How to look after a Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleons are found in the tropical rainforests of Madagascar. They are an arboreal species inhabiting foliage, trees and shrubs, venturing to the forest floor only for egg-laying. They are found in lower level foliage than many other chameleon species.

They live solitary lives and come across each other only for breeding and competition for food. Females are smaller than males and remain a pink-peach colouration into adulthood. Males, look very different, displaying an array of skin colour including blue, green, orange, red, and yellow. The colour variation would depend on the specific ‘locality’ of your pet. These colours can reflect certain states of mind and if showing off to a female or challenging a rival male their colours would be more vibrant. But when darkened, or even black, there could be another factor that your animal isn’t happy about.

Housing

Chameleons are an active species and roam spacious habitats. Because of this, it is important to ensure that your individual has enough space in its terrarium. The minimum tank size of 90x45x90cm high is required, with larger enclosures being even more beneficial. 

It’s common for chameleon owners to have other indoor climbing frames and foliage outside their terrarium, where they are able to roam. When considering this, it is important to note weather conditions, time away from their heat and light source and also supervision to ensure they are unable to escape or hurt themselves.

Substrates

Substrates are essential in creating humidity, for egg-laying and softening the floor of your vivarium, minimising the risk of injury if they fall. We recommend soil or jungle mix to meet all of these factors, though other substrates can be used including orchid bark. It is important to keep on top of cleaning to eradicate the risk of illness. 

Frequent spot cleans and full cleans every 6 weeks will ensure bacteria isn’t able to build up. Aerating the soil by churning is important in preventing mould growth, which should be removed immediately upon finding. Soil is also better for egg-laying females. 

Females can still lay eggs even when not mated so this is an important consideration for anyone keeping them. Egg-laying signs include weight gain, digging behaviour and lethargy, and handling should be avoided with stress kept to a minimum until the eggs are laid.

Heating

Like any reptile, your chameleon will need a good quality heat source in its terrarium, and being such a large space the best option would be a thermostatically controlled basking bulb. This bulb needs to provide a basking area of 32 – 35°C where your chameleon can warm up to optimum temperature. It is equally important to provide an escape from the warm area to enable them to cool down. The lower sections of your terrarium (and the opposite side of the heat source) will provide this escape.  

A good quality thermometer and thermostat will ensure that you are able to monitor and maintain temperatures at a safe level. At night the heat source can be switched off and the terrarium allowed to drop to room temperature as long as this doesn’t fall below 15-20°C. This kind of temperature drop would be present in your chameleon’s natural environment. 

Lighting

The second bulb needed is a UV lighting system. Strip/tube UV bulbs are more beneficial than coiled ones and promote general health, so are best for your setup. A mid-level UV bulb will provide both UVB and UVA. UVB is essential in bone growth and the metabolism of key nutrients ensuring they are used effectively in the body. 

UVA is a significant factor in your chameleon’s eyesight, essential in hunting and manoeuvrability. When providing this UV bulb it is essential to remember that the UV fluorescence will expire after 6 – 9 months (depending on the brand) and will need replacing even if the bulb is still glowing.

Humidity

Maintaining humidity is important with your terrarium. 60-70% humidity should be achieved consistently. This can be done using substrates, moss, large water sources and frequent spraying. It is recommended that 2 – 3 times a day the terrarium is sprayed, depending on humidity. This can be measured using an accurate hygrometer.

Being an arboreal species you will need to create enough climbing opportunity for them. This can be done using branches, logs, vines and plants. Plants will also provide cover so your chameleon can hide out of sight, reducing stress. Moving terrarium furniture around every now and then will keep your chameleon interested and exploring.

Your chameleon terrarium should feature a water source. This needs to provide a moving stream of water, as chameleons won’t drink from a still water source. A waterfall or dripper is the best option in this instance. The terrarium furniture will need to be spot cleaned regularly to ensure bacteria cant build up, and the water source should be cleaned regularly. Tap water is safe to use for drinking and misting.

Diet

Chameleons feed primarily on live insects like locusts, crickets and cockroaches, as well as mealworms. It is important to consider the nutritional value of each food item and provide variety to ensure adequate nutrition. Your chameleon will also occasionally feed on leafy vegetation. An important dietary consideration is supplementation. Vital in preventing dietary deficiencies, Calcium and multivitamin powders will be required, at the ratio of five days calcium to two days multivitamin each week. These should be dusted onto all of the food items given.

Shopping list

  • Vivarium
  • Heat source
  • Guard/Protector
  • Thermostat
  • UVB Lighting
  • Thermometer
  • Hygrometer
  • Water Source
  • Substrate
  • Hides
  • Door lock/ wedge
  • Decoration
  • Calcium and Multivitamin
  • Cleaning Equipment
  • Sprayer

Factfile

Name: Panther chameleon

Scientific name: Furcifer pardalis

Origin: Madagascar

Lifespan: 7 – 10 years

Length: females 7-10” males 12-15” inch 

Temperament: Timid, tameable

Vivarium Size: 90x45x90cm high

Temperature gradient: 22 – 35°C

Humidity: 60 – 70%

Lighting: Mid-high level UVB

Feeding: Live insects, occasional vegetation


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