Chameleon Care Guide: What You Should Know

Reviewed, fact-checked & edited by Marcella Raskin.
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Chameleons are some of the most unique and fascinating creatures in the world. If you’re lucky enough to own one, it’s important to know how to care for them properly. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about chameleon care, from feeding and housing your chameleon to keeping it healthy and happy. So if you’re ready to learn what it takes to be a chameleon owner, keep reading!

Chameleon care guide

Housing.

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Chameleons are a type of reptile, and they require the proper housing to stay healthy. While most chameleons can survive in a small tank, providing your pet with a larger enclosure is always better.

The best size for a chameleon enclosure depends on how big your pet gets. If you plan to house an adult chameleon, aim for a tank that is at least 4 feet long and wide.

If you plan to house several smaller chameleons together, try to get an enclosure that is no less than 4 square feet in size.

As long as the terrarium has proper ventilation, it should be suitable housing for your pet chameleon. However, if you want to make sure the environment stays humid enough (you can keep humidity levels between 60-70%), use a substrate or gravel at the bottom of the tank and mist regularly with water.

The tank also needs two small dishes: one where your chameleon will drink from and one where it will eat its food from. Make sure these are enough that your chameleon won’t have to fight with any other chameleons for food or water.

Substrate & Decorations.

Like any other reptile, a chameleon needs a special substrate in its tank so it can easily burrow and hide during the day. Avoid using sand as it can be accidentally ingested by your pet. Instead, opt for soil mixes or ground coconut fiber bedding.

You should also place several pieces of driftwood or rocks in the enclosure so your chameleon has something to climb on if it wants to get high off the ground.

Some people even use live plants in their chameleon’s tank! While this isn’t always recommended since they are reptiles who usually prefer dry heat, many types of life plants can actually thrive in a humid and warm environment. You just need to do some research and make sure that the plants you want to use are safe for your particular species of chameleon.

Temperature & Lighting.

Most chameleons tend to prefer daytime temperatures of 70⁰ F – 80⁰ F, while nighttime temperatures should be as low as 60⁰F. High humidity (between 60%-80%) is also very important because it helps keep your pet hydrated and prevents respiratory problems.

Humidity levels outside the tank should reach 100% if possible, but don’t worry about aiming for this — at least 75% humidity is fine for any type of chameleon.

Chameleons require special UVB lighting to stay healthy, just like any other reptile. However, while most people know that your pet needs UVB light, they aren’t aware of how important it is to change the bulb regularly.

Most chameleons only need their lights on for 6-8 hours per day! So make sure you mark a calendar reminding yourself when it’s time to swap out the old bulb for a new one.

Feeding Your Chameleon.

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Chameleons are insectivores, which means they need to eat insects in order to survive. You can feed your pet crickets or different types of worms, depending on what type of chameleon you have and what it will eat naturally. If your chameleon is an insectivore, you should feed it crickets and worms.

If your chameleon eats vegetation, it’s best to feed it mealworms and waxworms because these insects are high in fat.

As with any pet, consistency is vital when feeding a chameleon. Aim for at least one meal per day if you only have the one reptile as a pet, but if you have several then try to feed them all at once so they won’t fight over food later on.

Remember that a chameleon needs a specific diet, which includes mostly protein and very little sugar or fruit. If you’re not sure what kind of nutrients your particular species of chameleon needs from its food, ask your local pet store or breeder for more info.

Hibernation & Handling.

As long as the temperature is warm enough in your home, you don’t have to worry about hibernating your chameleon in the winter months! They will naturally go into a hibernation-like state called brumation, which requires that they only eat once per month during this time.

If you need to handle your chameleon, remember that most of them are fragile and gentle pets who need to be treated with care so they can stay comfortable.

It’s best to receive permission from your veterinarian before touching any reptile because some species are very dangerous if not properly cared for when handled by an amateur. You should also know when it’s time to take your chameleon to the vet for a checkup, so schedule an appointment with one immediately if you have any concerns about its well-being.

Don’t be alarmed if your chameleon’s tongue darts out at you during handling sessions. This is normal behavior because it helps them capture their prey! If this happens, be sure to firmly say “no” in order to teach your pet that it will not eat you. After all, they are naturally shy pets who can quickly become scared when handled by someone they don’t trust.

Chameleons are generally sensitive pets who need plenty of attention. As long as you provide them with the correct environment, they should feel comfortable in their new home so you can enjoy watching them for years to come!

How long do chameleons live?

Chameleons are known to live for 2-7 years, depending on the type of species. This makes them one of the longest-living reptiles in the world!

As long as you provide your chameleon with a proper diet and temperature, take it to the vet regularly for checkups, and handle it gently when necessary, then you should have no problem keeping your pet happy throughout its lifetime.

This is why chameleons are so popular among reptile owners who want pets that can be around for several years. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy having a baby dragon inside your home!

However, there are several factors that could affect your pet’s lifespan, such as whether it has been bred in captivity or caught in the wild, its overall health, and how well you care for it.

How many types of chameleons are there?

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There are approximately 160 species of chameleon found worldwide, but most people only consider those that come from Madagascar as “true” chameleons since they’re the ones that have earned the name by now.

Exotic pet owners mostly keep veiled and panther chameleons as pets because these two species adapt best to life inside cages and don’t grow very large.

Here are some of the most popular types of chameleon you’re likely to find at exotic pet stores:

Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus).

Named for the fleshy-colored “veil” which covers its head, this colorful reptile is a popular pet around the world because it’s relatively easy to care for and doesn’t require large terrariums.

Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).

Reaching up to 20 inches long, the panther chameleon is an attractive reptile that’s very popular for novice pet owners because it only needs a 10-gallon tank rather than the larger ones required by its cousins.

Jackson’s Chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii).

This species was named after the famous American herpetologist Alan Jackon because he discovered it on his expedition across East Africa. It has beautiful eyes with vertical pupils and two distinct color phases, which make it one of the most distinctive types of chameleon out there.

Chameleon care guide

What’s the difference between a chameleon and an iguana?

In many ways, a chameleon is the opposite of an iguana. While iguanas are large and require a lot of space, chameleons are usually small and don’t need to be kept in big tanks.

Iguanas also love basking beneath UV lights, while chameleons become stressed when exposed to too much sun or heat. They thrive in subtropical conditions, which makes them the perfect pets to have around during the cold winter months!

Chameleons are reptiles, while iguanas are considered amphibians. Reptiles like chameleons are cold-blooded, which means they rely on external sources for warmth, whereas amphibians like iguanas live in both water and land environments, so they can control their body temperature easily with the help of glands inside of their mouths. They also have more teeth than chameleons do!

However, if you’re shopping for a pet that prefers trees and lots of climbing space, then an iguana may be better suited for your home since they live on dry land rather than water. This is why each type of reptile has its own set of care requirements to make sure they stay healthy and happy!

How do chameleons change colors?

One of the most fascinating things about chameleons is their ability to change colors, which can be a great shock for someone who only expected the pet to look the same as it did when they first brought it home.

During mating season or certain circumstances, such as alarm or excitement, chameleons raise their bodies up high and puff out their throats while changing color. When they become calm again, these reptiles will turn back into a more subtle hue since those bright colors are meant to scare off enemies and attract mates.

Chameleon color changes aren’t completely understood by scientists yet, so we don’t know exactly how they make this change. One theory suggests that they use chromatophores, which are cells found in the skin of reptiles and amphibians that contain different pigments or colors, to give them camouflage or other special features.

Chromatophores can constrict or expand when stimulated by light, hormones, chemicals, stress levels, moods, etc., so chameleons might respond to these stimuli with color changes as well.

This is why it may be best not to disturb your pet too much because its ability to blend into environments might break down if you cause too much stress!

Do chameleons make good pets?

Most chameleons are exotic pets and require a lot of attention, so they’re not the best choice for new reptile owners who don’t know very much about their care. People who want an easy-to-care-for pet would be better off with a snake or another lizard that doesn’t change colors.

5 Reasons why chameleons are good pets:

5 Reasons why chameleons are NOT good pets:

Conclusion.

Some people love the idea of owning a chameleon but don’t know very much about their care, which can make it more difficult to create a good environment for them to live in.

By learning as much as you can about how to take care of your new pet, you’ll find that living with these creatures is quite rewarding once you understand what makes them happy!

Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Author

  • Matthew Mansour is a professional life coach, fitness trainer, health coach, a blogger with over 800 articles published to date. He enjoys reading and researching books that are reflective of the nature of who we are as humans, understanding the complexity of our minds, and using it as an advantage to propel us forward in life. He is a self-help enthusiast and he is not ashamed about it! He’s always looking for his next fix of inspiration, motivation, insight, and wisdom from those who have been there before him! He also does a lot of courses and research on the latest and greatest in the area of self-help, life coaching, and health. He likes to share his discoveries with anyone who is interested in listening! His personal goal is to help people achieve great results in their lives, that is why he also has a blog about self-improvement. He loves animals and he currently lives in New Jersey with his loving wife and his recently born child.

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