Dragon Strand Caging Systems
Abronia graminea

Keeping Abronia in Dragon Strand Cages

Dragon Strand cages are known for housing chameleons, but many other arboreal reptiles and amphibians do well in these cages. Arboreal herps generally have the same needs of a good amount of space and ventilation. Even if they live in humid areas, there is still airflow. This is why our arboreal reptiles need special attention given towards their caging.

One incredibly fascinating reptile is the arboreal alligator lizards from Mexico in the Abronia genus. With their vivid color, prehensile tails, and live birth they are a pleasure to work with!

Thus I was excited when Jason Balfour shared with me how he was building up the Medium Tall Keeper cages he purchased from Dragon Strand to meet the needs of his Abronia. He has been generous enough to allow me to share with you a little bit about his Abronia and the cage build progressions.

Jason used the Medium Tall Keeper Screen Cages (17.75 x 17″ x 36″) with Dragon Ledges and a deep substrate tray to create his environments. The pictures will speak for themselves, but Jason shares that he used a hot glue gun and zip ties to secure the cork tubes and plastic pots to the Dragon Ledges.

Jason currently works with three species of Abronia: Abronia graminea, A. smithi, and A. auritas

Abronia Species

Abronia graminea

Abronia graminea

Abronia smithi

Abronia smithi

Abronia aurita

Abronia auritas

Cage 1

Abronia cage 3A
Abronia cage 3B
Abronia cage 3C

Cage 2

Abronia cage 1A
Abronia cage 1B
Abronia cage 1C

Cage 3

Abronia cage 2A
Abronia cage 2b
Abronia cage 2C

And, finally, the Abronia are introduced!

abronia in cage
abronia in cage

Follow Jason's work with Abronia

If you would like to follow Jason’s work, you can follow him on Instagram at

https://www.instagram.com/jasonb_reptiles/

Building up the Vivarium Series of Cages

I have been working with some new designs lately that allow greater control over humidity. The basic design of the Dragon Strand cages makes this quite easy. I simply create a Breeder series cage where the front is clear PVC except for the service door which is screen. Those who have worked with vivariums before will immediately recognize the chimney effect that this creates. But just to bring everyone to the same page I’ll explain the need and the solution.

The Need for Humidity: In the wild, chameleons get a humidity cycle just like they get a heat and light cycle. As anyone who listens to my podcasts knows intimately, I am pushing for giving chameleons a captive environment as close as possible to their natural state. Of course, I am under no illusions that we could ever match the wild conditions and variety of food perfectly, but we have been able to create enough of those conditions that we are well within their range of needs. My passion is to keep pushing closer to those natural conditions. I do both outdoor keeping and indoor keeping and have turned my attention to the humidity cycle in indoor keeping. Just about all the chameleon species we keep – and especially the babies – will benefit from better humidity cycles. Yes, screen cages work, but we can do better.

The chimney effect, or stack effect, is where the air at the top of the cage is warm and, therefore, less dense. Warm air rises. This creates a draw on the air in the cage. And with an opening at the bottom of the cage this creates a natural air flow. This mitigates the problem with stagnant air, but allows retention of humidity. Note, though, that this flow of air and the replication of a breeze are two different things. The chimney effect makes sure there isn’t stagnant air. The many benefits of a breeze must be replicated using a fan or some other active means.

I am currently using Medium Wide Breeder cages in this configuration to raise up baby Meller’s Chameleons. And at the end of June 2019 I will be doing a run of X-Large Breeder cages with Clearfronts except for the service door. I will not be doing much marketing on this run. This is just for people who already know the benefits. With all the common community knowledge revolving around screen cages there will need to be some education that goes along with this product offering. With screen cages you are blasting in heat and humidity because you are fighting against the ambient room conditions and you create a short cone of heat and humidity in front of your bulb or humidifier/mister. But the heat and humidity quickly dissipates giving screen cages a huge range of margin for error. This is why screen cages are a good place to start. But when we work with enclosed cages a little heat and humidity goes a long way and we need to be more controlled on how much we put into the system. I’ll increase awareness of this husbandry and then be more vocal about these product offerings. I am going to call them my “Vivarium Series”.

 

So here are the products I will be making available at this time.

  • X-Large Vivarium Cage: This is an X-Large Breeder Cage with the main door and upper face panel clear.
  • Medium Wide Vivarium Cage: This is a Medium Wide Breeder with a clear front door.
  • Large Keeper Vivarium Retro Fit: This retro fit kit would include three white PVC panels that would slide onto an existing Large Keeper Screen cage and clear replacement main door and upper face panels.
Chimney effect in Medium Wide Cage

With the entire cage enclosed except the top and a small panel on the bottom, air is drawn up from the bottom and is released through the top of the cage. All that is needed to make this happen is the heat lamps we use as basking spots up top.

I have a couple of customers that have already purchased some of the X-Large Vivarium cages so that build is set for the end of June. I will be making a limited number for my use and whomever is interested. The Medium Wide Vivariums I will do a build probably in August and the Large Keeper Vivarium retro fit kits will be available in a couple weeks and will go out with the next round of Large Keeper Kits. The X-Large Clearfront Breeder “Vivarium Series” product page is up. The Medium Wide and Large Keeper Retro fit are in progress of being made up. If you are interested in either of these just email me.

The next step, of course, is to create the substrate trays necessary for effective bio-active substrates. These are in process….

If you are interested in buying more than one at a time we can ship in multiples of two. Click the link below for bundles packages of the cage and the trays.

Baby Chameleons in Adult Size Cages

We in the chameleon community have had a curious habit of using grow out cages for our juvenile single pet chameleons. This practice advocates using a small cage to grow the chameleon up until adulthood. It is then transferred to the adult size cage. The thinking is that the baby chameleon can find food, water, and basking spot easier in a smaller space. So we have a two cage lifecycle for our chameleon. As a cage manufacturer, this is a wonderful protocol and, perhaps, we should add in a subadult cage in the progression so they can hold onto their childhood just a bit longer. I would be happy to create a three cage bundle I can call the “Growing Up Cage Kit”! But as a community educator I need to present the truth that you need only one cage for your chameleon from hatching to full adult.

Dragon Strand Chameleon cages

Two Dragon Strand Large Keeper Kits set up to house a pair of Panther Chameleons

baby chameleon in the plants

Your baby chameleon will have great freedom starting off in their adult cage and will grow up comfortable in its final home.

How will they find food in such a big cage?!?

Chameleons are designed to be self-sufficient from the moment they hatch out of the egg. Their first missions in life are to find food and safety do they can grow up as fast as they can. And they do this within a continent sized enclosure. It will be controversial for me to say to keep your hatchlings in a Large Keeper 48” size cage. (I have done it with great success, by the way). My purpose here is not to convince breeders to change their care protocols, but to speak directly with the keepers who are buying one three month old baby and are making first time caging decisions. They are self-sufficient out of the egg. By three months they are now highly experienced in how this captivity situation works. It really isn’t that hard. Feeder bowl = food; strange big foot creature = food and bizarre camera thing that must die; Proper Cage = border of protection. The difference between a two foot tall and four foot tall cage is immaterial to a chameleon whose main sense is sight. They know exactly where everything is in that cage.

Feeder behavior is an issue in any size cage. Specifically we are talking about feeders hiding under pots and in the plants. This is the use and purpose of those feeder run cups. Have one place where you hang the feeder run cup and make sure there is a perching branch conveniently placed nearby with easy tongue slinging access. If you hang the feeder in the same place at the same time every day you will be surprised to find your chameleon on his eating branch ready and waiting for you at feeding time. Chameleons are quite smart – especially when it comes to food.

Trust Your Chameleon's Ability to Survive

Understanding chameleon behavior you can create a dense leafy area where you suspect your chameleon will sleep and a basking spot where your chameleon will warm up in the morning. Your job is to simply provide the environment. Trust that your chameleon will do his part in figuring out how to be where he needs to be.

In the end, not only will I say you are fine getting the adult cage right away, I will actively encourage you to do so. With the smaller body of a juvenile you can create very diverse areas and enjoy watching behavior and habits change as he grows up. This is only possible if there is enough room in the cage to have options to choose from.

For standard size chameleons including the panther chameleon, veiled chameleon, and Jackson’s chameleon, the Large Keeper Kit is the most commonly used successfully from baby to adulthood.  But even if you get the Large Atrium Enclosure, do not go through the effort of building a false bottom within the cage. This is absolutely not necessary. The best that can be said about it is that it is not a dangerous practice. But, honestly, it is sad for you to deprive yourself of having all the space to build a beautiful home for your baby chameleon.

Baby Chameleon in Adult Chameleon Cage

A baby chameleon in a large adult cage will have many microclimates and gradients to choose from.

sleeping baby chameleon

In a large cage with many options your baby chameleon will have many places to choose a sleeping spot from.

Conclusion

Smaller “grow out” areas are a necessity for breeding groups because of the need to be efficient with space. They are especially useful for panther chameleon breeding projects where you want to select your next breeding generation from panthers that are colored up. But a grow out cage has no place in pet keeping. This is one of those cultural folklores that needs to be retired. Your social media advisors may continue to advise it as it is one of those safe concepts that hasn’t been challenged. It isn’t dangerous to the chameleon so we won’t attack it too fiercely, but just know, you don’t have to do it.

Products Discussed in this Post

chameleon species of the world

I would like to invite you to join an educational outreach effort I am doing on the Facebook group The Chameleon Enthusiasts. It is a tour of the world’s chameleon species meant to give a look into the diversity that are found within chameleon species.
I have teamed up with Jurgen Van Overbeke who is one of the community’s most experienced breeders. Every Monday we will highlight another species. We have started on the west coast of Africa in the lowlands of Cameroon and we will slowly make our way across the continent and to the outer reaches of where chameleons live. These will be short bite-sized profile introductions. So far, we have covered Trioceros cristatus, Trioceros oweni, and Rhampholeon spectrum. We will be working our way up in elevation to cover the prominent species of Cameroon before moving to Uganda.

To check out the full profiles of these, and future chameleon species, click the button below to find The Chameleon Enthusiasts Facebook group and search for “World Tour” to find the posts. You’ll get more pictures and breeding notes from Jurgen. It is a closed group, but answering two simple questions gets you in!

You can also follow along with this series on the Chameleon_Breeder Instagram account

How to Feed a Chameleon (in Dragon Strand cages!)

There are three main feeding strategies.

Hand Feeding. This is where you perform some variation on you holding the feeder and the chameleon shoots it from your hand. You simply open the door, present the food and wait. If there is hesitation then try closing the door enough that you can put it between you and your chameleon so there appears to be barrier between the two of you. Chameleons learn that a closed cage means they are safe. This can help them feel safe around your hand.

Jacksons Chameleon Eating
female panther chameleon

Controlled Release. To produce a hunting response, feeder insects are released in the cage for the chameleon to hunt down. Usually this takes the form of releasing the insects to climb a wall that is near the chameleon. To do this I place my feeders in a deli cup that has the appropriate mineral/vitamin powder, gently shake to get a coating of powder, and then tip the cup up against the screen side of the cage. I sometimes give a tap to get the feeders to go to the cup opening. The feeders will generally start climbing the screen and you just let them climb up. I do this in tongue range of the chameleon, but as far away from him as possible. Ideally this is done below him and the feeders are allowed to crawl up the screen. Doing it below him will make the activity less stressful as chameleons have a security when they are looking down on things. The main challenge with this method is the stubborn feeders that decide they want to climb down. Dubia roaches can have this tendency. Adjust you application as needed.

Cup Feeding. Using a cup keeps the feeders contained in one place. This has the huge advantage that it keeps the feeders from running and hiding. The disadvantage is that feeders tend to stop moving once they figure out they are trapped. The Feeder Run Cup construction (see how to make one here) solves this by giving a climbing wall to give them somewhere to move. This, of course, attracts the chameleon’s attention. Feeding cups have had two complaints. The first is the idea that chameleons should hunt to exercise. While a fine idea, chameleons are meant to stay still for long periods of time and the calories burned by moving 12 inches are probably not the basis of a fitness program. The second issue is that chameleons may get bored with food in a bowl. What is really happening here is that the chameleon is probably over fed and is just not hungry. Quick movements of free range feeders can tap into the automatic eating response and elicit a feeding, but this kind of feeding is for our peace of mind, not their health. If a chameleon gets bored of eating the solution is to stop feeding so much, not to find bigger and better ways to overcome their full feeling.

Jacksons Chameleon eating

Feeding in Dragon Strand Cages

(Hand feeding is the same for any cage type.)

There is always a screen wall available for controlled release. In the Keeper series, all walls are screen so you just take your pick! In the Clearside series you will find that the one screen wall is the side closest to where the door opens. This was done specifically to allow for easy controlled release. By having the screen where the door opens you are able to open the door just enough to stick your hand and cup inside to access the screen wall. Breeder style cages have all PVC walls so controlled release must be done with on the front main door. This can be done simply by opening the door, letting the feeders crawl onto the door and closing it. This can be tricky if you are feeding crickets that are not dusted with supplement as they may instinctively jump when there is any movement with the cage door (unless you remove the jumping legs). But any other feeder, and dusted crickets, tend to stay hanging on the screen door and climbing.

With cup feeding you will need to find a way to mount the cup up with the chameleon. How you do this depends greatly with what you are using for a cup. If you are using a Feeder Run Cup with a hanging hook then it gets very easy to hang it off of any of the Dragon Ledges that come standard in all but the smallest of cages or from branches in the cage. If you are using a feeder run cup that affixes with a magnet you will have to bring the cup and holding magnet together to sandwich the cage side. People using commercially available feeder run cups have been confused that the holding magnets do not stick to Dragon Strand screen walls. This is because our sides are made from aluminum. Anything a magnet sticks to will rust and Dragon Strand cages are rust proof! 

chameleon feeder run cup in Breeder style cage

The PVC walls of the Breeder series may be too thick for the magnets to have a solid hold so mount the feeder run cup on the top face panel. If you have a Medium Tall/Wide Breeder you will not have that Top Face Panel. You can mount them to the main door, but please do so close to the hinges where there is the most strength.

I, personally, hand feed or control release the first two feeders and then cup feed the rest. This gives me the opportunity to observe eating each time to verify that the chameleon is looking and acting healthy. The rest of the meal can be eaten from the feeder cup at the leisure of the chameleon.

Resources

If you are interested in how to make your own Feeder Run Cup click this button for an online guide or watch the video below.

Make Your Own Feeder Run Cup Video

This Chameleon Breeder Podcast episode may be of interest as it goes over feeding and nutrition for Veiled Chameleons. But, except for the section on eating vegetation, this can be applied to any chameleon species

Ep 92 Facebook post 2

If you are considering a first chameleon, and you are not doing it as an impulse buy, you are probably considering a Veiled Chameleon, a Panther Chameleon, or a Jackson’s Chameleon.

I put this video together to help with the decision making process

If you are looking for positive chameleon experience and just want the the easiest one then this video will explain the differences between the most common three chameleons (at least in the US market).

Looking Forward to 2019…

A Brief Review of where we have been

Dragon Strand was started because I, selfishly, wanted better caging options. Most specifically, I wanted an easy and organized way to raise up a clutch of baby chameleons in their own cage. Thus was born the Dragon Strand Nursery Cage System which remains one of the most popular cages today.

Cleaning rack row of baby chameleon cages. Dragon Strand Nursery Cage System

The original Nursery Cage System concept that started it all

But once I got started, I realized I was in a position to solve many of the problems that faced me as a chameleon keeper over the decades. First and foremost was the need to mount plants and horizontal branches on the sides of the cage in a way that did not look thrown together. This is where the Dragon Ledges, which I was able to patent, came in. But this wasn’t just a product development exercise. It was a step towards giving us the tools to create beautiful, naturalistic cages. I was always envious of the dart frog community and their cage set-ups which were mesmerizing in their natural beauty. The standard chameleon cage, by contrast, was a screen cage with a Ficus tree plopped down in the middle. We really had little more than the minimum recommended size cage wrapped around a chameleon. I wanted to make it easy for keepers to make a cage environment that was both better for the chameleon and more aesthetically pleasing for humans.

The updated Dragon Ledge design

Fast forward a couple years and now heavily planted chameleon cages are common. We certainly still have much work to do, but it is time to start on the next step.

Our Next Step

I would like to further the awareness of the natural environment that we are attempting to create. I would like us to view the cage environment as a living organism of which the chameleon is only one part. This will include more education and awareness surrounding substrate, including the art of bio-active keeping. To be clear, Chameleons do not need a substrate to live a long healthy life. This movement is to push our awareness of the natural world and its interactions. You do not need a substrate to have a healthy chameleon. But if you have a cage system that has a thriving bioactive environment with living plants and clean-up crews then your awareness of the inside of your cage is to the point where your chameleon will be getting excellent husbandry.

Having a chameleon caging company allows me a great opportunity to create tools that go along with the education necessary to move us forward. By combining Dragon Strand, the Chameleon Breeder Podcast, and liberally distributed tutorials, the next two years promise to be a period of dynamic growth for us. We will steadily move towards more nature in our cages until our cages just become the borders of a slice of nature – where every corner has life. And, yes, like the drive that started the Dragon Strand company, this is a growth area for myself. It is where I feel I must go in my chameleon life. As I learn from the experts, I will create cage systems that facilitate chameleon people to take this next step and make it easier. You are welcome to watch the growth, but, of course, I invite you to grow along side me! I’ll share everything I know and learn through tutorials, podcasts, and videos. Please enjoy your holidays. 2019 will open an exciting new chapter for us!

A Dragon Strand look back on 2018

2018 has been a year of growth as we at Dragon Strand have been hard at work transitioning our chameleon cage building to the next level. My goal is to get the company back to having inventory on the shelf so orders are fulfilled within days of them being placed. Thus we must grow our infrastructure. This isn’t as simple as just adding more people. It does not take much skill to build one cage, but to build cages day in and day out consistently takes much skill and experience.

Presently, our biggest challenges are production speed and shipping costs.

Shipping

Shipping costs are negotiated as a result of how much one ships. This is why small businesses are shocked by how much they must pay to use the major reliable services. Just go to Amazon or Walmart websites and everything is free shipping! So our consumer base is used to minor shipping costs. Then they come to a small business and are shocked at what appears to be high shipping costs. Well, FedEX, UPS, and USPS maintain a fleet of airplanes, warehouse hubs, and over 400,000 employees each. If shipping was truly free for the price of Amazon Prime, how would these be maintained? The answer, of course, is that small businesses pay for a disproportionate share of those overhead costs. But my job is not to complain about the system. I am here to work within the system. The more I ship, the lower the shipping price for all products. And I pass the shipping savings directly to the customer. The less I pay the less you pay. My business model does not include bumping shipping up to make a profit there.

Production Speed

Each of the Dragon Strand cages are hand made in the US by a small team that has been doing this over a decade. People are surprised when I tell them I do not make these cages myself! These cages are made to my exact specifications by a group of guys who have been making cages long before I conceived of the Dragon Strand company. It was these guys that made the cages for Reptile Depot and LLL Reptile in the 2000s. It was these guys’ cages that were sent back to China to be copied for the cheap ReptiBreeze that is now mass produced. So this is the experience I wanted to leverage for my Dragon Strand cages. They maintain a couple of long term retail accounts, but are now, essentially, manufacturing exclusively for Dragon Strand. As the cheap Chinese imports take over the low end market they needed to transition to the mid-range market which is where many keepers, with a couple years of experience, fall. It takes a little bit of experience to learn what quality features are important! And this is my customer. Thus my team’s experience and attention to detail fits perfectly with the Dragon Strand customer.

 

The chameleon community is growing. Easy access to information via social media is producing an easy step into this fascinating passion. And we must grow as well. Many of you have experienced the inconvenience for having to wait for your Dragon Strand cage.  We are actively working to get back to a positive inventory situation where the product is on the shelf ready for the order. This will be a multi-step process as we cannot just add bodies. As anyone who has built a cage knows, although it looks easy, there is definite skill that is required – especially to do multiples. We must change our process to allow us to move from a couple of artisans to managing assembly/production. The trick is that we must maintain the quality we are known for. You all know what happens when you get employees involved. They look for the pay check and lose sight of the core values of the business. So growth must be done carefully. But we have laid out a number of initiatives to streamline our production. Our first initiative has been completed so I will happily share the change in our Dragon Ledges.

 

Dragon Ledges

We have transitioned the Dragon Ledge production out of the very manually intensive and chemical dependent glued PVC parts into using molded pieces. Those of you who have ordered Dragon Ledges in the last week or two have seen our new design. Our purpose here was to get the toxic PVC glue fumes and the labor intensive manufacturing out of the production time line. Our patented Dragon Ledges are included in almost every cage we sell (the Nursery and Compact Cage Systems are the only exceptions), so this change increases both the health of the work environment as well as productivity.

Cross Section of the new Dragon Ledge design

Although there was no need for more strength in the Ledge part, this design actually gives a stronger aluminum core to the assembly. All in all, it is a significant step forward in our ability to respond more quickly. Although the lead time for the Dragon Ledge sets is usually only a couple days, the sheer number of Dragon Ledges we make for the cage runs means that any savings of time adds up quickly. Of course, saving the brain cells of my cage artisans is the prime benefit. I need these guys!

The Next Steps…

Our next step is the cage construction itself and we have already begun this initiative. I look forward to sharing that success once we have achieved it. Our realistic goal is to achieve the positive inventory situation by the middle of 2019.

 

Conclusion

I want to thank each of you that has believed in the mission of Dragon Strand to give us chameleon keepers and breeders a quality cage. A cage is the foundation to every other part of our husbandry and should not be relegated to finding the cheapest four screen walls possible. We need an option to step up to once we get our wits about us.

Not only have you believed in the mission, but you have been exceptionally patient in waiting as we work through our orders and this growth stage. This is why we have a better option in caging. Every year one or two people announce they will start a chameleon caging business, but they are ill prepared for how rough it is to start a business in an environment where you are competing against Chinese imports and Amazon shipping expectations. Dragon Strand remains strong and is growing because of your support. And my commitment to you is that we will continue to push for better and better quality parts and manufacturing. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to maintain that in this world of seeing how cheap one can make a part before it fails. We are constantly seeking out original US manufacturers and filtering out companies that switch over to cheaper substitutes. We are even now engaging in molding our own parts to ensure quality is maintained and we are not at the mercy of a supplier suddenly switching to cheap imports. I also commit to you that Dragon Strand products will be tested every day in a true chameleon keeping and breeding operation. I will constantly refine them to bring you the best commercially available products. I have teamed up with skilled caging engineers. My job in all of this is to constantly explore better ways we can keep chameleons in our home. Their job is to make it reality. And I assure you, we are constantly moving forward. You can expect more news in the coming months!

Naturalistic Panther Chameleon Cage Setup

 

green strip for chameleon cage

Keeping Plants Alive in a Chameleon Cage

Have you noticed that it is not necessarily easy to keep plants alive in your chameleon cage? There are two main reasons for this and today we will talk solutions. For those that have thought of this before you may have gotten stuck on how to get ¼” tubing into the cage. By the end of this article you will have your solution. First, let’s talk plants and why they do not thrive in our captive environments.


Problem 1 – Lack of Light

The first main reason plants die in a cage is light. Just one look at posts on social media will show how we tend to grossly underlight our cages. They often will resemble caves with a single weak point of light and the rest of the cage in deep shadow. This is not a healthy environment for chameleons and certainly not for plants which literally eat from light.

Solution 1 – Greater Strength Bulbs and More of Them

The solution to this issue is to invest in strong lighting. And, yes, it will take some money to do it right. The most effective way to light a cage is using current T5 High Output linear fluorescent bulbs. Over my cages I use a quad fixture and run three 6500K daylight bulbs and one appropriate strength UVB bulb. This is enough light to produce growth in many of the low light plants that we call “indoor plants” such as pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Umbrella Plants (Schefflera arboricola), or spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum).


Problem 2 – Lack of Water

The second killer of chameleon cage plants is dehydration. Plants need light for food and water to drink. But, you say, you have misters going on all over the place multiple times a day! How can they be dehydrated? Simply, because the water is not getting to their roots. We arrange our misting systems to hydrate our chameleon which means mist on the leaves. This means that the soil only gets what drips down. While that may work for the Umbrella Plant, plants that form a dense canopy of leaves may have all the water trapped on the leaves to evaporate off or just drip away from the soil to the bottom of the cage.

Solution 2 – Get Water to the Roots

The most simple way of solving the water issue is to make watering your cage plants a weekly habit. Get a nice watering can with a spout that allows you to reach all plants in the cage. Don’t worry about using a small watering can that can navigate amongst the branches.

Another way of solving this problem using equipment you already have (and a couple odds and ends you don’t have yet), is to hook a drip system to your existing misting system.


Automatic Plant Watering Project

There are indoor plant watering pumps and timers that are designed to automate the watering process for indoor houseplants. Indoor plant watering spikes allow you to fill up a container which will water your plant slowly over the course of days. Thus you need only to replenish the water when it runs out. The issue with this is that the water basin is often a plastic bottle you add and, although the plants are happy and the chameleon doesn’t care, it looks pretty bad. An option I really like automatic drip irrigation systems that are designed for this exact purpose! Of course, there is often a misting system running on your chameleon cage. How about using that?

Getting Tubing Into the Cage

No matter what kind of method you decide on, if you are using an automated method you most likely will run into the problem of getting ¼” tubing into the cage. For today’s project, we will build this entry point. We need a clean entry into the cage and if we go through the screen (which we do) we need a way to do away with screen edges that could hurt your chameleon. This is what we will produce:

grommet entry point

This entry point for 1/4″ tubing is going through the top panel of a screen cage. I am using a standard misting nozzle mounting wedge and a top hat grommet to clean off the frayed screen edges.

Materials/Tools needed:

  • ¼” Top Hat Grommets. Easily found on Amazon. Link below. This is the most important part. For everything else you can find alternatives.

  • Wedge of PVC or some plastic. We’ll have to make this one or use a standard screen cage mounting wedge.

  • Four stainless steel screws 

 

  • 7/16” Drill Bit and the drill to drive it

 

  • ¼” tubing to hook up to your pump

 

  • .5 gph drippers (or lower)


Step 1: Create mounting wedge. We are wanting to create a firm anchor for the entry point of the tubing. If you already have a misting nozzle then you probably already have a wedge in place. You can probably just use this. If not then you will have to create a wedge such as pictured below. We are going to be drilling a pretty large hole in it with our 7/16” drill bit. I suggest drilling the hole before cutting the plastic down to size. This is just because it is easier to control a large piece of plastic when drilling a relatively large hole. Once the hole is drilled, cut the triangle shape out. (If you are making your own). You can also pre-drill mounting holes for your screws. Just use a drill bit no larger than the threads on your screw. We need the screw head to have as much material to hold on to as possible!

This wedge can be made of any sort of plastic that can hold its shape and take holes drilled in it. As long as it is flat you are good! You can get chloroplast material, PVC, or just the standard misting system screen cage mount like I have here.

hole drilled in wedge

Note: The wedge does not have to go in the corner! You can drill holes along one edge and mount it on any of the framing sides. Dragon Strand cages have thicker framing than most of the other cages on the market so if you are doing this with any other cage just be careful with your measurements.

 

Step 2: Install Your Wedge in your chosen location. The screws I linked to can self-tap into the aluminum framing just press firmly and screw the screw into the framing. No pilot hole is necessary, though it will make it easier. If you want to make a pilot hole before screwing in the screw then use a drill bit half the diameter of your screw.

 

Step 3: Create an Entry. This is where many people freeze up. Poke a hole in my screen?!? Yes, we are going to be poking a hole in your screen just like you do for a misting nozzle or Dragon Ledges. But the grommet we got will hide the hole. To poke a hole I get a sharp knife and push it through the screen into the hole for an X pattern.

making a hole in a chameleon screen cage top

Step 4: Place the Grommet in the 7/16” hole and weave your ¼” tubing through. There will be a respectable amount of friction holding the grommet in the hole once the tubing is pushed through. But it will be easy to knock it back out by pulling the tubing out. The assumption is that the grommet is there to hide the frayed screen and not to provide structural support. If you drilled the hole too large or want the grommet placement to be more permanent, then a couple dabs of super glue will take care of that. Just remember that the screen is tuck on the top so there is no clean way to reverse any supergluing!

Inserting the grommet

The grommet will hide any frayed edges from making the hole in the screen

 

Grommet from inside cage

A view of the grommet from the inside of the cage

 

compression fit with tubing

Inserting the 1/4″ tubing will create a tight fit which will hold the grommet in place.

And you have completed the ¼” tubing insert!

Users of the Monsoon misting system can use this method to get their mist nozzles inside screen cages.

Step 5: Get Drippers to the Plants. Use the 1/4″ tubing and standard 1/4″ tubing elbows and “Ts” to get dripper to each potted plant. This is where planning becomes important. The more water spigots you put on the system the lower the mist pressure will be. The lowest micro-dripper rate I have found so far is .5 gallon per hour. Wind the 1/4″ tubing behind plants and keep it out of sight as much as is possible. The 1/4″ tubing is not suitable as a chameleon perch so we are not so lucky to be able to string it across the middle of the cage. Make sure the drippers go to the soil so they get the water where it needs to be.

.5 gph micro-dripper

A micro-dripper can get the water to the soil of your plants. But it also will put a strain on your pump.

Timing. You will need to optimize your misting schedule to accommodate both your chameleon and your plants. Your chameleon will have to take priority so you may be changing out plants to ones that can thrive with whatever watering schedule you have. Many of our ornamentals/indoor plants like to have their soil dry out before the next watering and that won’t be happening with this system. You will get a consistent watering every day. You may now run into he problem of over watering depending on how much you mist your cage. Switching your hydration to fogging, night misting, and a dripper will reduce the amount of misting you have to do to hydrate your chameleon and may be the balance you need to keep you plants happy. (If you would like to explore a more naturalistic hydration that uses less water you can listen to Episode 89: Naturalistic Hydration of the Chameleon Breeder Podcast.)

Pump. This is a great reason to get one of the higher power pumps that can mist more cages. This means they can handle more “load” and this will decrease the effects of putting micro-drippers on the line. Ideally, you would have a pump for the plants and a pump for the chameleons. Then you would have full control!

Conclusion

We are always looking for ways of doing things better. Plants are a critical piece of our captive environment and need the same attention to detail as our chameleons do. And it is well worth it. A living environment is a wonderful place for your chameleon to grow up in and live its life.

green strip for chameleon cage


Note on shipping list: The products listed in this how-to article are Amazon affiliate links. If you follow that link and make a purchase on Amazon (even if it is any other items) I will get a small percentage of what you buy (no extra cost to you) as a finder’s fee. Of course, it is cage sales that support what I do here. But I also want to get this information out to people with other cages so they can provide better chameleon husbandry and be more successful in their hobby. Shopping on Amazon through one of the links is a way that you can support my efforts here even if you do not have Dragon Strand products. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm. My purpose for these articles – and this entire caging company – is to constantly push forward with new and better ways of doing thing!

Note: This tutorial is available as a .pdf. To download, click here:

How to Make a Chameleon Feeder Run Cup

To watch a video on creating your own Chameleon Feeder Run Cup click here!


Chameleon feeder run

A Brief Introduction & History of the Chameleon Feeder Run

As we come to the end of 2018 we are celebrating the 16thanniversary of the chameleon feeder run! This concept solved the standard problems of feeder insects sitting in feeder cups not providing the required movement to attract a chameleon’s attention.  By adding a back to the cup, the insects would climb and provide the movement to attract the chameleons’ eye, but still stays contained in their cup. These feeder runs were first conceived and publicized in January 2003 in an issue of the Chameleons eZine by yours truly. (Click here for a slice of past goodness January 2003 ChameleonNews Hints and Tips) And it has been a staple in chameleon husbandry ever since. It works beautifully so I’d like to take this time to go over the basics in creating your own feeder run cups.

 

Chameleon Feeder Run Parts List

Parts list for Chameleon Feeder Run

Parts Needed:

  1. Washed out plastic water jug, milk jug, soda bottle, etc…
  2. Shade cloth or any other climbable surface you can glue to plastic
  3. A extra large paper clip

 

Tools Needed:

  1. Scissors
  2. Glue Gun
  3. drill with 1/8″ bit

 

Directions to Build Chameleon Feeder Run:

Step 1:  Cut Out Opening

Cut an “L” shape out of the jug. Tip 1: leave enough of a wall on the bottom that the feeder insects you use will not be able to climb out. Tip 2: allow enough material on the sides of the vertical part so that the climbing insects cannot just reach over and grab the side to escape.

Cut out on chameleon feeder run

 

Step 2: Drill Drainage Holes

Drill drainage holes in the bottom. This is to ensure that the feeders do not drown or create an unhygienic mess if water gets in. Obviously, keep the holes too small for the feeders to escape. I use a 1/8″ drill bit.

Drainage holes in chameleon feeder run

 

Step 3: Add Climbing Surface

With the first ones I made I used fiberglass screening and made sure the edges were all safely glued. I now use sun shade material made of nylon as it is softer. I glue the strip of sun shade using a hot glue gun, though silicone would work as well. If you use nylon sun shade remember that it will melt with high temperatures so practice using the glue gun. I apply the glue and wait until it starts to cool before pushing down the sun shade.

sun shade in the chameleon feeder run

 

Step 4: Add Hanging Hook

Two small holes drilled in the top, above the climbing cloth allow me to weave in a bent out paper clip which gives me an easy and convenient way to hang this feeder run in my cages.

paper clip hook for chameleon feeder run

 

 

Now just hang inside a cage and watch your chameleon find its food!

feeder items on a chameleon feeder run

 

 

For maintenance, wash them after every usage. This is an easy and inexpensive way to make yourself some feeder runs!

Conclusion and Advice on Chameleon Feeder Runs

Now, this is a good way to make a lot of runs. But it looks pretty cheap. If you have a nice cage set-up that you put some work into, please do not put a cut-out milk jug in there! It is worth it to get a professionally made feeder run. My favorite is the one made by Nick Barta at Full Throttle Feeders. The feeder runs are attractive and are painted camouflage colors so they do not stand out. Since I do a great deal of taking pictures of my chameleons and their cages I picked up a number of the Full Throttle feeder runs and I am happy I did so. Nothing is more annoying than getting a great shot and seeing a plastic container in the background! So make them and have a blast, but for the show cage in your living room, here is a link to the page for the classy feeder runs!

If you have a nicely set-up cage or one in your living room don’t ruin it with a plastic container! Do this!

Nick Barta Chameleon Feeder Run

I know it isn’t standard for me to sending you to another company, but here is a link to Full Throttle Feeders where you can get the Chameleon Feeder Run shown above. Because, hey, I want the Dragon Strand cages to look their best! Let’s not show off a cheap feeder cup! As of this blog post they are $16. With all the effort you have spent making the cage look nice, don’t stop at the last part.

MAGNETIC CAMO FEEDER CUP