The Panther Chameleon is a relatively large chameleon species originally from Madagascar. In its natural range, the Panther Chameleon lives in a wide range of semi-humid to humid habitats in the coastal belt and offshore islands of the northern half of Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius. Chameleons are difficult animals to keep in captivity. In the past, most specimens in the pet trade were wild caught; however with changes in Madagascar’s export regulations and better understanding of the care of the exquisite lizards, most are now captive-bred. These wild caught chameleons are also very difficult to acclimate to captivity and often do very poorly, even for experienced reptile keepers. However, captive bred chameleons purchased from a reputable breeder increase your success in receiving and keeping a healthy chameleon so if your heart is set on a chameleon, we recommend doing much research and finding a reputable breeder of chameleons.
Color and Size
Panther Chameleons have a life span of 2-5 years and typically reach sexual maturity between 6-9 months. Males may reach 20 in (50 cm) long, while females typically measure about 14 in (35 cm) long. By 2-2.5 years of age, adult males typically weigh 200- 220 grams while females weight 140-160 grams. The panther chameleon is variably colored in green, brown, red, orange, or turquoise. Chameleons change color as a result of complex internal and external cues involving such factors as recognition of nearby conspecifics, adjustments to environmental temperature, breeding behaviors, and basking in sunlight. Color change is generally not used as camouflage. Instead, chameleons utilize their stillness and halting gait, and to a lesser degree their coloration, as protection from predator detection.
Feed a variety of gut-loaded insects such as crickets, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, grasshoppers, phoenix worms, silkworms, and Madagascar roaches of appropriate size. Dust the non-breeding adult’s diet with a calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement once weekly, perhaps more often if exposure to UVB light is limited. Calcium supplements should be devoid or low in phosphorus with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. A general vitamin/mineral supplement may also be offered once weekly. The panther chameleon may be relatively sensitive to over-supplementation of vitamin A so use caution.
Cage size & design
House adults in a large, vertical all screen enclosure. Chameleons should never be housed in a glass aquarium. Plastic-coated wire-welded mesh enclosures serve well. Minimum cage size is 2 x 2 x 3 feet but much larger is recommended. Cage furniture & supplies Provide multiple branches or twigs for climbing, potted plants (e.g. Ficus benjaminaor hibiscus) to provide visual security, and a full-spectrum light source for normal absorption of dietary calcium.
Temperature & Lighting
Panther Chameleons, like other reptiles regulate their own body temperature and it is thus important to provide them with a temperature gradient inside their enclosure. Chameleons need an ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light source, so invest in a good bulb such as the Zoomed Reptisun 5.0. Keep the UV light on for 10-12 hours per day. Remember these bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months. Chameleons also benefit from spending time outdoors in natural sunlight when the temperatures are appropriate (but beware of overheating -- make sure shade is always available). Maintain a temperature gradient of 70-90°F (24-32°C) with a basking spot that reaches 95°F (35°C). Cage temperature may drop to 65-70°F (18-21°C) at night.
Water & Humidity
Panther chameleons will not drink standing water from a bowl. Their natural source of water comes from dew drops that build up on leaves. To duplicate this in captivity use a dripper and/or mister to provide the water needed on the leaves. This should be done a by either by misting the plants every 4-8 hours or with an automatic watering system. This misting also replicates the high humidity level (60-85%) needed to house a chameleon.
Chameleons are generally solitary creatures and do best when housed singly, however, one male with one or two females can usually coexist well in a large cage with many visual barriers. Males are moderately territorial and should not be housed together.
It is important to keep in mind that panther chameleons do best as primarily display animals. While they will tolerate handling to different degrees based on their individual personality, they tend to get stressed with excess handling. When you do handle your panther chameleon, do not restrain it but rather let the chameleon walk on you from hand to hand. You should be aware that panther chameleons are most comfortable when they are high up so often times when they are being held, they will attempt to walk up your arm and try to go onto your head. For long-term success with all chameleon species, limited handling is recommended.