Hydration is one of the more critical aspects of chameleon care, and means more than just something to drink. It effects their entire metabolic process. Dehydration can lead to anything from shedding problems, renal damage and organ failure, or even death in severe cases.
This can be as simple as a spray bottle or as complex as a misting system set on a timer. Whichever you choose, it is important to determine the frequency and duration that best suits your climate. Most common and successful misting schedules have a 2-5 min duration, with one session before lights on and one after lights out. Another session in the middle of the night can aid your fogger in achieving the high humidity evenings that chameleons thrive on. In dryer climates an additional session or two during the day will aid in keeping appropriate humidity levels in your enclosure.
A cool mist or ultrasonic humidifier is easy to find in most big retail stores and online, or a reptile fogger will do nicely (although they have limited capacity options). This is a useful tool for the naturalistic hydration method we are striving to accomplish. We are aiming for close to 100% humidity. It is also important to note that this will be run during the night when your cage temperatures have dropped. Having high humidity during the warm daylight hours is a health risk for your chameleon, since this promotes mold growth and respiratory infections, and constantly wet surfaces can lead to foot sores. Good ventilation is key, stagnant air will be detrimental to your chameleons health.
A drip system can be an easy DIY using a cup or empty jug with a small hole in the bottom. Pre-made drippers can also be purchased from the mainstream pet stores. The rate of flow should be about 1-2 drops per second and drip onto a leaf within the chameleons reach. This serves as a supplement to the fog drinking and may not be used if they are sufficiently hydrated thru the night.
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There are two primary categories of misters. Automatic misting systems and Hand misters. Both have advantages and disadvantages, particularly when you are getting started.
This seems to be one of those items every chameleon owner wants eventually, and can almost be a necessity in larger collections. Although these can add additional costs, there are advantages to automatic misters. For one, they are run by timers, or in some cases humidity controllers. This makes them very consistent and removes the extra daily task, which can help to reduce stress. There are a few options to choose from. Some things to consider are, how does the timer work? This seems odd, but many do not have control over when and how long to mist. Also keep in mind the water capacity and how easy/difficult it will be to clean.
MistKing has been a solid staple in herp culture for many years. It is a quality reliable product with an excellent timer that allows for exactly when and for how long, down to the second. The basic starter kit comes with one mister head. You will need a reservoir but size is up to you. This is a top choice if you decide to go auto.
This is a newer product on the market. It does have good reviews. The one flaw would be that the “timer” is options for cycles per day and duration, so you do not have as much control over times. That said it does allow for you to change the spray pressure, and its all-in-one compact design may be more palatable to single chameleon owners.
These are always going to be a first go to choice for those just starting out, and as a constant backup for those that have automatic misters. These are pretty basic and there is no need to buy one that specifies what it is for. It sprays liquid. My advice here is get the pump up type, not the trigger type. Get what is appropriate and easy for you to handle. Make sure you will be able to mist for 2 to 3 minuets at a time.
Foggers are a an important part of the set up. It has been shown that fog is an intricate part of the chameleons life in the wild. It provides the primary source hydration as shown by Petr Nečas video Fog Drinking In Chameleons. Further, in captivity fogging has shown benefits in overall hydration comparable to, and for some keepers superior to, misting and drippers.
These are a very common product used to provide a slow drip of water allowing arboreal lizards to lap up water droplets off of plants and leaves. They are a cheap addition to add more drinking options. Many chameleon keepers have found these beneficial, while others do not use them.
When we run water through our misters it is highly recommended to use Reverse Osmosis purified water. There are a few reasons for this; like keeping your misters clean and clog free, simulating rain water, and it prevents the mineral build up on leaves misted with mineral rich water. Many, like the one listed here, can be found for under $60
Once you purchase an R/O unit, depending on your needs, it is often easier to make a volume of water ahead of time. These are very affordable for water storage at under $40.
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