This habitat is NOT suitable for all chameleons or captive reptiles. Please research the needs of your animals before jumping into a project like this one. My wife and I have been keeping chams for about 5 years and gradually developed the instructible you're reading right now.
A free range is a "cage without walls." The idea is to make the habitat so enjoyable to the resident, it just doesn't want to leave. Chameleons have many specific needs (temperature ranges, humidity ranges, UV light exposure and watering/drinking difficulties, so it was challenging to meet all these needs.
The range is planted with a variety of live tropical plants and artificial vines. The room is heated by an array of spotlight lamps on their own dedicated circuit and controlled by a thermostat. Ultraviolet light is furnished by shoplights with Reptisun 5.0 and 10.0 bulbs on a circuit separate from the heat lamps. The Ultraviolet lights are on a timer and provide the overall day and night rhythms.
Chameleons are fussy drinkers. They won't drink from a bowl, only from "rainwater." To simulate this, an automated misting system rains on our monsters 4 times a day and a drainage system carries the excess water and waste away outside the house where it waters and feeds our vegetable garden. The entire system is protected from leaks by a moisture-sensor product that shuts off the water at the source.
So, enough verbosity! Let me show you how we did it!
This is an advanced project. You will need the following skills to build your own Chameleon Free Range. (by the way, from now on I will usually refer to the Free Range as "FR")
- Basic Carpentry.
- Basic Electrical- (wiring your own receptacles and switches.)
- Intermediate Plumbing (I tapped off a nearby bathroom sink supply line for the misting system.)
- Intermediate "Handyman Skills,": You'll be modifying and installing a lot of wire shelving, routing plumbing through your attic, installing gutters inside a room and even drilling a hole through your house. At times, you'll have to modify off-the-shelf products and bend them to your will. Make sure you're up to the challenge before you get in over your head and have to hire a handyman and watch their eyes roll as you explain what you're trying to do!
Please note that I am writing this instructable long after we finished the Free Range, but I'll do my best to describe what we did and how we did it. My photography is extremely after-the-fact, but I'll do my best to show how everything came together.