Veiled Chameleons(Chamaeleo calyptratus)

Yemen

Panther Chameleons (Furcifer pardalis)

Madagascar

These two chameleons are among the most beautiful and enjoyable to keep of the lizards. Because both species are now bred in large numbers and have similar requirements, the following care information will apply to both species.

Size
Females up to 14 inches and males up to 19 inches. Some captive-raised males are claimed to reach 24 inches.

Sexing
Veiled chameleon males can be identified from hatchlings because they bear a tarsal spur (small projection at the hind joint of the foot). Adult males grow larger, are more slender bodied, develop taller casques (helmet), are more colorful and have a hemipenile bulge (visible as thicker, less tapered tail base) compared to females.

Panther chameleons cannot be sexed as juveniles but by three months of age, brighter color, faster growth rate and the signs of a hemipenile bulge will allow reliable sexing. Adult males are much larger, more colorful and with a pronounced hemipenile bulge compared to females.

Longevity
For both species 4-9 years. Veiled chameleon males may reach 10 years.

Social groups
These chameleons are best kept singly except when introduced for breeding

Housing and Care

Enclosures
Chameleon require good air flow so often do best in screen cages or large, well ventilated glass enclosures with screen top and preferably areas of screen along the sides. Juveniles can initially be raised in glass enclosures with screen tops. Adults can also be maintained loose on ficus trees in a closed room by a window. The minimum size cage for a typical adult would be an 18L x 18W x 36H inch tall enclosure. Larger would be better and required for unusually large males.

Landscaping
Chameleons require branches or other rigid rods to rest and climb on. Branches should be positioned so as to offer 45 degree to horizontal rest and basking areas. The most readily available and best trees for chameleons are Ficus benjamina.

Do not clutter enclosures with plants, allow at least 50% open space.

Heat and light
Veiled and panther chameleons need basking sites that reach 85-90°F over the branches/perches closest to an incandescent heat bulb placed on top of the screen in a reflector type fixture. They should have shaded areas to escape the heat in the form of plant cover.

Veiled and panther chameleons benefit from a UVB source. They should be allowed to bask in sunlight for at least 6 hours a week or offered a UVB light source.

Relative Humidity
Chameleons look their best and fare best at a relative humidity of around 70%. Misting, adding live plants to a room and a cool air humidifier can help raise relative humidity in dry air areas. Remember to allow good air exchange. Chameleons fare poorly in high humidity combined with stagnant air.

Water and Feeding

Water
Chameleons do not usually drink form standing water but only from droplets formed by dew or from rain. For this reason they need to daily be dripped (container with hole in bottom), gently hand sprayed, or placed under a misting system or a slow running hose with a spray nozzle. Ideally this should be done until they are satiated and stop drinking. Water fountain type watering systems run the risk of bacterial contamination and are not recommended for chameleons.

Feeding
Chameleons are primarily insect eaters although some such as veiled chameleons will also eat greens. Crickets of the appropriate size (length of cricket about width of lizard head) should be offered daily, lightly dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement. Roaches of which several non-flying and non climbing species are now raised as reptile food are also an excellent prey item for chameleons. Offer greens to veiled chameleons in the form of romaine, mustard and dandelion greens clipped to the side of the cage Use a supplement with little to no D3 if you are using a UVB source. Larger chameleons can be offered occasional feedings of dusted superworms or a pink mouse.

Handling
As a rule, chameleons do not like physical contact so should not be petted or handled except for letting them climb on you. Some, such as male veileds, may actually seek and reach out to climb onto an owner, usually ending up on their heads. Females of the above species are generally less sociable toward humans than males.

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Recommended Reading

De Vosjoli , P. 2004. Essential Care of Chameleons. Advanced Vivarium Systems. Bowtie Press.

Dorval, C. 2006. Chameleons in Captivity. 2006. ECO/Serpent’s Tale