Chameleon Basking

Chameleons are reptiles that are part of the Iguania suborder. They are typically found in the rainforests of Asia, Spain, Africa, and Madagascar but they are also invasive in other places such as Florida in the United States. They usually stay in trees and bushes, and some species of chameleons stay on the ground too. Furthermore, they are well-known for their ability to change their skin color. Chameleons do not need light 24/7 as they are diurnal animals, which means they hunt during the day and sleep at night. They do however need a specific kind of light for them to stay healthy and strong. The article below will cover what lights chameleons need to ensure their living conditions replicate their natural habitat in the wild.

What Kind of Light Do Chameleons Need?

Chameleons need both UVA and UVB light although UVB light is crucial for indoor chameleons. UVB light is invisible but critical for the formation of vitamin D3 in the skin of reptiles; this helps them absorb calcium from their food. Without UVB light, chameleons will develop a bone disease, which is a severe health condition that can ultimately lead to the death of your pet. It is also a good idea to have some full-spectrum LED lighting during the day to keep the brightness levels up to enhance the chameleon’s vision.

What is the Difference Between UVA And UVB Light?

There are many rays present in sunlight. Two types of rays that reach the earth’s surface from the sun are UVA and UVB. Both rays are the most damaging to humans, especially their skin, as they can cause skin cancer.

UVA Light

UVA light causes skin cancer in humans. This ray penetrates more deeply into the skin and causes wrinkles on the skin. Approximately there are 500 times more UVA rays than UVB rays in sunlight. UVA differs from UVB in the size of wavelength and energy in the photons. UVA has a longer wavelength than UVB. UVA has a lower amount of energy than UVB so the light can reach the middle layer of the skin.

UVB Light

UVB light helps create vitamin D in most living things, and the lack of vitamin D in reptiles can cause many significant problems and eventually lead to death. UVB has a shorter wavelength than UVA. UVB has a higher amount of energy than UVA. Due to the shorter wavelength, UVB can only reach the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis.

Why do Chameleons Need a Basking Spot?

There are a few key reasons why chameleons need a basking spot. Chameleons need a basking spot to raise their body temperature because reptiles are not able to regulate their body temperature internally as warm-blooded animals do. Chameleons need to soak in UVB rays in order to function and do things such as digest their food properly.

  • It helps them regulate their body temperature. By basking in the sun or another warm spot, they can increase their body temperature to aid metabolism.
  • It helps them absorb vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption and bone growth.
  • Basking aids in digestion and makes it easier for them to digest their food properly.
  • It helps with shedding. When a chameleon is getting ready to shed its skin, the basking spot provides the necessary warmth and humidity to aid in the process.

How Powerful do Chameleon Lights Need to Be?

Although there is no definitive answer to this question, as the power requirement for chameleon lights will vary depending on a number of factors, 100 watts is the generally accepted power level for a chameleon light that provides both heat and UVB rays. A light used solely for heat might be as low as 60 watts, however, 100-watt Mercury vapor bulbs provide ample light and allow the basking spot to be warm enough for thermoregulation.

We recommend the Lucky Herp 100w Mercury Vapor (amazon link – opens in a new tab).

Additionally, the time of day and season will also affect how much light power is needed – during winter months if your ambient room temperature drops, stronger lights may be necessary to provide enough basking time for your reptiles. Ultimately, as long as the lights are able to provide UVB and the correct temperature for your chameleon habitat, the actual power is irrelevant.

Where to Place Lights for a Chameleon?

UVB lighting is essential for chameleons so you should place the basking bulb inside their cage at the top 12 inches from the basking spot. Your chameleon cage must be bright and well-lit if you want your chameleon to have healthy growth. The sunlight and UVB rays help develop vitamin D, which is essential for chameleon bone growth, as vitamin D deficiency can cause bone deformation in chameleons. However, the problem is that the sunlight does not pass evenly inside the glass or plastic cage. So, a light bulb of moderate heat temperature at the top of the cage is essential for healthy growth.

Is UVB Light Enough if I have Plants with my Chameleon?

UVB light is essential for chameleons as they help them live a healthy life. But is UVB light enough for plants with chameleons? The short answer is no, plants need an array of light wavelengths for them to grow. If you have a bioactive vivarium or a terrarium with any kind of plants at all; it is best to use full-spectrum UVB bulbs or include some plant-specific lights.

Do Chameleons Like LED lights?

LED lights are becoming more and more popular among reptile owners because they offer a number of advantages over other types of light bulbs. For one, they run cooler than other types of bulbs, making them safer for use with reptiles. They also last longer, meaning you won’t have to replace them as often. Finally, LED lights come in a wide variety of colors, which can be useful for creating different environments for your chameleon. That said, LED lights should not be used as the only light source for your chameleon. In addition to an LED light, you should also provide your chameleon with a UVB light. Chameleons need UVB light in order to synthesize vitamin D3.


Chameleons are species that need special care. If you want to keep them as your pet then it is your duty to be a responsible pet owner and one of those responsibilities is to ensure the correct lighting for your chameleon. UVB light is essential and should be high up on your shopping list. As mentioned above, if you have a bioactive terrarium, specific plant lights; or full-spectrum bulbs will be required too.

Why do Chameleons need a Basking Spot Infographic

Reptile Wrestler Tips

“Be prepared and always have a spare bulb on hand as bulbs can blow at any time!”

“Keep your basking bulb at least 10-12 inches away from your chameleon’s basking spot!”

“UVB bulbs NEED to be inside the enclosure as UVB rays do not penetrate glass effectively!”

“Place your lights at the top of the enclosure but ensure that the chameleon cannot get too close, or they may get burned!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Do chameleons need a light on at night?

No, chameleons do not need a light on at night. In fact, it’s best if you keep them on a normal day/night schedule, with a regular sleep cycle.

Chameleons are diurnal animals, which means they are active during the day. They usually sleep at night, and being exposed to light during their usual sleeping time can disrupt their sleep cycle and lead to health problems.

Do chameleons need red lights at night?

Chameleons are diurnal animals, which means they are active during the day. They do not need red light or any other kind of light at night. In the wild, they typically rest during the night and hunt during the day.

Do chameleons like sunshine?

Yes, chameleons do like sunshine. Sunlight is a natural source of UVB radiation which is important for the production of vitamin D in reptiles. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium from their diet, and without it, their bones can become soft and weak.

About Me

Hi, I’m Stuart and I’ve had reptiles for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I studied for a master’s in Herpetology. Over the years I have worked at several zoos before opening my very own reptile sanctuary. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their little beasties.

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