The cost of a chameleon as a pet

The cost of a chameleon is an important factor in deciding to get one. Not just the monetary cost of a chameleon from the pet store or breeder, but also the cost for feeding and housing it, and the investment of your time and effort.

How much time, effort and money will it take to have chameleon as a pet? On this post I try to summarize the different aspects you should think about. It is important to realize what it will take to have a chameleon in your home before you get one. Many people find a chameleon for a good price or sometimes even for free, not realizing that the initial purchase price is nothing compared to the lifetime costs of a pet. You need to make sure you have enough time for it and are willing to spend money, space and effort to give your chameleon a good life.

How much time does a chameleon take?

You need to check up on your chameleon every day. It needs to:

  • Get fed live insects as food
  • Sprayed with water or checked if the automatic water system still functions
  • Be checked for health problems

Once a month you need to clean the terrarium completely. Remove all poop, shower the plants with lukewarm water and replace dirty parts of the floor cover of the terrarium. Sometimes you need to wash the windows of the terrarium because the water spray can leave a residue making the glass less clear.

You always have to make sure you have live feeder insects. This means breeding them yourself or doing a weekly run to the pet store to buy them.

When you go on holiday you need a trusted pet sitter to take care of your chameleon, or take it to an experienced pet shop owner or pet sitting business. Not everyone will be willing to feed your chameleon live crickets or cockroaches when you are away for the weekend. Make sure you have a plan to cover this.

female-veiled-chameleon
Female veiled chameleon

How much does caring for a chameleon cost?

Chameleon food
Chameleon food is a recurring cost

It is not cheap to keep a chameleon. Especially because of the live insects as food and the money you need to lay down for a proper terrarium, heat lamps, UV lights, food supplements and possible medical check-ups.

The stuff you need to buy to get started is a terrarium, decoration, branches, plants, heat source, UV light bulb or tube, water spray, calcium powder, vitamin supplements, thermometer, hygrometer, soil and possibly a dripper or mist machine. Of course you also need to buy the chameleon itself.

The cost of a chameleon is mostly determined by the daily costs. They add up because they always continue. You need to buy or breed feeder insects like crickets, grasshoppers and wax worms. A young chameleon will eat much more than an adult one. The fruits and vegetables also need to be bought, but possibly you can just feed the chameleon a bit of what you would already buy for yourself. You also need to feed the feeder insects with proper food, like vegetables, oatmeal or fruits.
The calcium powder and vitamin powder will probably last you for years (or until they expire) so you do not have a lot of costs from that.

Other recurring costs are new UV-B lights every year. The old ones produce less and less UV, even before they break. For the rest you need to buy new heat lamps when the old ones break. You also need to replace the live plants, as they will probably get damaged from the chameleon walking on them, or when they grow too big for the terrarium.

One of the big unknown costs for a chameleon are healthcare costs. You don’t know if your chameleon ever needs to go to the vet or not. If it needs to go, it can get really expensive. Better save some money in a separate account or jar, for when your pet needs to go to the vet. When you take good care of your chameleon, it will generally stay healthy and not require a vet.

The cost of a chameleon

Then of course you will have the cost of a chameleon itself. How much does a chameleon cost in a pet store or from a breeder? That depends on the species of chameleon and the country you are in. It also depends on the age of the chameleon, very young ones ( < 3 months) are usually cheaper than 5 – 8 month old chameleons. A pet veiled chameleon would cost between $30,- and $100,- in the US for example. The cost of a chameleon is therefore much lower than all the costs of food, housing and healthcare combined.