How Much Does A Chameleon Cost? (2022 Cost Breakdown)

How much does a chameleon cost

In the world of reptiles, chameleons are commonly seen as one of the most fun and interesting reptiles in existence. Their beautiful colors, unique appearance, and interesting mannerisms make them an excellent creature to keep as a pet.

However, not a lot of people know a lot about these strange lizards. One common question that's asked a lot is how much do chameleons actually cost, both to purchase and to maintain?

We've calculated that the initial cost of chameleon ownership tends to be between $425 and $1220 for the first year, with each additional year costing between $50 and $220.

Chameleon Cost Breakdown

In calculating the total cost of chameleon ownership, there are many different factors that need to be considered. While the chameleon itself will cost a decent amount of money, quite a few different supplies also need to be purchased.

The chameleon enclosure, food, and even medical care all need to be considered when thinking about the total cost of ownership. The table below has broken down these factors into concrete costs.

The "Initial Cost" column lays out the costs that you'll incur during the first year of chameleon ownership, including initial one-time purchases. Then, the "Yearly Cost" column lays out what you can expect to pay for each additional year of ownership on consumable items.

Clicking on the name of the product of service will take you directly to that section for more detailed information about the costs.

Product / Service

Initial Cost

Yearly Cost

$30 - $300


$75 - $150


$20 - $40


$60 - $100


$100 - $100


$50 - $200


$30 - $80


$50 - $100

$50 - $100

$10 - $50

$0 - $20

$0 - $100

$0 - $100




Total

$425 - $1220

$50 - $220

Purchasing The Chameleon Itself

Chameleons do seem like very exotic pets that fetch a high price, but that isn't necessarily the case. In fact, depending on which type of chameleon you choose, they may only make up a small percentage of total ownership costs.

While some chameleons won't cost you too much, others can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, there are many different kinds of chameleons available for different price points.

The average price that you can expect to pay for a chameleon is about $75. There are many chameleons that are lower than this price, though. For example a Graceful Chameleon only costs around $35, while the popular Veiled Chameleon sells for around $50 to $60.

However, there are some types of chameleons that sell for a lot more than those species. Some of the more uncommon or unique chameleons can sell for well over $100.

Elephant Eared Chameleons sell for about $150, while the beautiful Sambava Panther Chameleon sells for $300! As you can see, there is quite a wide selection of different chameleons available with one not necessarily being better than another.

There are some big name pet stores that sell chameleons for relatively low prices. While this may be alluring, the health of these chameleons is quite questionable as big stores tend to not practice good animal husbandry.

Because of this, it's recommended that you spend a bit more money purchasing a healthy and happy specimen from a reputable breeder or marketplace. Or, better yet, turn to a local reptile rescue and see if they have any chameleons for adoption!

Chameleon Enclosure & Accessories

Chameleons can't simply be placed into a tank and expected to thrive. In fact, if a chameleon's environmental needs aren't met, there's a good chance that they could experience serious health problems or even death.

Therefore, a lot of time and effort needs to be put into creating a chameleon enclosure that's as close to their natural environment as possible (with some exceptions).

In constructing the optimal chameleon enclosure, there are a few different costs that you'll incur. While this is expensive at first, many of these costs come from one-time purchases that you need to make. This results in further years of ownership costing much less.

Enclosure

The enclosure itself that the chameleon is kept in is extremely important. If the enclosure isn't suitable for a chameleon, it can cause quite a lot of harm. Because of this importance, it's recommended that you don't skimp out on this part of the setup.

There are a couple things that you need to be sure that your chameleon enclosure has. To begin with, it absolutely needs to be made of mesh instead of glass to allow for excellent airflow.

The top of the enclosure should also be mesh to allow for utilization of other tools that will be discussed later in this post. You also need to make sure that the enclosure is plenty big enough to allow for lots of plants and vertical room for climbing.

Fortunately, due to the fact that the enclosure is made of mesh, that keeps the overall costs down. You can purchase a sizable and secure enclosure that meets all the needs of chameleons for around $100.

There are much pricier options available, too, that feature bigger sizes and all-around better quality. However, most owners are more than happy with their $100 investments in the enclosure.

Heating

Like most reptiles, chameleons are cold blooded -- meaning that they don't have the ability to regulate their own body temperature. Due to this, you need to provide your chameleon enclosure with external heating elements to keep the environmental conditions optimal.

There's a few ways that owners heat their enclosures, but one way stands out as the best option for chameleons.

A chameleon enclosure should be heated with a heat lamp that's placed at the top of the enclosure and points down. This creates a gradient of heat down the enclosure that allows the chameleon to thermoregulate its body temperature.

Fortunately, quality heat lamps don't cost a lot of money and will only run you about $30 for a good bulb and housing setup.

It's typically recommended that you purchase a heat bulb that doesn't give off any light due to the fact that light will be provided through other means.

Lighting

This is an absolutely essential part of a chameleon enclosure and needs to be perfect. Every chameleon needs a UVB bulb shining into their enclosure -- no questions asked.

While UVB is invisible, it's essential to the formation of vitamin D3 in the skin of reptiles, which helps them to absorb calcium from their food. Without adequate UVB lighting, chameleons can develop metabolic bone disease and other fatal problems.

When it comes to the UVB bulb itself, there are several things that you need to keep in mind. The bulb needs to be linear in order to provide enough coverage within the enclosure, it should have at least a 10.0 UVB output, and it should be monitored and replaced as soon as the effectiveness starts to fall off.

This UVB lighting setup certainly isn't cheap, with the light costing between $20 and $30 while a quality housing can cost around $50. However, this is well worth the investment as it has a direct impact on a chameleon's health.

Foliage & Other Decor

If you look at pictures of any chameleon enclosure, you'll see a common trend of enclosures being filled to the brim with plants!

In the wild, chameleons spend almost all of their time in the trees, so their enclosure needs to play into their natural desire to climb and live an arboreal life. This requires the purchase of plants, both real and fake, in addition to climbing sticks.

When it comes to plants, owners tend to invest in a mixture of real and fake plants. While real plants are optimal for an enclosure, they can be difficult to maintain well. Fake plants aren't the absolute best, but they're easy to keep clean and don't require maintenance.

Just be sure that the real plants that you're putting in the enclosure are safe for chameleons, and that the fake plants are plastic and can't be eaten.

Climbing sticks or vines need to be provided as they're what the chameleons will climb on to get around. Several of these should be attached to the inside of the enclosure at varying heights to create a diverse experience.

Overall, it shouldn't be very expensive to decorate a chameleon's enclosure. Fake plants can cost between $50 and $100, real plants cost a little less than that, and vines or sticks likely won't cost more than $10.

Thermometer / Hygrometer

The environmental conditions of all reptiles are very important and need to be kept consistent.

The temperature and humidity of a chameleon's enclosure should be kept within a certain range to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. If these conditions are off, there could be serious repercussions that need to be avoided at all costs.

Fortunately, it's very cheap and easy to keep track of the humidity and temperature within the enclosure.

By using a simple tool that combines a hygrometer and thermometer, you can keep a consistent eye on the temperature and humidity levels within the enclosure. This tool is available for between $10 and $20 and is way more beneficial than it's worth.

You should aim to keep your chameleon's enclosure at around 50% humidity, with a temperature gradient that ranges from 85°F at the top to about 70°F at the bottom.

Every chameleon type has different needs, though, so make sure that you know how to best care for your specific chameleon.

Water & Food Dish

Like all living creatures, chameleons need food and water. However, their needs are a bit different when it comes to water. For food, though, all that they need is a simple dish that can be attached to the side of the enclosure near a branch. This will only run you a couple of dollars and should last a lifetime with proper cleaning.

Water is a bit different. Since a chameleon is in a mesh enclosure, it's difficult to retain moisture and maintain good levels of humidity. Because of this, the best course of action is to utilize a misting machine.

This will work to keep the enclosure humid and moist enough across a large area. It will also form water droplets on the foliage within the enclosure that the chameleon can lick off for direct hydration. Expect to pay around $50 for a decent-quality mister.

Drippers can also be utilized to provide a more direct source of water into the enclosure. Store-bought drippers tend to be low quality, so it's better to create your own and save some money in the process.

Chameleon Consumables

While many chameleon supplies only need to be purchased once, there are some items that will need to be purchased multiple times due to the fact that they're consumed or used up.

This is where the recurring costs of chameleon ownership come from. It may be tempting to get cheaper variations of these products to save money, but that typically isn't the best idea.

Food

Chameleons need to eat, and this is where a good portion of their yearly ownership costs come from. These creatures have existed for millions of years, all the while eating roughly the same foods. Because of this, their diet needs to consist of food that aligns well with their natural diet. Fortunately, this isn't hard to do.

There are two main types of food that chameleon owners like to supply, and those are active foods and free foods. Active foods are essentially live crickets that are placed in the enclosure that the chameleon can hunt.

Live crickets are extremely cheap and are very nutritious, so you should definitely consider offering these.

The free foods are dead insects or plant matter that's placed in the chameleon's food bowl. The three main foods that are fed include different greens, pre-killed crickets, and pre-killed meal worms. All of these are very nutritious and shouldn't cost much more than $50 per year.

Substrate

Substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the chameleon enclosure and serves a few purposes. While it makes the floor more comfortable to walk on, it also absorbs waste and keeps the enclosure a lot cleaner.

It should be noted that chameleons shouldn't be given loose substrate, though. This is because they have a tendency to ingest things that they shouldn't, and substrate that's eaten can cause impaction.

Therefore, a substrate such as reptile carpet or simple newspaper is the optimal choice -- a solid substrate that's easy to clean or replace.

Your yearly costs for substrate will be practically nothing. Newspaper is essentially free, and reptile carpet only needs to be replaced once it becomes too worn out after months or even years of cleaning.

Just make sure that you are cleaning it frequently, as dirty substrate is more harmful than no substrate at all.

Chameleon Medical Care

Chameleons run the risk of encountering health problems just like all living things. Even if you're a very attentive and caring owner, it's possible that some health issues are just unavoidable.

Due to this, you'll want to stay very alert and aware of your chameleon's health so that you can take action if something arises.

Random Medical Needs

It's recommended that you give this guide on chameleon illnesses a read so that you know what could possibly affect your chameleon in the future.

Being aware of what problems exist will allow you to better identify them and deal with them as needed. This often requires taking the chameleon to a specialized reptile veterinarian that's well-versed on chameleon care.

Many problems can be cured with a simple remedy that doesn't cost a lot of money. However, there are some that can run you quite a bit. To avoid as many of these costs as possible, always practice good animal husbandry!

Are Chameleons Cheap Pets To Own?

It comes as a great surprise to many people just how little a chameleon costs to own. While it may cost a lot to purchase the initial equipment and set everything up, the following years of ownership cost next to nothing. You really won't be spending money on supplies outside of food and the occasional vet visit if needed.

The costs of chameleon ownership don't change much throughout their lives. As babies or juveniles, chameleons don't require as big of an enclosure and don't eat as much, so that would lower costs slightly.

However, they reach maturity in a very short amount of time, and with that maturity comes increased costs of ownership.

Therefore, while chameleons may be a bit pricey to buy and house within the first year, they are very cheap pets to maintain. Considering just how long these creatures live for, you'll be hard-pressed to find a pet that's as good of a value as a chameleon!