Most of the questions about safe co-existence between orchids and pets concern, of course, cats and dogs. But what if your pet is less ‘fluffy’ and you would like to introduce some colors to its habitat? Let’s see if orchids and chameleons are, in fact, a good match.
Сan you put an orchid in your chameleon’s enclosure?
The answer is YES, you can. Orchids can make a nice decoration for your chameleon’s cage, and some smaller chameleons can even safely walk on the stems of dendrobium or phalaenopsis orchids, which makes the plants functional as well as decorative.
Orchids are not toxic (if the plant is not treated with toxic chemicals at the nursery or the shop) and, in most aspects, chameleons and orchids have very similar requirements to their environment.
Are orchids safe for chameleons?
Safety is, of course, your first concern when you are thinking about introducing a new plant to your pet’s cage. Orchids are not toxic for chameleons and will not harm your pet even if she decides to eat a flower or two.
One thing to keep in mind: while orchids are not toxic, that cannot be said about some chemicals used in their production. Orchids may be sprayed with pesticides, watered with fertilizers, and injected with pigments to give them unusual colors (specifically, popular blue tones). Some of those substances might be fatal for your chameleon if ingested.
To protect your pet, make sure to buy your plants only from trusted producers, give your new orchid a good shower and change the soil (or even remove it altogether) before putting it in with your chameleon.
The next question is how the orchid-chameleon combination works the other way round. Are chameleons orchid-friendly?
Are orchids happy in a chameleon cage?
When you consider putting an orchid in with your chameleon, you are likely motivated by the look of the bright dark-green leaves and bright delicate flowers. Sadly, orchids rarely have a long, happy life in a chameleon cage. The reason is that orchids also have particular requirements that often get forgotten when the plant is purchased solely as a piece of cage decoration.
The good news is that in most aspects orchids and chameleons appreciate the same conditions. And there where their needs differ, they are not contradictory and can be compatible.
Let’s compare the main requirements of chameleons and orchids.
Light might become an issue when adding orchids to a chameleon cage. Most orchids need a lot of bright indirect light. And UVB lamps and heat lamps used in chameleon cages cannot satisfy the needs of the orchids. That is the main reason why many chameleon owners fail to keep orchids alive and happy in their pets’ cages.
To increase your chances, make sure that the cage receives plenty of natural light, or install a full spectrum LED light (like this one, for example) in addition to your basking and UVB lamps to pamper your plant.
Full spectrum lights have enough of blue to stimulate growth and enough of red to foster flowering. There have been many discussions about how suitable are LEDs to chameleons. After reading a bunch of threads, a couple of tips seem well-founded and useful:
- full spectrum LED lights cannot replace UVB lights, as they usually cover full visible spectrum only;
- put your LED light above your plant and provide enough distance between your full spectrum LED and your UVB (apparently, it’s the way to get the most value from both);
- make sure that there is a shaded area in your cage where your cham can retreat to if he feels like it;
- consider purchasing a programmable LED for your plant to synchronise it with your pet’s 12-hour light/ no-light cycles.
Some cham owners say that an additional LED can be beneficial for your pet’s sight and vitality. From my own perspective, I’d add that when you add something to your chamelion’s habitat, observe it more closely for some period after the change. Plants tell us when they are unhappy, pets do too. So, if you see that your chameleon avoids the plant and its intense LED light, you can make your conclusions.
The temperature range for chameleons is fine for most orchids. Depending on the variety of your orchid, you might want to put it closer to the warm spot or further in the cool area of your enclosure to make it happy.
Some orchids will need seasonal temperature changes to bloom. As temperatures drop, they take some time to rest. Without that natural pause, they just won’t have enough resources for healthy growth.
If you choose one of those orchids that need some time to cool down roughly from November to March, your best option might be to take it out of the cage and place it in a better-suited place for the winter season.
Both orchids and chameleons need relatively high humidity. Just like chameleons, most orchids are happy with ambient humidity of about 60%. That said, orchids generally don’t like being wet all the time. Permanent soaking may cause root rot and kill the plant quicker than lack of water. To avoid overwatering, mount your orchid on a branch instead of planting it in soil, and don’t put it too close to the mister.
Good air circulation is also important for both your chameleon and your orchids. Without proper ventilation, your chameleon can get upper respiratory infections, and your orchid may get root rot. A lack of fresh air can be fatal for both.
Choose mesh cages over a glass terrarium for your chameleon and install ventilators, if needed. A small computer fan may suffice to make both your chameleon and the orchids happy and healthy.
If you want to introduce some orchids into your chameleon’s enclosure, make sure that you don’t forget about the needs of the orchids. These delicate plants can, in fact, thrive and help to keep a healthy atmosphere in your pet’s home. And it does not require a lot of effort. Just provide them with plenty of light and mount them in the right part of your chameleon’s enclosure to cater to their temperature needs. They also need humidity and air circulation, just like your chameleon.
With the right setup, you can get the best of both worlds and create your very own mini-jungle!