The Cost Of Owning A Chameleon

Chameleons Apr 29, 2020
Written by | Updated Oct 13, 2021
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The Cost Of Owning A Chameleon

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The chameleon is a well-known animal but it’s not a particularly common pet.

These color-changing reptiles are endlessly entertaining, but they can be a challenge to keep. Before you settle on a chameleon as a pet, you should be sure you’re up to the responsibility and to the cost.

Here’s what you need to know about how much it costs to keep a pet chameleon.

Bringing Home A New Chameleon – One-Time Costs

The chameleon makes a great pet for the right owner, but they aren’t the perfect choice for everyone. Not only do chameleons have specific requirements, but they are easily stressed. If your chameleon becomes stressed, it might get sick and that can mean expensive veterinary bills for you.

The key to being a responsible pet owner is making a smart decision when choosing a pet. Keeping a pet chameleon is about more than just buying the chameleon – you also have to house it, feed it, and provide access to veterinary care.

Before you decide whether a chameleon is the right pet for you, think about how much it will cost to even bring your new pet home.

Here’s what you need to know about start-up costs for pet chameleons:

Buying A Chameleon

When shopping for a pet chameleon, it’s important to choose a captive-bred one rather than a wild-caught one. Wild-caught chameleons are not used to living in captivity and they have already undergone a great deal of stress from the capture and shipping process. On top of that, there are concerns about animal welfare and the depletion of natural populations.

Because you’ll be buying a captive-bred chameleon, you have the option to choose from several species.

Here are some of the most popular pet chameleon species:

  • Veiled Chameleon
  • Jackson’s Chameleon
  • Panther Chameleon
  • Oustalet’s Chameleon
  • Flap-Necked Chameleon

Generally speaking, the cost to purchase a chameleon depends on the species and color morph. You may be able to find one as cheap as $40 or as high as $500, sometimes more.

You may be able to find a chameleon at your local pet store or a national pet store chain, but you should double-check to make sure they are captive bred.

If you’re looking for a specific species or morph, however, your best option is probably to buy directly from a breeder.

Also Read: 9 Types of Chameleons That Make Great Pets

Another option is to adopt a chameleon from a shelter or reptile rescue.

When it comes to adopting a chameleon, costs vary greatly. You should expect to pay at least $50 but it may be more, especially if the pet comes with an enclosure.

Chameleon Cost by Species

Species Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Veiled Chameleon $40 $250
Jackson’s Chameleon $75 $175
Panther Chameleon $100 $500
Oustalet’s Chameleon $60 $200
Flap-Necked Chameleon $40 $75

Supplies And Setup

Aside from the chameleon itself, the most important purchase you’ll make is the enclosure.

Your chameleon needs a terrarium setup that provides plenty of vertical space for climbing. It needs to keep heat and humidity in while still providing adequate ventilation. The best chameleon cage will cost you anywhere from $100 to $300.

In addition to the enclosure itself, you’ll need some additional supplies.

Chameleons need to be exposed to UVB and UVA lighting which requires a special bulb. In addition to purchasing a UVB bulb for your chameleon, you’ll also need a light fixture which you can find easily at a pet store or a home improvement store.

Other supplies you’ll need include a heat lamp for basking, a dripper or mister, and plenty of plants for your chameleon to climb. These additional supplies will cost $75 to $200.

Once your chameleon’s cage is set up, you need to buy food and bedding to get started.

The cheapest bedding for your chameleon cage is newspaper. It’s cheap and easy to clean up. When it comes to food, you can purchase live insects or breed them yourself.

The final thing to consider is the cost of your first vet visit. You’ll need to find a reptile vet which can cost upwards of $45 for the exam alone. If your chameleon needs testing, it could be $150 or more.

Chameleon Supplies and Setup

Cost Type Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Cage $100 $300
Cage Supplies $75 $200
Initial Food and Bedding $20 $40
Spay/Neuter Cost N/A N/A
Initial Vet Visit $45 $150
Total = $240 to $690

Cost Of Chameleon Ownership – Annual Expense Breakdown

Once you’ve covered the cost to purchase your chameleon and outfit his enclosure, your most significant expenses are covered. From there, you just need to think about monthly maintenance.

On a monthly basis, you’ll need to consider the cost of food for your chameleon as well as supplements. Things like bedding may not be a regular purchase but you should factor in additional costs to replace things like your heat lamps and light bulbs. You may also want to think about veterinary expenses.

Here’s what you need to know about annual costs for pet chameleons:

Annual Medical Expenses

When it comes to keeping your pet chameleon healthy, one of the best things you can do is take your time choosing one. Shop from a reputable and experienced breeder, avoiding any wild-caught specimens, and know what a healthy chameleon looks like.

Here are some of the common health problems known to affect chameleons:

  • Mouth rot (stomatitis)
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Loss of appetite
  • Egg binding
  • Organ failure
  • Vitamin D deficiency

Chameleons are very prone to stress, so it’s important to maintain your pet’s enclosure as close to his ideal parameters as possible.

Make sure you have the number for a reptile vet handy before you bring your chameleon home and take him for his first visit within a few weeks. You can expect to spend $45 or more on a vet visit and have him seen at least once a year, ideally every 6 months.

Chameleons don’t need vaccinations, but you will spend at least $100 or more if he needs tests.

Emergency expenses for an exotic pet like the chameleon can also be quite costly, so it’s a good idea to save up for a reserve.

Pet insurance is another option, but many policies don’t cover exotic pets and the monthly premium might be better put in savings in case you need it.

Estimated Medical Costs for Chameleons

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Veterinary Checkup Twice yearly $45 ($90/year)
Dental Cleaning N/A N/A
Vaccinations N/A N/A
Flea, Tick, and Worm Treatments N/A N/A
Emergency Expenses Occasional $100 and up

Food And Supplies

Your chameleon’s diet may vary slightly depending on its age. All chameleons subsist primarily on insects, but the amount of food they eat will change over time.

Live insects are the best food for chameleons because they are carnivorous animals. Crickets, mealworms, and roaches are good options that you can find at most pet stores. You can also save a lot of money by starting a colony and raising them yourself.

You can expect to spend $20 to $30 per month on insects for your chameleon.

On top of food for your chameleon, you will need to purchase supplements and occasionally replace the bedding in the tank.

Chameleons are arboreal, so they will spend most of their time climbing. Bedding usually costs about $10 and you shouldn’t need to replace it every week. You can even use newspaper.

Supplements for chameleons are important – your pet needs calcium and vitamin D3. You may not need to buy them every month but you should budget $5 just in case.

Finally, know that you’ll need to occasionally buy replacements for things like heat lamps, light bulbs, and decorations in the tank. Budget $5 per month for these costs so you have it when you need it.

Food and Supply Costs for Chameleons

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Food and Treats Monthly $20 to $30
Bedding Occasional $10
Supplements Monthly $5
Additional Supplies Monthly $5

Total Annual Cost Of Owning A Chameleon  

The chameleon is a great pet, but it can be expensive to keep. Before you get your heart set on this type of pet, make sure you can cover the costs and provide the kind of environment your new pet deserves.

Here’s a quick summary of the estimated annual cost for keeping a chameleon:

  • Purchasing/Adopting = $40 to $500
  • Cage and Setup = $240 to $690
  • Annual Veterinary Costs = $90 per year (two visits)
  • Monthly Food and Supplies = $30 to $40

The cost to purchase and keep a chameleon varies widely depending on the choices you make. The type of chameleon you choose and the cage setup will impact your start-up costs while other factors like food will affect your monthly costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a chameleon cost?

The cost to purchase a pet chameleon varies greatly depending which species and morph you choose. The most affordable species is the veiled chameleon which costs an average of $40 to $75. If you go to a reptile show, you should be able to find several species to choose from under $100.

How much does it cost to neuter/spay a chameleon?

Chameleons are not social animals and generally do not do well when kept in pairs or groups. This negates the need for altering the chameleon in most cases. Technically speaking, male chameleons can be neutered but it is expensive. Spaying a female is an invasive and dangerous procedure.

How much does a chameleon vet checkup cost?

You’ll need to find a reptile vet to see your chameleon and it will likely cost more than an average vet visit for a cat or dog. Expect to spend $45 or more for the visit alone.

How much does it cost to microchip a chameleon?

The cost to microchip a pet is usually a one-time fee of $35. This procedure is not recommended for chameleons, however, because the microchip is typically embedded under the skin on furry pets.

How much does chameleon food cost?

Chameleons primarily eat insects which aren’t particularly expensive, especially if you raise them yourself. Your costs may be higher when your chameleon is young because he will eat a lot more. Budget about $20 to $30 per month for insects.

How much does a chameleon cage cost?

Your chameleon will do best in some kind of terrarium environment that retains heat and humidity. The cost varies depending on size and materials, but you should budget $100 to $300 for the enclosure.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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