The Panther chameleon originates from Madagascar where it is found in a forest environment In its natural environment it spends the majority of its time in trees or bushes, and will feel most secure when perching at a height. All chameleons are high-maintenance pets and not suitable for first time reptile keepers. They can live for 4-7 years in captivity.
As large a vivarium as possible should be provided to enable room for exercise, and a thermal gradient to be created along the length of the tank (hot to cold). Vertical space is important for this arboreal species so vivaria should be taller than they are wide. Mesh sided vivaria are ideal as this provides the lizard with some visual security and good ventilation can be provided which is especially important for these lizards.
Good ventilation is required and additional ventilation holes may need to be created.
Hides are required to provide some security. Artificial plants, cardboard boxes, plant pots, logs or commercially available hides can be used. They should be placed both at the warm and cooler ends of the tank.
Substrates suitable for housing lizards include newspaper, Astroturf and some of the commercially available substrates. It is important that the substrates either cannot be eaten, or if they are, do not cause blockages as this can prove fatal. Wood chip based substrates should never be used for this reason.
The vivarium should be cleaned out at least once a week with a suitable disinfectant and spot cleaned daily to help prevent disease.
Temperatures and humidity
Reptiles are ectothermic so a heat source is required.
Typically a spot area is created using a spot bulb, providing a basking temperature of 32.0 C. This should be kept on all day. Temperatures must be measured to ensure the tank is not overheating especially in a small vivarium. The cool end should be maintained at 25.0 C.
Background heat can be provided with a heat mat (on the back wall) a tubular heater, a heat plate or a ceramic bulb. This should be set on a thermostat so that the overnight temperature does not drop below 23.0 C.
Temperatures should be measured with a maximum/minimum thermometer. During the cold winter months careful checking is required to ensure the heat sources are keeping the tank sufficiently warm. Heat sources should be guarded to prevent thermal burns.
Humidity should be checked with a hygrometer and kept moderately high by spraying or fogging the enclosure at regular intervals.
Chameleons must be exposed to UV-b light.
The best sources are the mercury vapour lamps which give out heat as well. This will need to be on all day for 12 hours and at an appropriate distance from the lizard as recommended by the manufacturer. A small branch or rock can be placed below the basking site. Care should be taken using mercury vapour bulbs in a small vivarium as temperatures may become too high and these lamps cannot be fitted to a thermostat.
Alternatively other UV-b bulbs are available (please ask for further information on UV light in reptiles).
All UV-b bulbs should be checked regularly for their UV output and should be changed at least as frequently as manufacturer’s instructions.
In general the happiest lizard is the solitary lizard. Adults can be maintained in pairs if breeding is desired.
What to feed
Chameleons are insectivores although may take the occasional piece of plant matter.
Invertebrate prey such as house crickets, black crickets and locusts should form the majority of the diet. Mealworms should be given in moderation and waxworms should only be given as occasional treats. Dark leafy vegetables may be offered but are often not eaten.
Live food should be gut loaded with a high calcium content supplement (8% of calcium in the dry matter) and many products are commercially available. It is worth checking the label for the calcium content. Live food should also be dusted with a high calcium balancer with little or no phosphorous content. Live food should be fed immediately after dusting and removed if not eaten within 30 minutes.
Water should always be available and a container is required which will allow the lizard to submerge completely. This should be changed daily. Chameleons do, however, primarily obtain their water from droplets on plants so regular spraying is also important.
All reptiles can potentially carry Salmonella.
However it is rarely a cause of illness in reptiles and treatment is not required.
It can be transmitted to people (especially young children or those who are immunocompromised) so good hygiene after handing the reptile is important. Generally washing your hands in soap is sufficient. There are commercially available disinfectants that can be used as an alternative.
Download our Panther Chameleon caresheet