What You Need To Set Up The Perfect Chameleon Lighting

Chameleon LightingIf you want to get a chameleon or if you already have one, you probably noticed that you have to do a lot of research when it comes to taking care of your new little reptile friend.

You need to create the right housing conditions for example. Part of that is the chameleon lighting. A pretty confusing topic, right? I remember when I got my first chameleon I did everything wrong regarding the lighting. I was confused and I was misinformed. Unfortunately my chameleon got very, very sick because of that.

This won´t happen to you though, since this article will tell you exactly what parts you need for the perfect lighting and why you need it.

Which Light Bulbs Do Chameleons Need?

To make things easier for reptile beginners I like to split this topic into two sections.

Chameleon UVB Light

So the first section is UVB. You might have already heard or read of it. UVB bulbs are very important for chameleons and you must get one of these.

Chameleons need UVB to produce vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is needed to process calcium and calcium is needed for solid bones and for their growth. If you do not get a UVB bulb your chameleon won´t grow and eventually it´s bones will get soft. This is called metabolic bone disease. It is a horrible disease that always ends with death if not treated.

As I said, the bones will get soft, the whole body of the chameleon will get deformed. Your chameleon won´t be able to shoot crickets anymore and eventually it won´t have enough power to climb on trees. Most of the times you can see those sick chameleons on the ground shaking, unable to move properly. It is horrible and it means huge suffering for the chameleon.

Okay, I think I made clear why you need such a bulb.

What Is The Best Chameleon UVB Light

It always depends on the type of chameleon you have. Some chameleons are okay with stronger UVB bulbs. Others do not need that much UVB and you can go with a bulb with a lower UVB output. However in almost any cases this UVB bulb is absolutely perfect.

Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun Terrarium Hood

This UVB bulb is known for being the best on the market. Not only for chameleons, it is also used for bearded dragons for example. The good thing about it is that it comes with a fixture at an affordable price. You can even get this bulb in several sizes. I recommend to go with the size that is equal, or almost equal, to your chameleon tank´s width.

What Else You Should Know About UVB Bulbs

UVB bulbs get weaker with time. Most people recommend to replace the UVB bulb once a year. I recommend to replace it every six to eight months. This way you make sure that your chameleon gets enough UVB at all times.

Further you must know that UVB rays can´t go through glass. So you need an enclosure with a screencover on the top. This tank is great for most chameleons.

A Heat Lamp For Your Chameleon

Besides a UVB bulb you also need a heat lamp for your chameleon. Why do you need it? Chameleons are cold-blooded, like all reptiles. This means that they need their environment to control their body temperature. They don´t have a steady body temperature like we have.

If a chameleon doesn´t have the possibility to warm up it´s body, it won´t be able to move. Without a heat lamp your chameleon will sleep all day. If it awakes, it won´t be able to move properly. Most chameleons that need higher temperatures will die if the temperature is always too low.

So you need to get a heat lamp so that your chameleon will be able to get it´s body on temperature. Further you need to create different temperature zones so that your chameleon is able to control it´s body temperature perfectly, meaning that it also needs cooler places if it´s body temperature gets too high. Here is how you do that.chameleon heat

The Hot Spot

Most chameleons need a hot spot. That´s the place below the heat lamp. A branch or a log below the heat lamp is perfect for that. Of course the hot spot should have a certain temperature, but the needed temperature depends on the type of chameleon. So I can´t tell you the temperature here. If you need help with that, leave a message in the comment section. I will get back to you.

The Warm Area

The warm area is in the upper section of your chameleon enclosure. It will be created automatically by the heat lamp. Again, what temperature your chameleon needs depends on the type of chameleon.

The Cool Zone

The cool zone is in the lower section of the tank. You will find your chameleon near the ground if it needs to lower it´s body temperature.

What Is The Best Heat Bulb?

You can take one of those reptile basking lamps for your chameleon. However a normal incandescent bulb that gets warm will do the job as well. You might ask yourself what wattage you need. Well, the higher the wattage the higher the temperature … what wattage you need depends on the type of chameleon and on your tank size.

Normally bigger tanks need lights with higher wattage.

You also need a fixture for your heat bulb. I recommend to get this fixture. It has a built in reflector and you can place it on top of the screencover. If you are afraid that the screencover could collapse, get this lamp stand.chameleon setup

How To Tell If You Have The Right Temperature

Since I do not know what type of chameleon you have I want to give you a tip on how to make sure that the temperature in your tank is okay. You must be sure that your chameleon is healthy though, as weird coloring could be a sign of stress or a disease.

If your chameleon is black all day and sits very near at the heat bulb at all times, your temperature might be too low and you need a heat bulb with higher wattage.

If your chameleon is near the ground all day, your temperature might be too high.

Light …Just Light

I see those dark terrariums all over Youtube. Chameleons need a lot of light. Dark terrariums are not optimal for them. So make sure that you have a bright light. Although with the two bulbs I recommend above you should be fine.

What Else Do You Need?

You need to have a lot of plants in your chameleon tank. Most chameleons are stressed easily and it helps if they can hide between the plants. Further it is important to create a little protection from the UVB rays. Your chameleon will know when it needs to get out of the “sun” and it will hide under leaves.


Lighting for chameleons isn´t that hard if you know what bulbs you need and what temperature your chameleon needs. Always stay away from coiled light bulbs. Some of them are known for doing damage to chameleon´s eyes.

If you have a veiled chameleon or a panther chameleon, you can also read specific guides for them. Here is how to set up a veiled chameleon tank and here is how to set up a panther chameleon tank.

I really hope this article helped you. If you have any questions, leave a message in the comment section below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

Leave a Reply