Frequently asked questions
How long do panther chameleons live?
Panther chameleons can be expected to live five to eight years in captivity with proper care.
What are the differences between males and females?
Males grow to a larger size, up to 20 inches in length, while females mature closer to 12 inches in length. Male panther's have the most colorful appearance; they are often, if not always pictured online. While males come in all of the colors of the rainbow, females range between brown, peach, pink, and orange depending on mood with few exceptions. Females also require an understanding of chameleon reproduction. If fed heavily females will lay eggs as often as twice a year; eggs will be sterile unless mating has occurred. Proper care of pet female panther chameleons involves restricting food intake so that egg laying is not induced. If a female panther is over fed she will lay eggs regularly and her life span will diminish to approximately three years due to the effort of creating life.
How hard is keeping a panther chameleon?
Panther chameleons are not a beginner species of lizard to keep. They are considered difficult by many, yet with proper investment in enclosure, lighting, and misting they can be easy and rewarding to maintain. With that said, panther chameleons are special animals and you shouldn't be buying one as your first reptile.
What do I need to keep my new chameleon?
Having a chameleon requires an investment, with proper equipement the quailty of life of your pet will be excellent and mainentance will be a breeze but if short cuts are taken the results are often tragic. When buying a new chameleon expect to spend twice as much on equipment as you do on the animal.
Do I need a vet to have a chameleon?
Unlike dogs and cats veterinarians are not required when owning a panther chameleon. While it is good to know a vet with experience in reptiles in case of illness chameleons do not need any vaccines or yearly checkups. This may be the only thing about panther chameleons that isn’t expensive.
Can I handle my panther chameleon?
Panther chameleons have unique personalities. Handling can be stressful for them but if stress is induced they will show you with their coloration, as it often reflects there mood. In our experience with proper care and attention Panthers will become comfortable being handled. ‘Handled’ is a loose term so let me first state that handling, with respect to chameleons, means allowing them to crawl on you while you sit motionless and observe them. If they are placed in a room with natural sun or plants and allowed to roam they can become very sociable. They are not appropriate for young children to handle without direct supervision. It takes weekly handling to earn their trust and create a domesticated Panther that is not overly stressed by your attention.
What reoccuring costs will I have keeping a chameleon?
Food and water will be your cost drivers. Expect to need 5 gallons of distilled water per month for $5 and approximately $10 worth of insects per month for a total cost of $15 per month. Starting a feeder insect colony will cost more upfront but will pay long term dividends.
What type of enclosure do I need?
Enclosure - must have screen sides, cannot be all glass, chameleons are prone to respiratory illness without proper ventilation. As our first option we suggest Dragon Strand cages: for a Female use a Medium Keeper Series (36x18x17) and for a Male use a Large Keeper Series (48x24x23) or larger, generally you cannot go too large. As a second, less expensive option, use a Zoo Med Repti Breeze XL Cage (48x24x24). However understand the tradeoffs for the lower price. Dragon Strand has two large advantages: first they offer dragon ledges which attach to the screen cage and allow you to hang plants in the middle of the cage, and second they offer a drainage tray system. The drainage tray system is a life saver, chameleons do not drink standing water from a dish they must be misted multiple times per day and they will drink droplets of water at their leisure from leaves; this means you will be drenching the screen cage all the time and the water will need to go somewhere. Zoo Med makes no provisions for this and leaves you with a plastic bottom and water will leak everywhere so you will need to create a solution. Dragon strand on the other hand created a drainage tray that sits under a screen bottom on each cage and catches all the water. All you have to do is empty it weekly, voila!
What type of lighting do I need?
Lighting - You need a heat bulb and a UVB bulb.
The Heat Bulb should provide an area for your chameleon to bask in direct light around 80-85 degrees, any hotter than 90 degrees and your chameleon can become too hot and suffer burns. Your heat bulbs wattage needs to selected knowing the temperature of the room and location of the light in regards to the cage; in most cases a 75W bulb will be sufficient when placed on top of a tall screen cage as long as the basking branch is 8-10" away from the top of the cage. Bulbs should never be placed inside of cages. Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp is our suggestion for a heat bulb.
The UVB bulb replicates Ultraviolet light rays emitted by the sun; UVB is critical to the formation of vitamin D3 in the skin of reptiles allowing them to absorb calcium from their food. Without UVB light chameleons cannot survive. Our top choice for a UVB light source is an Odyssea T5 Quad Timer Aquarium Light Hood. These units come in lengths of 24, 30, 36, 48, and 72" and they include night time LED lighting and four T5 bulbs. These hoods do NOT include UVB bulbs, one UVB bulb must be ordered separately. We suggest one Zoo Med Reptisun T5 High Output Bulb sized to match the Odyssea Hood. Only one UVB bulb should be used, more is not better in this instance, too much UVB can hurt chameleons so only covert one bulb to UVB. The Odyssea hood is our top choice because it offers 3 built in timers allowing your lighting to be set it and forget it, you can have half the lighting at dawn and dusk to simulate nature, and full light in midday, plus night lighting in the early evening for viewing. If a less expensive option is required Zoo Med offers the Reptisun T5 HO Terrarium Hood for half the price of Odyssea but you only get one bulb and no timers.
What type of misting system do I need?
Misting System - Chameleons require high humidity and will not drink from standing water, such as water dishes, in order to keep healthy chameleons an automated misting solution is required. There are drip set ups, and hobbyists who commit to hand misting their pets three times a day but in our opinion these are not sustainable solutions and will result in an unhealthy, and more than likely dead, chameleon. Chameleons are used to living in a climate where they can regularly drink water droplets from leaves and have rain showering down on them regularly. A proper climate can only be maintained through automation as your cage will need times of heavy misting and periods to dry out in addition to regular but short mist cycles to offer water for drinking and keep humidity levels high. Our suggestion is a Mist King Starter or Ultimate Misting System. Beyond that system you will need three important items, a Mist King Screen Top Wedge (this allows you to installed the system on a screen cage), a Mist King bulk head (which allows you to use a 5 gallon bucket as a water reservoir, a 5 gallon bucket with lid (this will be your water reservoir and it should be sterile and unused, the lid will keep debris out and stop your system from clogging). With this system in place you will not have to do anything after set up related to humidity or water except for fill your reservoir once per week with distilled water. These systems are made to accommodate multiple cages, by daisy chaining together, so if your hobby becomes an obsession you will not need more misting systems.
What type of temperature and humidity monitoring system do I need?
Monitoring Temperature & Humidity - With a proper cage set up temperature and humidity will only need to be watched but not acted on, however monitoring them is important during set up. We suggest a few simple gauges, like the Zoo Med Dual Analog Terrarium Thermometer and Humidity Gauge, placed in separate areas of the cage. When designing your cage layout you want an area for your chameleon to bask under the heat bulb at 80-85 degrees 8-10" away from the bulb and yoiu want them to be able to get within 6-8" of the UVB bulb so they can soak up UVB light. In addition, you want some areas of lower heat, 70-75 degrees, and areas of higher humidity. A proper layout will give your chameleon several micro climates so they can decide what environment they prefer and when they prefer it. In addition we use a laser infrared thermometer temperature gun, which are under $20, to spot check all the areas of our enclosure layouts to make sure we don't allow our chameleons to be in too hot or too cold a location.
What type of enclosure interior do I need?
Cage Interior - Your cage should allow access to the ground of the cage, in case your chameleon falls they need to be able to get back in the branches. The cage should be laced with vines and branches that are securely fastened so they do not come loose when being used. Three or four select plants should be placed in the cage at varying heights to provide cover. If plants are placed properly the misting system will water them for you and you will not need to touch them. We use Dragon Strand cages and their ledge systems allows us to connect all corners of the cage with vines and branches without touching the bottom for the cage, we then zip tie a few 6” plants to branches and vines and we have chameleon paradise. The most important part of interior design is proper sanitizing of sticks, vines, branches, or plants you obtain. Everything should be wiped down with mildly soapy water, strong detergents or bleaches should NOT be used, then items should be thoroughly rinsed with water. We often do this in a shower so that we can be absolutely certain all cleaning products are washed off of items before they are introduced to our chameleons. In addition, plants should be turned upside down and dunked into a mildly soapy water bath then rinsed in the same manner repeatedly to remove all soap. A large number of indoor plants are poisonous and should not be used in chameleon cages because chameleons may each foliage. Pothos, Spider Plants, Money Tree, Ficus are the most popular and safest plants that we use. It is also good practice to avoid wood chips or fertiizers placed on top of plant soil as some chameleons will eat soil or wood chips accidentally and when ingested wood chips create internal blockages. Branches and sticks are the pathways that chameleons use every day, once a panther chameleon reaches adulthood they will use them almost exclusively due to their weight, for this reason it is wise to make all areas of you cage accessible by vine or branch. One or two Zoo Med Flexible Hanging Vines will do the trick. At the bottom of chameleon enclosures we highly recommend screen, which is easy to clean and allows water to be captured in a drainage tray system. Substrate on the bottom of chameleon cages should be avoided at all costs, it will become moldy, be difficult to clean, get water logged, and be generally unsanitary for you and your pet plus it will create an unpleasant odor – avoid substrate at all costs.
What type of food and supplements do I need?
Food & Supplements – Chameleons have a variety of tastes, while almost all will eat crickets there are other food options that some prefer: Wax worms, Superworms, Butter Worms, Hornworms, Dubai Roaches, and Crickets. No mater what your chameleon prefers it is wise to provide variety in diet and to gut load your insects before feeding them to your chameleon. Gut loading means feeding the insects vitamin rich food in order to get those vitamins into your chameleons diet. Gut loading insect food can be found in your local pet store or for advanced hobbiests insects can be offered a blend of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, you should dust your feeder insect with calcium powder 2-4 times a month for males and 4-8 times a month for females (if laying eggs). While well-kept chameleon cages do not have an odor their food can if not cared for appropriately. We use GeorgiaCrickets.com for our food supply and we strongly suggest their Large Cricket Keeper container. It will keep 100-200 crickets alive until they are needed and will not smell if Cricket Complete from GeorgiaCrickets.com is used. Cricket Complete is an odor controller and dry food for your insects. This will allow you to buy insects as little as once per month for your chameleon. Chameleons are hunters by nature so it is important to feed them live insects; we feed our males 3-4 insects 6 times a week and females 3-4 insects 4 times a week as adults, however, chameleons consume quite a bit more as juveniles during growth spurts. Food should be made accessible to your chameleons but they should never overrun the cage. Do not buy 50 crickets and feed them all to your chameleon at once, they will make the cage filthy, half will die, and they will bother your pet. In addition do not feed your chameleon wild insects, some can be poisonous if consumed.
What lighting schedule should I use?
We keep our panthers on a 12 hours of light 12 hours of dark schedule year round to simulate troipical lighting patterns.
What type of misting schedule should I use?
Misting schedule is largely dependant on the room, time of year, and type of enclosure. In PA we have hot and humid summers with dry and cold winters requiring seasonal changes to our misting schedules. However some keys are: allow for time for the enclosure to dry out so that you do not create an always damp environment where everything from branches to plants rot, schedule a few long soaks a week giving your panther enough time to rinse off in the mist and clean themselves (we schedule two five minute mists per week Sundays and Wednesdays), during each day offer three to five short mist cycles to keep up humidity (short is 45-90 seconds). Some hobbiest mist during the day and allow for drying out at night while others use foggers to create humidity throughout the night and dry out during a portion of the day. Monitor and fine tune your misting schedule by watching humidity, generally targeting between 45-75%, and inspecting urates. Urates are the white part of chameleon excrement, generally if the urates are white a chameleon is properly hydrated and if they are brown or orange water intake may be an issue. Urate inspection is not a perfect science and there should not be too much concern if a chameleon looks happy and healthy but has a slightly tinted urate.
Can panther chameleons live together?
Panther chameleons should not be housed together, they are territorial by nature and will become stressed when placed together.