Summary: The Hybrid Chameleon Cage
- Combines solid sides and screen sides
- Solid Sides can be clear or opaque
- Hybrid cages allow more control over humidity while still allowing ventilation
Why a Hybrid Cage?
The Hybrid cage is any cage that combine solid sides and screen sides. The hybrid cage has become a valuable tool in the chameleon community because it allows greater control over humidity without necessarily raising the temperature. Most chameleons do quite well in the average human home temperature of the mid 70s F, but desire a humidity flow over time that goes close to 100% RH at night. If constructed appropriately, the higher humidity levels are made possible by a hybrid cage.
Dragon Strand is the most prominent supplier of hybrid cages designed specifically to allow humidity control and to keep mist inside the cage. This is done by having three full sides be solid and one side be screen. Together with the screen top, this provides robust airflow. But humidity can be made to gather in corners with the solid sides.
Zoo Med has created a hybrid cage that incorporates a clear front door for viewing. This will have no humidity retention benefit, though.
Opaque vs. Clear Sides
Solid sides can be either clear or opaque and have different purposes. While both of them can keep the spray from the misters in the cage and can create humidity pockets, the type of material used in the solid side can be chosen depending on your use. Clear panels are great for centerpiece cages in which you desire to enjoy the view inside the cage. Opaque sides are used when it is either not important to see inside the cage (such as the back panel) or else when there are multiple chameleons in the same room as you desire to give them privacy. Chameleons interact visually and this may be a dynamic you wish to remove from your husbandry.
Clear sides can be glass or acrylic. Each of these has a corresponding insulation property and weight.
Opaque sides are most often made of white PVC.
How Much Ventilation is Necessary?
Since screen cages have been the standard keepers often get the idea that full ventilation is required at all times and the closing off of a side will cause Respiratory Infections.
Ventilation is necessary to ensure that there is no stagnant air. Therefore, as long as the air is moving you have enough ventilation. With glass cages we saw that all it took to keep air moving was a set a vents at the bottom front and a screen top. In the hybrid cages spoken about here, an entire side is screen. This means that there is more than enough ventilation through the cage and that you have to specifically plan to protect the pockets of humidity that you create with your plant cover.
Ventilation will occur when there is access for any air movement in the room to continue or if there is a temperature differential with the top of the cage being warmer than the bottom of the cage where there is screen. For example, when a heat lamp is on at the top of the cage.
When using clear material (glass, acrylic, clear PVC, etc…) you will have the same reflection potential you have with glass. But, also like glass, this is rarely a cause for problem with the chameleon.
Chameleons seem to understand that either the ghost chameleon is not real or that it is in the bush next door and not a threat. Of course, the closer the reflection is to a true mirror image the more of a response you will get.
Reflections can be minimized by placing the lights closer to the panel with the reflection or hanging plants by the offending area.
Why some people report problems with reflections and other people have no issue is still a mystery. If you believe you have a problem with a reflection you can test it. First, acquaint yourself with the behavior of being threatened and show your chameleon a mirror at about the same distance as the suspected reflection. You will then see the level of threat response if it is a reflection that is causing what you are observing. Obviously, your chameleon may have a different reaction to a clear image rather than a ghost image, but it establishes a base line. You can also temporarily hanging in front of the area that you think has the reflection and see what behavior change happens. The reason why it is so important to develop a set of tests is that if you look for advise on social media you will run into a vast number of people who have heard the soundbite, but have not thought about it critically. Prove the problem to yourself or you may spend effort fixing a problem that does not exist instead of the thing that is a problem.
If you desire to create more airflow in the cage, small fans (or even computer fans) can be placed strategically to induce airflow. We do not want to create a draft that constantly blows on the chameleon so, we either have the fan sucking air out of the cage or we create a breeze across a screen surface. This will suck air out of the cage.
The advantage of the hybrid cage over the glass and screen cage is that if you place your basking bulb by the screen side the ventilation will wick away the heat and you can do the same type of basking routine you would with a screen cage without the worry of overheating. Of course, if you moved the basking bulb into the area with the three enclosed sides there would be a slower dissipation of heat and the basking area would retain heat longer.
A major attraction to hybrid cages is that you can retain more humidity. By filling the side of the cage with the three solid sides, the plants will clean the air, produce humidity, and hold in moisture. Since the ventilation is reduced in this corner, the humidity dissipates slower.
Hydration methods are the same as with screen or glass cages. Misting nozzles, though, can be pointed at the corner with three solid sides and the world outside your cage can be protected. You no longer have to worry about mist getting on your walls or furniture as it is blocked by the solid sides. This, of course, makes your misting much effective and efficient in coating the cage surfaces with dew.
Turning Your Screen Cage into a Hybrid Cage
A number of people find that, with their seasons ranging from warm, humid summers to dry, cold winters, they would benefit from a hybrid cage throughout the winter, but the screen cage during the summer. This can be accomplished by wrapping the screen cage in a water proof material such as a tarp or window sealing material. Easily obtained corrugated plastic works very well and has the benefit of reflecting light back into the cage. Although this home projects may or may not have a clean look (depending on how you implement this), it is fully functional and inexpensive! If a professional look is important, there are commercially available hybrid cages.
Hybrid Cages Available
The following reviews cover the major manufacturers of hybrid cages in the market.
Dragon Strand Chameleon Caging Company
The Dragon Strand Chameleon Caging Company is the only chameleon cage manufacturer that came from the chameleon community. It is founded by Bill Strand, who is also the founder of this Chameleon Academy and host of the Chameleon Academy Podcast. The company was created to produce products whose main purpose is to solve the problems we chameleon keepers and breeders have.
The product line spans screen cages, clear hybrid cages, opaque hybrid cages, and the patented Dragon Ledges. It is presently the only major company that offer drainage trays for the cage product line. Dragon Strand also offers Dragon Ledges and drainage trays for other manufacturer’s cages.
Dragon Strand products are built in the USA and currently ships mostly within the US. Canadian and European shipping is possible for smaller items, but shipping rates on large cages are prohibitive.
The Clearside series uses a combination of PVC and acrylic panels. These clear cages are designed to be showpiece cages like you would put in your living room.
The Hybrid series of cages have the two sides and back white PVC with the front and top screen. This series provides visual isolation which is valued by breeders for their chameleon room. Of course, anyone can use these cages and keepers creating naturalistic and bio-active cages have taken advantage of the walls to mount plants and build up outcroppings.
The Dragon Strand Hybrid Cage line-up is as follows:
Compact Cage System
The Dragon Strand Compact Caging System comes in groups of two cages with a drainage tray. They are designed to fit two systems on one rack shelf space which gives four individual cages per row. The Compact Cages were designed as grow out cages for panther chameleons so they could be raised up to the point where they started showing color. These are effective size cages for smaller chameleons such as carpet chameleons.
The dimensions of each individual cage are 11” W x 16”D x 24”H
The dimensions of two cages installed on the drainage tray are 22.5”W x 17.25”D x 25”H
There are substrate trays available for the Compact Cages.
Large Hybrid Atrium
This cage measures 46.75″ wide x 23″ deep x 48″ high. It includes a set of eight Dragon Ledges and three Hydration Mounts which accept Mist King and Cli-Mist nozzles. It also has an entry point for 1/4″ tubing to allow access for the Exo-terra Monsoon mist head or a 1/4″ plant watering drip system.
An optional Drip Easy Drainage Tray or Planter Box is available.
The ZooMed ReptiBreeze LED Deluxe line is a hybrid cage made only for viewing. They take advantage of an acrylic door to remove the “screen door” effect. This cage comes with a string of red and white LED lights that circle the top panel on the inside. This is obviously an attempt at lighting, but, unfortunately, you’ll have to bring your own light anyways to get sufficient lighting. We in the chameleon community are not fond of colored lights as that is strange to the chameleon who can see it just fine. Do not leave lights on during the night – even blue or red lights like these. So these lights are a gimmick. If you buy this cage do it for the clear front door and the better viewing this affords.
This cage also comes with a substrate tray so you’ll have to figure out a drainage solution.
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The ZooMed ReptiBreeze LED Deluxe Medium is 16″x16″x30″ tall and would be appropriate for baby chameleons or smaller species such as carpet chameleons.
The ZooMed ReptiBreeze LED Deluxe XL is 24″ x 24″ x 48″ tall and would be acceptable for the most common chameleon species (Panther, Veiled, Jackson’s) sizes.
More Research On Cage Types?
Would you like to check out the other cage types before making your final decision? Pick your type below!
This module describes the basic types of chameleon cages and is part of the course Selecting a Chameleon Cage which, in turn, is a class within the even larger Term 1: Getting Started With Chameleons. If you have selected your cage then it is time to the course Setting Up Your Chameleon Cage!