Do you want to save some money by building your own chameleon cage?
Making a cage on your own can save quite a bit of money, and it feels good to make something on your own.
But you need to know how to make a chameleon cage.
To make a chameleon cage, you need to assemble a frame at 2′ ft x 2′ ft x 4′ ft, put mesh screen sides on it, and place a floor and top. Follow the directions below for step by step how to make one.
What You’ll Need
In this section, we’ll go over what items you’ll need to make your own chameleon cage.
There are different varieties of these products, and you may already have many of them.
We still link to our favorite versions of the items in case you wanted to buy them online or look at them and find your own.
Container – You need a container to form the basis for your cage.
This container is fine being made out of plastic or wood.
To save yourself some steps, you may want to get a container to repurpose, but you may also build the cage from scratch (as described in our directions).
If you do want to repurpose another container, make sure it’s at least 2′ feet (0.61 m) wide by 2′ feet (0.61 m) long by 4′ feet (1.22 m) tall.
Wood – For those making their cage from scratch, you’ll need pieces of wood to make the frame.
Pine is a good wood material, just be sure it hasn’t been treated.
We recommend getting some 2x2s (which are 2″ inches (ca. 5 cm) by 2″ inches (ca. 5 cm)) and at least 4′ feet long.
You’ll need to cut them, but you need the following after cutting:
- 4 pieces at 4′ feet (1.22 m) long
- 12 pieces at 1′ feet (ca. 30 cm) 10″ inches (ca. 25 cm) long
This is picked up easily at your local hardware store.
Screens – The screen mesh will make up the sides of the chameleon cage.
- Bright aluminum screen cloth
- 18 inch x 16 inch mesh
- 36 inch x 7' size
This allows for good ventilation and prevents respiratory infections.
Aluminum (as with this product) is durable and light, making it perfect for a pet cage.
This mesh size will also prevent crickets and chameleons from escaping.
Look for a window screen comparable mesh size if you want to use another type of screen.
If you’re following our specs, you’ll need at least 3 pieces at 2 ft (0.61 m) by 4 ft (1.22 m)
Screws – If you want to attach your wood with screws, you’ll want to make sure the screws are long enough to bite into both pieces of wood.
If you’re looking at the 2x2s as we mentioned, you’ll want screws at least 2.5″ inches (6.35 cm) long.
Staple gun -The staple gun will attach the screen and flooring to the wood of your cage.
This one will work just fine and hold the parts in place well.
Floor material – For the flooring, plywood cut to match the bottom of the frame works well.
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If you’re following out specs, you’ll need a piece 2′ feet (0.61 m) by 2′ feet (0.61 m).
Wood glue – The wood glue will be useful in adhering to the frame pieces together and the flooring.
While not necessary, you may use this alternatively to screws or staples if you’d like to.
Clear adhesive – The clear adhesive is used like wood glue, although it won’t work quite as well sticking the wood pieces together.
This glue will be useful for sticking the plastic side on the wood.
Premade top – A premade top, in combination with a screen on top, will make your life easier.
The hardest thing to make is a door or access to feed the chameleon and clean the cage, but this premade top will provide this for you.
Hand saw -You’ll need to cut the wood somehow, and hand saws will work just fine for what little cutting you need to do.
This one is collapsible and easy to use.
Screwdriver/Drill -This drill will drive in screws easily and drill the pilot holes you need if this is what you choose.
This is the drill I use personally for all my building projects.
The battery lasts quite a while, and it has decent power.
Hammer – If you want to use nails to connect the wood, you may want to consider getting a hammer if you don’t already have one.
Boxcutter -Utility knives like this one are among the most useful tools for your collection.
In this project, you’ll use this to cut the flooring to its correct size and trim plexiglass if you choose to use this.
It’s also useful for pulling up any staples you put in the wrong place.
Plexiglass – You may want to make one of the sides out of plexiglass or some other clear plastic.
This will help retain a little heat and won’t affect the ventilation much.
The piece you’ll need is 2′ feet (0.61 m) by 4′ feet (1.22 m).
It’s possible to piece this together with smaller pieces.
Alternatively, you may want to look for a premade door and fill in around this with the clear plastic.
Step By Step Instructions For How To Make A Chameleon Cage
Carefully read the step by step instructions for building a chameleon cage.
Skipping steps may result in a poor product which could allow your chameleon to escape or be injured.
#1 Gather Materials
First, you need to get all of your materials in one place.
Look at the list of items from above and make sure you have everything you need.
We recommend having everything in place before you start, otherwise you may be scrambling to find something in your project.
From personal experience, I know if I end up stopping something in the middle of it, I probably will lose the energy to finish it.
#2 Cut The Wood
Now you need to cut your wood pieces to the appropriate dimensions.
Use a handsaw carefully and cut straight down into the wood to create as even of a cut as possible.
Look at this list of cutting dimensions to tell exactly what you’ll need:
- 4 wood frame pieces at 4 ft (1.22 m) in length
- 12 wood frame pieces at 1′ foot 10″ inches (ca. 25 cm) in length
#3 Put The Frame Together
It’s time to put your wood pieces together to create a frame for your chameleon cage.
Take one side of the chameleon cage and build it with the long pieces going vertically and the three shorter pieces going horizontally.
Two of the horizontal shorter pieces should be flush with the top and bottom of the larger pieces.
The third piece is in the middle of the longer pieces.
Connect the pieces with screws or nails at your preference.
Try to make sure the wood is as snug as possible.
Then repeat with the other side.
After both sides are complete, stand them up near each other and connect them with the remaining shorter pieces of wood in a similar manner.
Feel free to use wood glue instead of nails or in combination with them.
Let the wood glue dry and make sure the screws or nails are snug.
Pro-tip: Before inserting screws, you may wish to pilot the holes with a drill.
This will prevent cracking in the wood and make the process easier.
The size of the drill should be slightly smaller than the thickness of the screw.
You don’t need to pilot the holes if you’re using a nail.
Just make sure the nail is long enough; it bites into both pieces of wood.
#4 Insert The Plastic/Glass (Optional)
For those who want to use the back covered in plexiglass, which we highly recommend, it’s time to insert this on your chameleon cage.
Cut the plastic piece to fit the dimensions of the back of your chameleon cage using a box cutter or other similar knife.
Then use a clear adhesive glue to attach the plexiglass to the back of the cage.
Use clamps placed around these to hold the plastic tight to the wood while it dries.
#5 Attach The Screens
Now it’s time to attach the screens to the chameleon cage.
Please check out our descriptions of appropriate screens above to make sure your screen doesn’t allow for the Chameleon to get injured, escape, or for crickets to escape through holes too large.
Cut the mesh to the appropriate dimensions using wire cutters or whatever method your particular screen recommends.
Take your staple gun and staple the screens around the frame of your chameleon cage.
Be sure the screens are pulled nice and tight, and the edges are held down with no warps for the Chameleon to stick its small legs or tail through.
Do not put the top screen on just yet.
#6 Attach Floor Of The Cage
This step may also be done before any of the sides are placed.
Cut your smooth piece of vinyl or wood to the dimensions of the floor piece.
You will need to mark and cut out the corners matching the size of whatever you would use for the cage frame.
If you followed our dimension recommendations, the floor should be like this:
- 2′ feet (0.61 m) long
- 2′ feet (0.61 m) wide
- 2″ inch (ca. 5 cm) by 2″ inches (ca. 5 cm) squares cut out of each corner to allow for the vertical wood
Put the floor into the chameleon cage frame and place it down tightly.
Make adjustments and cuts as needed so the floor fits tightly with little to no gaps between the frame and the flooring.
If this piece is thin enough, as we recommend, use your staple gun to attach this to the frame.
Alternatively, you may use finishing nails to hold it tightly as well.
#7 Putting On The Top
This is where you have a little more variety and how you put the chain together.
We recommend buying a separate top matching the dimensions of the tank.
This top should secure and also have a door to get inside the cage easily.
Alternatively, you could replace the Plexiglas side with a side you also bought with a door.
If you choose to do this, then you can get away with making the top from the same screen mesh material, and now you’re back is now your front.
The top should be attached following the instructions of your specific top.
#8 Finishing Touches
At this step, technically, your whole chameleon cage is built.
But if you want to make it look a little nicer and not so rough, there are some extra steps to do.
These include some following:
- Trim work over the edges of the mesh
- Adding furniture
- Using premade light fixtures
- Adding a background
- Making the bottom more attractive by adding some border
You’ve built your own chameleon cage and probably saved a few bucks while doing so.
For a slightly different way of building a chameleon cage, check out this video.
How To Set Up A Chameleon Cage
Now you’ve got your chameleon cage, so you need to know how to finish setting up the habitat.
These elements will help you chameleon stay healthy.
Learn more about what you need for chameleons.
The tropical environments of the chameleon translate to a warmer cage.
There are three temperatures you should watch for.
First is the basking spot, which should be 85° – 95° degrees Fahrenheit (29° – 35° C).
This is taken care of with a heat lamp 6″ – 7″ inches (17.78 cm) over the spot itself.
Next, you need to watch the overall temp of the tank, which should be kept at 72° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit (22° – 27° C).
In many cases, the heat lamp over the basking spot will also keep the rest of the space at this range.
However, if you find you can’t keep the heat up, you may need to add another heat light or heating pad.
The nighttime temperature doesn’t have a goal, but it does have a limit.
The temperature shouldn’t drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).
After 12 hours of heat and light, the heaters should be turned off.
Whatever the temp dips down to is fine as long as it’s above this mark.
The humidity of the chameleon’s tank should be kept above 50% relative humidity.
The upper end of this range is 75%.
With adult chameleon’s it’s fine to hover around the 50% mark, but for young chameleons, it’s better to keep it up a little higher.
Typically, the humidity is kept up by misting the chameleon’s cage twice per day. This is usually enough.
A water drip and live plants will also be a big help.
Make sure to keep the cage away from any room heaters or air conditioner units, as well as vents and windows.
These tend to dry out the air around the cage.
In the worst cases, you may want to consider getting a humidifier for the room where you keep your pet.
As tropical reptiles, chameleons need a lot of sunlight. It’s not safe to put them outdoors, so you need to provide this through UVB lights.
Often, a UVB light over the basking spot will be enough.
The UVB should be turned on for 12 hours per day and then turned off at night.
This simulates the day-night cycle and allows the chameleon adequate rest.
UVB is important for absorbing enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D, in turn, is important for absorbing calcium and other important minerals.
Reptiles, such as chameleons, tend to develop calcium deficiencies while in captivity.
This is due to less calcium in their diet and less exposure to vitamin D.
With a UVB light, we can fix this and prevent metabolic bone disease.
In this disease, the skeletal system decays due to a lack of calcium,
This results in some cases in permanent deformities and possible death.
Furniture, or items in the tank, are equally important in cage setups.
For chameleons, they need a lot of items to climb on.
This usually takes the form of a good mixture of live and fake plants.
The fake plants may be vines or other things like this.
The real plants you use may be anything you wish as long as they’re non-toxic.
Real plants help keep the chameleon healthy.
Real plants raise the humidity slightly and oxygenate the cage’s air.
This allows for fresher air and helps prevent respiratory infections.
Check out our post on the best plants to add to chameleon cages for some great options to choose from.
Another item to add is a water drip, as you would normally see with hamsters and gerbils.
In the wild, chameleons don’t drink from puddles of water.
They wait for rain (which often happens where they’re from), and they drink from the water droplets on the leaves where they live.
We offer this in their cages by spraying the tank down twice per day and including this water drip.
We hope you enjoyed learning how to make a chameleon cage.
It’s not too tricky to do if you have access to some basic tools.
The main things to watch for are making sure the frame is large enough, you have the right screen mesh, and there aren’t any places for the chameleon to escape or stick its head or arms in.
If this still seems like too much, you can always save yourself the trouble and look at one of our picks for the best chameleon cages.