Panther chameleons have a variety of bright color morphs or phases that are called for the geographic location from whence they originate in their native habitat of Madagascar. Females have less color variety (typically orange or brownish) and a less striking “helmet” (ridges along the sides of the head) than males, as well as being smaller.
To make it easier for your young panther chameleon to locate prey items, keep your new pet in a tiny habitat. All 16 x 16 x 20 inch (long x wide x tall) screen cages will function for the first six months of life. Following that, adult male panther chameleons should be housed in cages measuring at least 18 x 18 x 36 inches, while female panther chameleons can be housed in enclosures of 16 x 16 x 30 inches.
These are the absolute bare minimums, and more is always better! Decorate the cage with live, nontoxic plants, sticks, and vines. Plants such as Ficus Benjamina, Schefflera, and Pothos are also excellent alternatives. Chameleons enjoy climbing, and live plants provide them with places to hide and feel safe. Glass is always preferable over screen. Chameleons can easily get an upper respiratory infection if kept in stagnant air.
A temperature gradient of 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit should be provided during the day, with a basking spot at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the lowest temperature should not dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid burns, use a basking or incandescent light in a reflector or a ceramic heat source, both of which should be put outside of the cage.
Chameleons require ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light, so buy a decent bulb. Turn on the UV light for 10 to 12 hours a day. Keep in mind that these bulbs must be replaced every 6 months. Chameleons also benefit from spending time outdoors in natural sunshine when the temperatures are adequate (but watch out for overheating—always have shade nearby).
Panther chameleons require a high humidity level, ideally between 60 and 85 percent. This can be achieved by sprinkling the plants on a regular basis, and a drip or misting system is also recommended. Chameleons rarely drink from water bowls, but they will lap up droplets of water off plants, therefore the misting/drip system also acts as a source of water. Position a drip system so the water droplets cascade over the plants in the enclosure. Invest in a hygrometer to measure humidity.
Panther chameleons are territorial and should be kept in separate enclosures. Handling can be stressful, therefore like with other chameleons, they are better suited to being watched rather than touched frequently. Panther chameleons, like most other chameleon species, are territorial; if two males are kept together in captivity, they will change color and occasionally attack each other.
In the wild, this is part of the ritual through which males select female partners. These lizards have extremely lengthy tongues that allow them to snare their food in mid-air. Panther chameleons don’t survive very long in captivity, but their generally gentle nature and the fact that they’re reasonably easy to care for compared to other lizards make them a favorite among lizard owners.
Panther chameleons, like many reptiles, are prone to several different types of health issues.
- Respiratory infections: Usually a result of temperatures being too low in an enclosure or the chameleon being exposed to a draft or drastic change in temperature.
- Stress-related ailments: A lack of appetite and respiratory infections may be a cause of stress.
- Calcium deficiency: Low calcium levels can be due to a lack of UVB lighting or too little calcium in the diet.
- Vitamin A deficiency: Low vitamin A levels are usually the result of a poor diet.
- Stomatitis: Mouth rot
- Intestinal parasites: Worms and protozoans are common problems for chameleons.
- Metabolic bone disease: This is usually what happens when a chameleon can’t absorb calcium properly. This painful condition weakens the animal’s bones so that its legs appear wobbly. It also will have a poor appetite and may appear lethargic.
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