Panther Chameleon Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles
Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)
Panther chameleons are an arboreal species of chameleon native to forested areas in the northern third of Madagascar. They are well known for their stunning array of colors — they have been bred in red, yellow, green, blue, and even rainbow! However, the males are much more brightly colored than the females.
Like other chameleons, panther chameleons are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day. They are also strictly insectivorous, which means that they eat bugs. In the wild, they eat bees, flies, butterflies, moths, caterpillars, snails, and beetles. They have also been observed eating smaller lizards and even young birds.
Panther chameleons are one of the largest chameleon species, and can grow 16-20” long from snout to tail. They have a very short lifespan compared to other reptiles: up to 5-6 years for males, but only up to 3 years for females.
Fun fact: Many people believe that chameleons change color to blend with their surroundings, but the truth is that they change their colors in order to communicate with other chameleons!
• Zen Habitats 2'x2'x4' PVC Panel Reptile Enclosure
• small fan
• 5.5” dome heat lamp
• 100w halogen flood heat bulb (white)
• plug-in lamp dimmer
• infrared thermometer
• digital thermometer/hygrometer with probe
• 22-24” UVB bulb and fixture
• LED plant grow light(s)
• live or artificial plants
• climbing vines
• thin branches
• zip ties
• reptile humidifier
• plug-in outlet timer
• pressure sprayer
• 5-gallon bucket
• calcium powder without D3
• calcium powder with D3
• multivitamin with retinol (vitamin A)
• bee pollen powder
• soft-tipped feeding tweezers
Keep reading for specific product recommendations!
Panther chameleons should be kept in no smaller than a 2'x2'x4' enclosure. However, keep in mind that larger is always better for your cham’s long-term health.
Chameleons generally require a mesh screen enclosure. This is because they need lots of ventilation in their enclosure, or else they can get sick. However, in particularly dry climates it can be beneficial to keep them in a glass or PVC enclosure to better retain humidity. When using a solid-walled enclosure, it’s best to install a small fan on the ceiling to encourage ventilation.
Can 2 panther chameleons be kept together?
No. Keeping multiple panther chameleons in the same enclosure for an extended period of time risks them fighting and injuring one another. It’s also highly stressful for each of the chameleons involved. Reptiles don’t need “friends” like humans do, so don’t need to worry about your pet getting lonely.
Lighting, Temperatures & Humidity
Chameleons are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day. In other words, they absolutely must have lighting that mimics the beneficial effects of the sun, or else they will get sick and die.
Aside from providing warmth, one of the most important roles of the sun for a reptile is providing UVB wavelengths. Since reptiles are kept indoors away from the sun (which is blocked by the glass in windows), they need artificial UVB lighting.
For a panther chameleon, you will need a 22” Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 orArcadia 12% bulb mounted in a reflective fixture like the 24” Zoo Med Reptisun Hood, placed on top of the enclosure.
It’s also a good idea to install a nice bright full-spectrum light fixture or two — look for 6500K fluorescent or LED. This extra light seems to be particularly beneficial for chameleons. The Bio Dude 22” Glow & Grow LED and Arcadia LED Bar are both excellent.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day. All lights must be turned off at night.
Unlike humans, chameleons are cold-blooded, which means that they need external heat for their bodies to work properly.
This external heat should mimic the temperatures they receive in their natural habitat:
• Basking area temperature: 85°F
• Shade temperature: 75-80°F
• Night temperature: 60-70°F
Your chameleon will need an uncovered horizontal branch for basking under the heat lamp. Heat sources should be turned off so the temperature can drop at night.
The wattage it will take to accomplish this varies according to room temperature and distance between the lamp and the basking spot, but a 100w halogen reptile bulb like the Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot 100w or Philips 90w Halogen Flood Bulb should do the trick. If it is too hot, use a plug-in lamp dimmer to reduce the bulb’s output. If it is too cool, try a higher wattage bulb.
Chameleons are very dependent on the water in their environment. Panther chameleons need 50-60% ambient humidity during the day that rises to 75-100% at night.
How do you do this? You will need a reptile humidifier/fogger like the Mistking Starter and a handheld pressure sprayer like the Exo Terra 2L Mister. Use the mister to mist for approximately 60 seconds in the early morning before the lights turn on, and again at night after the lights turn off. The fogger should set to turn on every night for about 5-6 hours before the lights turn on.
Foggers can get dirty easily, so make sure to use distilled water and to disinfect the unit regularly.
Pro tip: Keep track of temperatures and humidity levels with a quality measuring device like the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer and Humidity Gauge, with the temperature probe near the basking spot and the humidity probe in the lower regions of the enclosure. Secure the probe to the branch with a zip tie.
With all of this water in the enclosure, traditional substrate can quickly get waterlogged and bacteria-ridden. Most chameleon keepers don’t even bother with substrate, opting instead for a drain at the bottom of the enclosure.
Decorating the Terrarium
Terrarium decorations are more than just pretty — they’re an important part of making it functional and feel like “home” for your pet. Since they’re arboreal, panther chameleons need a dense network of thin branches and vines that can be easily grasped with their unique feet. They also need an area of dense vegetation where they can hide from sight as needed. Use a large, nontoxic live potted plant or few, like pothos, ficus, hibiscus, pachira, and schefflera. Artificial plants are also an option.
If you’re having trouble arranging vines and branches, try securing them to the mesh with zip ties!
Feeding Your Panther Chameleon
•0-6 months old:daily, as much as they can eat
• 6-12 months old: 5 bugs, every other day
• >12 months old: 3 bugs, every other day
• black soldier flies
• dubia roaches
Variety is the key to a healthy chameleon. Hard-bodied feeder insects should be no wider than the space between your chameleon’s eyes, or else you risk them choking.
Chameleons do not readily drink from water bowls — they prefer to drink water off leaves instead. While your twice daily misting and nightly fogging will go a long way toward keeping your panther chameleon adequately hydrated, they also need a dripper like the Zoo Med Dripper to provide a constant source of drinking water. For best results, place the dripper above a plant so the chameleon can drink off the leaves.
Most feeder insects have an imbalance in their calcium to phosphorous ratio, which means that you need to coat them in calcium to bring that nutrient ratio into balance. Without dusting, your panther chameleon can develop a mineral deficiency and become very sick. Adding multivitamins and bee pollen help prevent vitamin deficiencies — especially bee pollen, as this is a regular part of a chameleon’s diet in the wild.
Whenever you offer insect prey, you will need to dust them with calcium first. Simply stick the bugs in a plastic bag with a small amount of calcium powder, shake ‘em up, and then feed.
• Dust with 50/50 calcium without D3 + bee pollen at each meal
• Dust with 50/50 calcium with D3 and a multivitamin once every other week
We recommend Repashy Supercal NoD, Repashy Supercal MeD, Repashy Supervite, and Stakich Bee Pollen Powder to meet these needs.
Chameleons generally don’t like to be handled. These are more of a display animal than a pet that you can “play” with often. That being said, panther chameleons tend to be more tolerant of human interaction than most. Here are some ways to build trust with your panther chameleon:
First, leave your new pet alone for a 1-2 weeks. Make sure it’s healthy, eating, and drinking during this time. Feel free to watch and admire, but don’t touch.
Once your cham has acclimated, introduce yourself with food. Hold a prey item in your hand or a pair of rubber-tipped tweezers. It may take a while for the cham to decide to take it. Do it during the first feeding of the day, when they are most hungry. Don’t stare directly at the cham; this makes them nervous. And be sure to hold the bug at least 6” away so you’re not directly in their space.
Once your chameleon regularly takes food from your hands, encourage it to come to you. One way is to place a tall decorative tree in front of the enclosure with the door open and let the cham wander out on its own. (This can take a while.) When it’s comfortable on the tree, offer your hand as a perch.
Never grab your chameleon out of its enclosure! This is predatory behavior and will damage the trust relationship. Furthermore, due to chameleons’ unique anatomy, grabbing them will break their very delicate ribs! Instead, hold out your hand and let them come to you on their own terms.
At the end of the day, different panther chameleons have different personalities, so if you know someone with a super social panther chameleon, don’t be surprised if yours isn’t the same way. They can be friendly, outgoing, shy, or even grumpy. Tailor your handling schedule to your chameleon’s tolerance.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles.