Have you seen your chameleon hanging upside down from the screen lid of their enclosure or the plants? Maybe you're worried as you haven't seen them do this before, you may be wondering if this is normal chameleon behavior or if you need to worry and get your reptile to the vet.
The good news is that it is not uncommon for chameleons to hang upside down. They are entertaining and get up to all sorts of antics inside their enclosure. Having a better understanding on why your chameleon is upside down can help you identify if you need to make any changes or whether your chameleon is just being entertaining.
One of the first reasons your chameleon may be hanging upside down is that it is still very young. Baby and juveniles tend to spend more time upside down than adults. You will notice the behavior starts to slow as your chameleon ages.
Providing adequate light for your chameleon during day time hours is essential. You want to create the perfect day/night cycle, ensuring that your reptile feels comfortable and secure in their habitat. It's not uncommon for chameleons to hang upside down close to the light in order to try and absorb as much UVB as they can. Providing a high-quality UVB light is essential to your chameleon’s development, helping to form vitamin D3, which in turn allows them to absorb calcium from feedings. Chameleons cannot live without a good quality UVB light in their enclosure to reduce the risk of metabolic bone disease, which causes deformation and possible death.
Chameleons are arboreal reptiles, which means they spend most of their time hiding in trees and vegetation. Their natural habitats are dense greenery. You want to provide lots of hiding places and cover in order for your chameleon to feel secure. Adding live plants provides cover, enabling them to hide and reduce insecurity. At the same time, you can lower stress levels and improve health. When there aren't enough plants and vines in the enclosure, your chameleon will climb the screen and hang upside down. Any open space in the enclosure is wasted space.
When your chameleon has plenty of branches and vines to climb, it will be less inclined to climb the sides of the enclosure and hang upside down. There are many causes of stress and insecurity for your reptile, which can even include other pets or different humans in the room.
Male Searching for Mate
If you have a male chameleon you may notice he starts to become restless, even trying to escape their habitat by climbing on the top screen and sides in search of a mate. You will see when your male is ready for mating, his colors will become brilliant and bright, in order to attract a female.
Keep a close eye on your chameleon at this time. It's not uncommon for males to rub themselves on screen tops to escape and injure themselves in the process. You can try to move them to a different enclosure with larger mesh screens to prevent him from rubbing and injuring himself. A larger enclosure may assist in getting him settled and comfortable without a mate.
If you find your female chameleons sleeping or hanging upside down in her terrarium, it's possible that she is ready to lay eggs. Females will become restless when gravid and will search their enclosure to find a place they feel is safe to lay their eggs. Females do not need to make to lay eggs. If she is not exposed to a male, she will lay eggs that will not hatch. Bear in mind, this behavior can start from four to six months of age.
Providing an egg-laying bin can help your female feel secure and encourage her to lay eggs, reducing the risk of her becoming egg bound. Egg-laying can take several days, if your female chameleon starts to look uncomfortable, distressed, or weak, call your reptile vet for assistance.
Cold or Hot
It's not uncommon for your chameleon to sleep or hang upside down if you don't have the right temperatures in the enclosure. If your chameleon is trying to get close to the heat source, it may hang as close as possible to the source, which means your enclosure isn't getting enough warmth. If your chameleon is cold, it will change color to darker in order to absorb as much heat as possible. It's important to keep a close eye on temperatures, monitoring them using a digital thermometer.
You may find that your chameleon is climbing around the screen desperately trying to escape the heat if the enclosure is too hot. Your chameleon may be hanging from a plant or branch where they have shade. If your chameleon is too hot it will sit with its mouth open and be lighter in color than normal. This is sometimes seen with enclosures that sit in direct sunlight during the daytime.
While it can be completely common for your chameleon to hang or even sleep upside down, there are times where some minor adjustments need to be made. This could be that your chameleon isn't getting enough UVB or heat, your female could be gravid or your reptile may be stressed. Keeping the habitat at an optimum will ensure that your pet remains happy and comfortable.