. From purchase price to tank setup and gear, the initial amount can be very steep.
Luckily, after buying a Chameleon, the cost of keeping one is not very much.
If you want to keep this lizard, below is our guide on the costs of buying and caring for one.
Continue reading to learn about the price of different species, setup costs and care costs.
How Much Does A Chameleon Cost?
Most chameleons are not as cheap as other popular pet lizards like bearded dragons or leopard geckos. Depending on the species you choose, you could spend anywhere from $40 to $400 on a pet chameleon.
Chameleons are typically kept by experienced reptile owners who better understand their husbandry and care needs. Their high price helps to discourage people who are not willing to provide the care they need.
There are numerous factors that can cause the price of a chameleon to vary.
Species, bloodline, gender and the type of seller are some of the most influential factors to consider when buying one.
Why Are Males More Expensive?
Males typically cost more than females because of their beautiful colors and longer lifespans.
Most male species have more impressive colors and ornamentations when compared with females. Some of the ornamentations that only males show include large horns, spikes, and crests. Females can have these ornamentations, but they are much smaller in size.
Another reason why males typically cost more than females is because they have a longer lifespan.
Typically, males have a lifespan of about 8 to 10 years. Females have a shorter lifespan of between 5 to 7 years.
Finally, females have an increased health risk and additional care costs because they lay eggs throughout their life. Even if the female has not been in contact with males, she will lay infertile eggs. If they are not laid properly these eggs can become a health concern.
These increased health risks are another reason why females are not commonly bought and are sold for less.
Other Factors That Impact Cost
The type of seller you are buying from is another factor that affects the cost of a chameleon. Normally, local breeders and reptile pet stores are cheaper than buying from online or experienced breeders. This is often due to transport fees.
Whether you are buying a captive-bred or wild-caught chameleon will also impact price.
As restrictions continue to increase on the quota of chameleons being taken from their native range, prices for wild caught species also increase.
An example of the price difference between captive-bred and wild caught species can be seen below.
The price of a wild caught Ambilobe is $500, while a captive-bred individual is between $300 and $400. The higher price of wild caught species is often due to their collection, transportation, and relocation costs.
We would always encourage you to only buy captive-bred lizards.
Captive-bred species typically make much better pets than wild-caught ones. They are much more tolerant to handling, are typically healthier, and are significantly less expensive. The price of captive-bred species is often less because of export fees and restrictions.
Another option for getting a pet chameleon is through adoption.
There are many different government programs and organizations that work on relocating chameleons. In the United States there is the FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program. These organizations can also be found throughout the world including Amate Animalia in the United Kingdom.
Bloodline is the third most common factor that influences how much is a chameleon.
This is similar to the concept of morphs in many other lizards and pet snakes. However, bloodlines are meticulously recorded by breeders on both the female and the male side.
The more uncommon the bloodline, the more expensive the chameleon will be.
Usually, bloodlines determine their color, size, and how large their ornamentations are. Bloodlines that are found in wild-caught individuals are some of the rarest. This also contributes to their high price.
Bloodlines are very important for Panther Chameleons (Furcifer pardalis). This type of chameleon varies in color and crest. Depending on their bloodline, they may have different patterns of colors and differently sized crests.
Species Price List
The most important factor that affects a Chameleon’s cost is its species.
There are approximately 180 different species of chameleons. They range in size from 1 inch to 28 inches and come in an infinite assortment of colors.
Some of the most popular pet chameleon species and their price are listed below.
|Veiled||$60 to $200|
|Panther||$250 to $550|
|Jackson’s||$60 to $250|
|Ambilobe||$200 to $600|
|Flap-Necked||$50 to $150|
Veiled Chameleon Price
Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) are one of the most popular chameleon species. The price of a veiled chameleon ranges from $60 to $200, with an average of being $110.
These lizards are most well-known for the large crest, or veil, that towers over their head. Males will typically have larger crests and are more expensive.
Panther Chameleon Price
The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is more expensive than the veiled, but is also very popular. These lizards have a price that can range from $250 to $550.
These lizards have many different locales and bloodlines which cause the price to vary. Males are usually more expensive because they showcase much brighter colors and are able to better pass down bloodlines to their offspring.
Jackson’s Chameleon Price
The Jackson’s chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii) is a unique species that is mostly known for its large horns, not its colors. This species is about the same price as veiled chameleons, with prices ranging from $60 to $250.
Males are typically more expensive than females because they have three horns on their head. Females sport just one horn.
Ambilobe Chameleon Price
The Ambilobe chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a variant of the panther. It is considered the same species. These chameleons are popular for their bright colors and are among the most expensive. Their starting price is around $200, but they can be as expensive as $600.
Flap-Necked Chameleon Price
Flap-necked chameleons (Chamaeleo dilepis) are the smallest species on this list. These chameleons are also not as expensive, with their price range spanning from $50 to about $150.
Even though these lizards are not as popular as some of the others on this list, they still make excellent pets and have care requirements similar to the veiled species.
Chameleon Cage Set Up Cost
Besides the Chameleon price, you will also need to budget for the cost of setting up their cage. The initial cost of the setup for a good enclosure is around $400 to $700.
Chameleons have adapted to live in unique environments. It requires lots of gear and experience to replicate these conditions in your home.
If these reptiles are not in an environment that mimics their natural habitat, they can very easily develop illnesses and stress.
For your chameleon to be in the best health, you should be able to give them a good setup.
Their cage requires appropriate lighting, temperature, humidity, and space. It is also important that they have decoration inside the tank so that they can climb, as they would in the wild. This will help to ensure that your chameleon has the best quality of life and is not stressed.
|Screen cage||$100 to $130|
|Reptile heating lamp and fixture||$30 to $50|
|UVB light||$20 to $30|
|Misting system||$60 to $150|
|Foliage||$50 to $75|
|Total||$50 to $150|
The average price range of a screen cage that is large enough to fit most chameleon species is approximately $100 to $130. A good size screen cage for most chameleons is 18x30x30 inches. Of course, a larger tank is not always required if you buy one of the smaller species.
Chameleons do best in tanks that are enclosed by a screen and not glass.
It is very easy to overheat your chameleon in a glass tank.
There are a number of reasons why glass does not work including overheating, lack of humidity control and chameleons damaging their tongue on the glass. Screen enclosures are better at controlling humidity and do not damage their tongues.
Misting System and Dripper
You will also need a misting system because chameleons require a screen cage. This is because it can be difficult to maintain proper humidity inside the screen enclosure with its ventilation.
To counter this, it is highly recommended that you use a misting system. Depending on the quality of the misting system it can cost from $60 to $150.
You will also need to provide fresh water for your lizard. This is best done through a plant dripper.
Good plant drippers are hard to find and will cost around $60. However, it is entirely possible to build your own plant dripper that works on a timer and it will probably be cheaper.
Chameleons are cold-blooded and require lighting and external heat to regulate their body temperature. There are two forms of lighting that are important for them.
The first is a typical reptile heating lamp that usually costs $30 to $50. The best bulb to use is an incandescent light bulb with a strength of 60 to 150 watts.
Heating lamps placed right on the screen lid should be no higher than 100 watts. The farther away the source of light is from the enclosure the stronger the bulb should be.
Chameleons also require another light source known as UVB light. This is important because it helps them produce Vitamin D3 which is essential for their health. UVB lights should always be available in their tank. These lights typically cost from $20 to $30.
The fixtures for both the lights will cost an additional $30.
Plants and Vines
Plants are also an important part of a chameleon’s enclosure.
Almost all chameleons are arboreal and require sticks, vines and plants to climb on and provide privacy. It is recommended that real plants are used in the enclosure to help regulate the humidity. However, you can choose to have one real plant and numerous fake plants or all real plants.
Typically, real plants will be cheaper than fake ones.
The total of all the foliage used in the enclosure should be around $50 to $75.
The two most important measurement tools in a chameleon’s cage are a thermometer and a hygrometer.
It is essential to keep a thermometer and hygrometer in the enclosure at all times. They will help to monitor the environmental conditions. The best available thermometers will also have a dimming thermostat function to control the conditions too.
These thermostats not only measure the temperature in the enclosure, but also control the amount of heat being released by a basking light. It is recommended that the probe of the dimming thermostat is placed directly under their basking spot’s light source.
Digital thermostats are the most accurate and ensure your chameleon remains healthy.
Additionally, it is important to have a hygrometer in the enclosure to measure the humidity. The best place to position your hygrometer is towards the center of the cage where it is an even distance from the heating lamps as well as the misting system or humidifier.
Finally, it is highly recommended that a digital timer is used to automate turning the lights on and off.
The total cost of measurement tools and a timer should be no more than $50.
Chameleon Ownership Cost
After the initial setup and the cost of buying a pet chameleon, the price of ownership becomes a lot less expensive. You can expect to pay less than $50 a month for food ($10/month), electricity ($15/month), vet bills and insurance ($15/month).
Most of the ongoing care costs are typical of any lizard and include food, insurance, and healthcare.
Food and Supplements
The highest and most consistent cost for a chameleon is their food and supplements.
Chameleons can be fed a combination of live and dead insects, mainly crickets, roaches, fruit flies and mealworms. A variety of different feeder insects is recommended, but it is important to ensure that you are feeding your chameleon gut-loaded, high quality feeder insects.
The average price of one year’s worth of feeder insects should be around $50 to $100.
Chameleons also need calcium and vitamin supplements as part of their diet.
Usually they require a powder that contains both calcium and Vitamin D3. In one year, expect to spend $40 to $50 on vitamin and calcium supplements.
The need for electricity to power heating lamps, misting systems, and plant drippers is usually not taken into account when owners begin to budget for their chameleon. However, typically it does not cost a significant amount.
Depending on the cost of electricity in your city, the increase in the price of electricity can range from $5 to $20 each month.
Like all reptiles, chameleons require check-ups at least once a year.
These check-ups will help to ensure that your chameleon is a healthy weight and size and is free of any parasites. Yearly check-ups are important to prevent health issues that could cost more if left untreated.
One of the most important reasons why chameleons should be taken for check-ups is because of parasites, especially in wild-caught individuals. Wild-caught chameleons are typically advertised as parasite-free, but this is rarely the case.
Parasites can cause serious illnesses to your chameleon.
Some examples of symptoms can include a lack of appetite, weight loss, undigested insects, stool abnormalities, difficulty shedding, or even mites around the enclosure
By skipping yearly check-ups your chameleon may develop a more serious disease that will require more intense and more expensive treatment.
The typical cost of a check-up for an exotic reptile can be anywhere from $75 to $150.
Annual check-ups vary in cost depending on where you live and the availability of an exotic veterinarian.
Big cities typically have at least a few exotic animal clinics, but some smaller towns may not have one. Because of this, it is important that you research the availability of an exotic vet in your area.
One of the best ways to avoid large and unexpected vet fees is by taking out pet insurance. Most insurance plans start at $10/month for chameleons and can raise to $17/month.
Chameleons are wonderful pet lizards to own. They are enjoyable to watch as they hunt for food and climb in their enclosure. But these lizards require a high level of care as they are very prone to stress from poor husbandry.
The cost of a chameleon depends greatly on their species.
Species such as panthers are expensive and can cost over $500.
Veiled and flap-necked chameleons are much cheaper and will cost $50 to about $150.
Besides the chameleon’s price, initial setup costs are also very expensive. In order to set up a good enclosure, you will need to budget $400 to $700. You can see a summary of all the costs in the table below:
|Screen cage||$100 to $130|
|Reptile heating lamp and fixture||$30 to $50|
|UVB light||$20 to $30|
|Misting system||$60 to $150|
|Foliage||$50 to $75|
To many people the financial commitment of owning a chameleon is worth the amazing experience.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.