Caring for our Chameleons | UK & USA difference’s

Caring for our Chameleons Some UK & USA difference’s

Authored by Pete Hawkins (Chameleon Britain) & Karen Venaas (The Daily Chameleon)

 the reality is we are a really big country with all kinds of different climates and in different parts of the country

Outside UVB

Outside natural UVB exposure, in California (Karen).


Pete-  Here in the UK, most tend to go with the readily available wooden vivaria. With the most popular being made by ‘Vivexotic’ . It’s just a case of using aquarium sealant on the joins. Then you are good to go. Many will, Including myself, cut a section of the roof out. Replacing with mesh. This allows you to situate the heating, and, depending on how much you have cut out, the UVB on the outside. It will also obviously benefit airflow.
Mesh vivaria is readily available too. The most popular being the Zoo-Med Reptibreeze There are other brands available too. Lucky Reptile make one. The Open Air Pro. This being my favorites. And of course. A custom-made one is also an option.
Another option, but not as popular, is the Exo Terra Terrarium. This is a glass tank. But it does have a very essential mesh roof. These do tend to be a little more expensive than the other options. But still a great option.
The only downfall. They are very heavy.

Whatever is chosen. ALL can be made to work, and achieve the needed settings .

Karen-  In the US, the standard has been screen/mesh cages for many years. To the point that people don’t realize that chameleons can be kept in other types of cages successfully. However, the reality is we are a really big country with all kinds of different climates, and in different parts of the country, different types of caging can be utilized to maintain proper temps and humidity.

Outside enclosure

One of Karen’s outside vivaria (USA)

As people become more aware of different options, more people have been using glass caging. By that I mean terrariums with doors on the front and screen tops such as those made by ExoTerra, not aquariums or fish tanks – they are never good to use.

I recently spoke with Bill Strand of Dragon Strand. He has seen people become more willing to explore different options when it comes to caging. He is currently making a clear-sided cage that is a nice alternative to all-glass or all-mesh. He uses clear PVC on three sides and the front and top are mesh. They have the pros of all-mesh cages – lightweight and good airflow, along with the benefits of glass – easier to maintain temperatures and humidity, and keep water from misting inside the cage and not on the furniture or carpet. Not to mention they are absolutely gorgeous when planted and set up. I wish these were available when I bought my glass terrariums – would have bought these instead! I do want to switch to these in the future to have the best of both worlds.


Pete-  The most common for the wooden vivaria is water damage. Even with a sealed vivarium, damage will happen over time. This will end up warping the wood. This causes many issues. From the door glass no longer fitting and falling out. To, constant water leaks on misting sessions.

Also, unless you modify the vivarium, as I did by cutting a section of the roof, and replacing with steel mesh. You can often suffer with ‘Stale/poor air-flow’.

In our far more temperamental climate. These wooden vivaria hold the heat far better/easier. This is often the deciding factor on the decision between mesh and wood here in the UK.

For the mesh type vivarium/cage, the issues we have here are mainly to do with maintaining a steady and stable temperature. Often not being able to reach basking temperature without using an overkill, extremely high wattage bulb. More so difficult in our very cold winters. Often needing users to cover 3 sides of the reptibreeze with the likes of bubble-wrap, or pond-liner.

On the Pro side. Obviously, airflow is at its optimum in a mesh vivarium. And for me, visually they look far better. Better view of our beautiful Chameleon’s.

And as I mentioned above. It’s all still do’able. You just may need slightly different equipment or methods to obtain the needed temps and humidity.

Karen-  Another con is when it comes to misting – it’s difficult to thoroughly mist without getting water on the outside of the cage – on the walls, on the floors, etc. The fear of damage to carpet or furniture leads to inadequate misting, low humidity and not enough water for the chameleon to drink.

Glass: The biggest con with glass is their weight. The larger sizes that are needed for chameleons are over 75lbs (34kg) when empty. I can’t lift my mid-size planted terrariums on my own and my largest fully planted terrarium takes two very strong men (or women) to move.

They are also expensive, and breakable.

The pro’s: I find glass cages very easy to maintain temperatures and humidity. Far easier than with mesh. They are also very beautiful when fully planted and set up for a chameleon.

 I’ve gone with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought.


Pete- Brand choice I have noticed is vastly different too regarding US and UK. Obviously, if you are willing to pay shipping/tax etc., then you can have what you like. Regardless. But more often than not, financially you wont benefit.

Inside UK Enclosure

Wooden, BioActive Vivaria in UK (Pete)

Take UVB tube lighting for example. Here in the UK, we have the powerhouse of UVB that is Zoo-Med, and their ReptiSun tubes. But we also have, Arcadia. Now, these are a UK based company, and over the past number of years, taken hold of the UK, and European market regarding our reptile UVB needs. Rightly so too. Because the fact that their equipment IS of the highest quality, helps no end here.

I know they do have their foot now over in America, via , But obviously its a section of the market dominated by Zoo-Med, and a few other brands state side. So, they will need a little time, and help (We do promote the above site in our groups pretty much daily for the USA members). Ultimately, the keeper and Reptile will benefit from having the choice of such quality UVB.

Karen- For years Reptisun 5.0 has been the top choice in the US. And they are still my choice. I know many people are taking advantage of the newer options but I’ve gone with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought.

 Arcadia have not long released a range of supplements here in the UK. EarthPro-Ca, and EarthPro-A (my personal favorite)


Pete- Although not really a huge deal, as the most popular brand, and rightly so, Repashy, is as readily available here in the UK, as it is in the States.

But I do notice USA keepers use the likes of ‘Sticky Tongue Farm‘, ‘Rep-Cal‘. Both of which are harder to get hold of here in the UK. Unless you go via a specialist stockist. And often you overpay for such. But these brands are hugely popular State-side. Whether the US keepers benefit from having such available, is debatable. But it does go to show how hard it is to break into another region, with a top product from your own region.

Arcadia have not long released a range of supplements here in the UK. EarthPro-Ca, and EarthPro-A (my personal favorite). But amazing quality. I also know, as I write this, they ARE also available to the US via the previously mention Arcadia supplier site.

Karen- I am a big fan of all the Repashy products. They are what I use and recommend. Yes, we do have many choices, and some are better than others.

The biggest issue I see is that some brands are not as good as others and having so many choices makes it more difficult to discern what is a better quality product. People need to be aware of what is in the products they are using, the shelf life and follow directions.

It’s also good for people to remember that supplements are just that – a supplement and not meant to substitute for a varied diet and good gut loading.

 I am a big fan of wild-caught bugs and I have both fed and tried my hand raising WC insects


Pete- Here in the UK, we certainly have no shortage of variety available for our Chameleon’s. The 3 main cricket species are, Black, Brown, and Banded. The 3 main Roach species here are, Dubia, Lobster, and Turkistan.

Inside UK Bioactive

BioActive mesh enclosure, in the UK (Pete’s)

Many worm and grub species available. Dendrobeana, Lob-Worms, Calcium Worms, Meal Worms, Waxworms, Morios(Supers), Buffalo Worms, Pachnoda Grub’s, Butterworms(when In season), and Silkworms on occasion.
I’d say the major difference geographically is the availability of a couple of feeders.
Silkworms for example. Vastly popular feeder. Seems far easier to get hold of in America. Buy the bucket load too from what I’ve seen.
Here in the UK, we have maybe, one or two stockists. And due to the demand, neither can truly cope, and is often sold-out pretty much all the time.
So many reptile keepers have tried to raise their own here. Myself included so many times. 99% of the time its unsuccessful. I guess due to the climate difference.

In the summer here, we have ample wild caught feeders to offer. But, the summer days seem fewer each year.

Things like Bluebottle & Greenbottle flies, as well as crane and Soldier flies, are easy to get hold of in the UK also.

Hornworms. Not allowed in the UK due to being classed as an invasive species. Much like the Locust/Hopper in many US States.

I think maybe some Roach breeds are restricted too in the US?

Karen- In the US we have a good variety of feeders available. Unfortunately, people often fail to take advantage of that and rely too much on crickets and mealworms. Roaches are readily available, and dubia are very easy to raise. Yes, they are illegal in Florida but other types of roaches are available there.

I do disagree that silkworm are easy to get here. They can be delicate to raise and the main suppliers often run out, either due to demand, or issues in raising them. Fortunately, they are usually available in spring and early summer. I also have tried to raise my own and it is a time-consuming process, and have not had much success.

Super worms – called morio worms in the UK, and very easy to get here. They are inexpensive and also easy to raise.

Hornworms are very easy to find here and available year round.

I am a big fan of wild-caught bugs and I have both fed and tried my hand raising WC insects. They offer a nice variety to the commercially available feeders. Grasshoppers and snails are a couple I have caught and either fed or raised as feeders.

Mantids and stickbugs are also pretty easy to get, either from collecting your own or there are some people raising and selling them.

We also have a lot of what I call “treat-feeders” – things like flies, wax worms, and butterworms. I don’t get these often but the chameleons love them when they get them –especially flies!

 the chemical reactions inside the body, under natural UV is far different to that of our artificial UVB in the Viv/cage

Natural UV:

Pete- Although we know the outside UV is still ample and strong enough. Even on an overcast day. The chance of Natural (outside) UV here in the UK is honestly restricted to the Summer. Even then its a few weeks worth at most. I’d LOVE to be able to give my reptile more natural UV.

UK Outside UVB

Some ‘Outside’ UVB exposure, in the UK (Pete).

As the chemical reactions inside the body, under natural UV is far different to that of our artificial UVB in the Viv/cage. Has a huge benefit to our reptile. But for me. It’s just not hot enough to allow an extended period of ‘outside time’ unless its summer.

Karen- What can I say? I am in Southern California. Endless summer. It is practically illegal for it to rain here and temperatures are within comfortable ranges for many species of chameleons for most of the year. I keep as many chameleons outside for as much of the year as I can. They come in mainly in the winter when overnight temps get into the low 40’s or below and the daytime temps do not get into the 70s or above. (Those temps are Fahrenheit. It would be under 5C or over 21C in the UK)

The only downside to the climate is that we are more desert than tropical so in the hottest parts of the summer it is also the driest time of year. I have to run the misters often-usually hourly to prevent dehydration and to keep enclosures cool. Florida has much better humidity for Chams and other parts of the country – Montana, the Northeast, Alaska, are all too cold and snowy in the winter to allow for any outside time.

So to conclude…..

Myself and Karen could have easily gone back and forth with so many differences, but we had to stop somewhere. So we thought we’d cover the most popular items, as above.

But the fact of the matter is, wherever you are geographically, you just ‘make it work’ with what you have available. Also, with the availability of reptile specific items online, there honestly is no excuse for the Chameleon to not have the very best options, for the very best possible life you can give it.

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