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Do Chameleons Need Heat Lamps?

chameleon in an enclosure with heat lamp

Being a new owner of a pet chameleon can be a challenge if you don’t know what they need to survive. Chameleons come from hot climates during the day with falling temperatures at night. They are also cold-blooded animals that rely on a heat source in order to stay warm. So do chameleons need a heat lamp? Yes, pet chameleons require a heat lamp for them to remain strong and healthy. Without it, their bodies aren’t able to function correctly, and a number of different things could go wrong.

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Do Chameleons Need Heat Lamps?

In the wild, a chameleon gets its source of heat from the sun, and they spend a lot of their time basking in the sun for hours on end. It isn’t until their bodies reach an optimal temperature that they retreat back to a shady area to cool down. When we keep them in captivity, chameleons have no natural way of sunning themselves because they are kept inside cages in the house with minimal access to the sun.

Heat lamps are the next best alternative for reptiles. They cannot self-regulate their body temperature and have to have both a hot and cold area of their enclosure to warm up and cool down. Even though heat lamps are great, you should still try to take them outside in the sun for some natural heat.

close up of a heat bulb or lamp
Image Credit: Félix Girault, Unsplash

What Type of Lamps Do Chameleons Needs?

Chameleons are becoming more popular than ever, and there are a lot of reptile heat lamps on the market. They come in different sizes and with many kinds of light that make the decision more complicated than it has to be.

The best heat lamps for chameleons depend on the size of the cage and the species that you have. Typically, the larger the cage is, the bigger the heat lamp must be. Generally, most chameleons do just fine with a 50-watt heat lamp. Try to find one with a dimmer that lets you adjust the heat higher and lower as the temperature changes.

Where to Put a Chameleon’s Heat Lamp

It is always best to mimic an animal’s wild habitat whenever possible. The sun is always located above wild chameleons and your indoor enclosure should be set up the same way. Put the lamp on the top of your cage and in the corner. This way, they have a basking spot that they can move closer or further away from, depending on their body temperature. They are going to spend a considerable amount of time here, so make sure they have a rock or other cozy area to lay on.

Do not keep branches, foliage, or other types of decoration in their basking area. If possible, set up a place for them up high to mimic how they hang around in the upper parts of trees.

chameleon near a heat lamp
Image Credit: Zzzufa, Shutterstock

How Hot Should the Heat Lamp Be?

The temperature of the lamp should change depending on the chameleon species but generally are kept between 90°F and 95°F. Baby chameleons prefer for temperatures to be a little bit cooler since they are less active. Make sure to check the lamp regularly to keep them from overheating.

How Long To Keep Heat Lamps Turned On?

Again, you want to mimic the outdoors as much as possible. Reptile owners often keep their heat lamps on for as long as the sun is up because daylight hours vary throughout the year. In spring and summer, you can keep the lamp on for up to 12 hours per day. In the fall and winter, only keep the lamp on for six to eight hours per day.

Do Chameleons Need Heat Lamps at Night?

You might need to keep the enclosure heated at night, depending on how cold your home gets throughout the year and during the nighttime. Nighttime temperatures between 60°F and 65°F are safe for chameleons. If it gets too cold, you might consider adding a heat rock or pad to your cage for extra warmth.

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Conclusion

Chameleons are cold-blooded animals and rely on warmth to stay alive. If you plan to buy a pet chameleon, make sure you have your tank set up with a proper heat source before bringing them home so that they can adjust easily and be as comfortable as possible. Remember that you don’t want to overheat them and can avoid burning them by keeping the lamp in the corner.

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Featured Image Credit: Vaillery, Shutterstock

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