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How Much Does a Chameleon Cost? (2021 Price Guide)

Nicole Cosgrove

Chameleons are amazing animals, although they do not make the best pets for all potential owners. They can get stressed quite easily, and there’s also the cost to take into account. The initial purchase of a chameleon ranges from $30 to $300 depending on the species, its age, and where exactly you buy it from. However, this is only a small fraction of the story.

As well as the chameleon, you will need to buy a tank, lighting, heating, plants, thermometer, timer, and even an enclosure for the live food. Ongoing costs include food costs, supplements, power, replacement plants, and any vet bills that your chameleon attracts throughout its life.

While the chameleon itself might cost $50, you may end up paying 50 times the purchase cost over the life of your chameleon.

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Bringing Home a New Chameleon: One-Time Costs

The cost of the chameleon itself is not the only initial cost you have to consider. In fact, it probably isn’t even the biggest upfront cost. Unless you have owned a chameleon or a similar species of lizard before, you will need to invest in a full setup, which includes the tank but also features like lighting, heating, and decoration.

Chameleon Costs

You will also need an initial supply of food and supplements that will help ensure your pet starts out as healthy as possible. Depending on where you get them, this little lizard can come at a wide range of prices.

a chameleon
Image Credit: Pixabay

Free

If you know somebody that is getting rid of a chameleon, or you have found an unwanted one and you want to give it a home, find out as much information as you can. If the former owner is getting rid of it because they don’t have the time to care for it, you could be getting a good deal. But if they’re rehoming their lizard because they have found it is ill and will require ongoing treatment, you may not have to pay for the lizard but you are taking on a serious investment.

Adoption

  • $30-$100

Adoption costs vary but will usually range from $30 to $100, with $50 being the most common price. However, it is not easy to find chameleons that have been put up for adoption, unless you can find a specialist lizard and reptile adoption service. If this is the case, you should ask whether they have a cage and any equipment to go with the animal because this will help keep the initial costs down.

Breeder

  • $30-$300

Buying a chameleon from a breeder tends to attract the highest costs, but it gives you access to different breeds and a choice of male or female. You may also be able to meet the mother and father of your lizard to get a better understanding of what your own family addition will be like when older.

chameleon inside tank
Image Credit: Pixabay

Breed Costs

Another factor that determines how much you pay for a chameleon is the exact breed that you choose. There are dozens of available breeds, but the three most common — those that are bred in captivity and are considered good pets for beginner and experienced owners — are the Veiled Chameleon, the Panther Chameleon, and the Jackson Chameleon. Prices for these different breeds vary as follows:

  • Veiled Chameleon, typical cost – $30 to $100 – The Veiled Chameleon is the most popular chameleon breed. They are usually captive-bred, but even this breed, which is considered the best for beginners, can get stressed when they are handled too often or too much. Captive-bred chameleons tend to be healthier, friendlier, and are less prone to stress than wild examples.
  • Panther Chameleon, typical cost – $100-$300 – The Panther Chameleon is also likely to have been captive bred so should be healthier and easier to care for. They tend to be quite docile, which means that you won’t have to chase them around their cage or your room. They are also easier to care for than other types of lizards.
  • Jackson Chameleon, typical cost – $50 to $150 – With a life expectancy of around 5 years for females and 10 years for males, as well as an adult size of 10 inches, the Jackson Chameleon is another popular pet Chameleon breed. They do cost a little more than the Veiled but they make excellent pets for beginner lizard owners.

Supplies

  • $325–$800

Before you get your Chameleon, you need to ensure that you have a decent setup. This includes a tank, lighting and heating, watering, and enough plants and vines that your little lizard has somewhere to hang. You will need a thermometer and digital timer, as well as an initial supply of food and even an enclosure to keep food in. Supplies can cost anywhere up to $800, although you can start with a more limited setup, and add to it over time, or you can look for secondhand options to save a little money.

List of Chameleon Care Supplies and Cost

Enclosure $50-$300
Lighting $100-$150
Watering $30-$130
Plants $100-$150
Food $10-$25
Live Food Enclosure $10-$20
Thermometer $10-$30
Digital Timer $15-$25

Annual Expenses

  • $750-$1,500 per year

As well as initial costs, there are ongoing costs. While most owners will take factors like food and supplements into account, you also need to remember that plants, electricity, and even water all carry their own costs and you need to factor these into your budget.

chameleon in a person's hand
Image Credit: Pixabay

Health Care

  • $250-$400 per year

Obviously, healthcare and veterinary costs are entirely unpredictable. Some years, you may not have to take your chameleon to the veterinary clinic at all, while other years might require multiple trips in little time. This budget allows for the cost of medication, as well as the cost of the vet trips and you shouldn’t have to pay more than this.

Check-Ups

  • $30-$75 per year

Look for deals and package subscriptions to cut down on these costs, but expect to pay up to around $75 for a check-up visit. The actual cost will vary according to which vet you use. Specialist vets can charge more because they have unique knowledge.

Treatments for Parasites

  • $20-$150 per year

Fecal floats and fecal tests are commonly used to test for internal parasites, while a visual inspection can help identify external pests. Treatments vary according to the existence and type of parasite but these costs can run up to $150 for the test and the treatment combined.

veiled chameleon
Image Credit: Pixabay

Emergencies

  • $200-$300

Emergencies can vary from eye infections to abrasive damage caused by sharp objects. The costs of the emergency will, of course, vary according to the actual emergency and its severity but you can expect to pay anywhere up to $300 for a single or short course of visits to deal with an emergency.

Insurance

  • $100-$150

One of the best ways to control veterinary costs is through pet insurance, and the increase in popularity of lizards and reptiles has led to more insurance companies offering coverage for this type of animal. The level of coverage you take will directly affect the total you pay but expect to pay around $10 per month for this useful insurance policy.

Food

  • $150–$200 per year

Your chameleon will primarily eat crickets, and you cannot keep these for long before they die or they grow too large for your chameleon to eat. You can buy a tub of approximately 250 crickets, lasting 10 days, for about $3. A year’s supply will cost $100 to $150. Alternatively, you can start a roach colony that will become self-sufficient and cost you nothing. Supplements cost an additional $30 to $50 per year.

chameleon eating insect
Image Credit: Pixabay

Environment Maintenance

  • $300–$500 per year

Your chameleon needs good lighting as a heat source as well as a light source. He also needs good live plants, because these enable him to rest and to hide if he’s feeling stressed. Finally, you will have to pay for electricity to keep the tank and equipment running when required. Look for deals on packs of bulbs as well as deals on plants and vines to help keep costs down, but you will still have to pay around $300 a year for upkeep.

Halogen Bulbs $100/year
Plants and Vines $80/year
Electricity $200/year

Total Annual Cost of Owning a Chameleon

$750-$1,500 per year

It will cost you around $750 a year, up to a maximum of $1,500 per annum to own a chameleon. The actual amount you have to pay will depend on whether your chameleon gets ill, how much your vet charges, and whether you opted to take out pet insurance for your reptile.

You shouldn’t cut corners on things like lighting and electricity. Even turning the lights off for an hour a day longer than necessary could stress your little one out, making him ill. There are, however, some ways that you can cut costs.

Owning a Chameleon On a Budget

There are several ways to cut costs when it comes to owning a chameleon. You can start by looking to adopt a chameleon. You may even find a package that includes a cage and some of the other required equipment. Alternatively, look for a secondhand cage but do ensure that it is in good or reasonable condition, or that any repairs would have minimal costs.

Some supplies stores may offer a subscription-type service for food and supplements, and if you can buy anything in bulk this will help cut costs. Light bulbs and even supplements may be available in bulk. You will always need them, they should keep for at least several months to a year, and you could save $100 a year or more.

Pet insurance can save you a lot of money in the long run. It costs around $10 a month, but even a basic veterinary visit can cost upwards of $100.

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Conclusion

A chameleon is a good introduction to the world of lizard pet ownership, but as well as the initial purchase cost of the lizard itself, which can range from $30 to as much as $300, you have to consider other setup costs and ongoing costs.

Expect to spend around $500 on initial equipment to include the cage, lighting, and enough food and supplements to last the first 10 days or so. From there, you should expect annual costs equivalent to about $100 a month or $1,200 a year.

This includes extraordinary costs like emergency veterinary fees, food and supplement costs, and any other costs. It may be possible to save money by buying items like light bulbs in bulk, and by paying for chameleon insurance to eliminate or reduce ongoing veterinary costs.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.