With over 180 extant species, Chameleons differ in color, size, and appearance. However, only a few species are readily available as exotic pets. Read on to learn about general descriptions of the 10 most popular chameleons kept as pets.
Prospective reptile owners must take a careful look at these reptiles — not all pet chameleons do well as companions. Some possess edgy temperament while others require more specialized habitats. Before deciding on what pet species to pick — read on to learn about general descriptions of the 10 most popular chameleons kept as pet.
The Carpet Chameleon (Chamaeleo lateralis) is found in tropical rainforests, mixed woodlands, and prairies of Madagascar. A tree dweller (arboreal) species, adults measure 12cm to 15cm snout-to-vent (SVL) long. Males sport light green color with shades of blue around the eyes and feet. Females are dark brown to black in color. Males have white stripes on the mid-body, while females have a mid-body yellow stripe mark with multi-colored spots. Carpet Chameleon feeds on insects. Lifespan: 5-8 years.
They are active and hardy chameleons that do well as pets. This species require moderate to high levels of humidity. The enclosure should have dense foliage for climbing and a basking spot. Also, the species must be provided with moving or constantly dripping water supply. A cage of 40cm x 40cm x 60cm is adequate for an individual, but should be larger, if a pair is kept together.
The Fischer’s Chameleon (Chameleo fischeri) is native to Kenya and Tanzania. Adults reaching 9 to 15 inches long. These two-horned reptiles are greenish-yellow in color. They feed mainly on insects such as small crickets, wax worms and fruit flies. Life span: 6-8 years. This chameleon makes a good lizard for beginner reptile owners.
These lizards do well in humid environments with a daytime temperature about 75* F. A 24 x 24 x 36 inches enclosure with plenty of space and hiding places is highly recommended. The enclosure should contain tree branches, live plants and thick foliage for perching. Housing must be provided with a container above the cage where water drips onto the leaves. Adults need a screen cage and are best kept solitary. Fischer females will lay only 10-20 eggs in a clutch and hatch at 5 to 6 months.
Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) is native to eastern and southern Africa. It is a large lizard, reaching 35 centimeters (14 in) long. The species color ranges from shades of green, pale yellow, or brown. The body is marked with a pale bar on the sides and the belly crest is white. These chameleons feed on insects like flies, grasshoppers and beetles. Females lay 25 to 50 eggs and may take 377 days to hatch in the wild. Life span: 2 to 3 years.
Flap-necked Chameleons do well in an enclosure 2′ x 2′ x 3′ in size. Also, it should be provided with real or artificial plants and vines. These hardy reptiles do well in a cage with around 75% humidity and a daytime temperature of around 75* F. They need Full-Spectrum lighting that emits UVB. A water dripper with a catch basin is a must for a constant water source.
Four-horned Chameleons (Chamaeleo quadricornis), also known as Cameroon Bearded Chameleon, are native to Cameroon, Africa. These medium sized reptiles can reach to about 25-35cm (10-14″) long. The species usually have green and yellow-colored head with patches of blue, red or orange. Normally, “quads” sail-fin comes in pale-blue color, and a red or orange stripe runs down the middle of the body. The lizard’s belly is yellow to green in color. Four Horned Chameleon diet includes: beetles, crickets, flies, locusts, and wax worms. They live for around 5 years.
The Four Horned Chameleon is not a beginner species and are recommended only for experienced chameleon owners. Captive species must be kept cool, too much heat will cause stress then death. Minimum housing needs to be a full-screen 2′ x 3′ x 4′ in size. The enclosure must be provided by live nontoxic plants. The ideal captive temperature is around (55-75 F), and a relative humidity of at 88%. The cage must be provided with running water for the chameleon to drink from.
The Jackson’s Chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii) is any of three species of medium-sized lizards native to East Africa. The species were also introduced to Hawaii, where established populations can now be found. Adult males measure to about 10 to 14 inches long, depending on the species. Male’s color range from a combination of blue, green, turquoise, and yellow. This three-horned chameleon typically has bright yellow crests. The species can live up to 9+ years.
Jackson’s Chameleons are hardy reptiles that sit well in captive environments with consistent care. They do well in screen enclosures (24″x24″x36″) with live vines and ample foliage. Housing must maintain a daytime temperature of 75 to 80* F, and a humidity level around 65%. For water source, the enclosure must be equipped with a drip system over the foliage within the enclosure. It is important to keep in mind that these lizards should be kept separately. Jackson’s chameleons feed on a variety of insects.
The Meller’s Chameleon (Chamaeleo melleri)is the largest species of chameleon in East Africa. The species inhabits bushy savannahs and interior mountains. A stout-bodied reptile, it grows to about 18 – 24 inches in length. Adults weigh between 300 to 500 grams. It has a small head and a stubby tail. Normally, the species come in deep forest green with white stripes. These lizards are strict carnivores, feeding on insects, caterpillars, spiders, worms and other smaller lizards.
The Meller’s Chameleon do well as exotic pets provided specific captivity requirements are met. These giant one-horned chameleons need a large enclosure. High daytime temperatures (80-85°F) are needed for the reptile’s enclosure as well as substantial hydration.
The Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) is a very large reptile endemic to Madagascar. Adults can reach 68.5 cm (27 in) long with a prehensile tail of up to 1.5 times the body’s length. It feeds mainly on insects using its long, muscular tongue. Life span: up to 12 years. Large enclosure is recommended with a relative humidity of 70%, and the daytime temperature around 80* F. Oustalet’s Chameleons do suit well for reptile owners looking for larger chameleons to keep as exotic pets.
The Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus), also known as the Yemen Chameleon, is a large species of chameleon native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. These reptiles prefer to live in trees, bushes, or shrubs. Males can grow to be 60 cm (24 inches) long. The species sticky tongue can be more than 1.5 times the length of their bodies. Generally, this chameleon is green in color with stripes and patches of brown, blue and yellow. Veiled chameleons are omnivores – feed mainly on insects but will occasionally eat the leaves, fruits and flowers of various plants. They can live up to 5 years.
As exotic pets, Veiled chameleons require specialized care and not a good choice as a beginner’s reptile. They must be kept separately in a screened cage enclosure (24″x36″x36″) with a suitable basking area. They need daytime cage temperatures around 80* F and a relative humidity of 70%. As water source, a drip or misting system is highly recommended.
The Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a relatively large species of chameleon widespread in the northern parts of Madagascar. It prefers semi-humid to humid habitats. The species is known for its brilliant color morphs. Males wear an imposing bony appendage “helmet”. On average, adult males measure around 45 cm (17 inches). Females are smaller, at about half the size. These amazing reptiles have keen eyesight, enabling them to see small insects as far as (5–10 m) away.
When kept as exotic pets, Panther chameleons require an enclosure (terrarium) that provide plenty of sturdy non-toxic plants and branches. Artificial plants may also be added. These lizards are territorial and should be kept individually. A daytime temperature gradient of 80* F and 70% humidity should be provided, with a basking spot at 95 F (35 C). They rarely drink from a standing water source, so the misting/drip system also serves as a water source. In captivity, Panther chameleons feeding on a variety of insects, including locusts, grasshoppers, fruit flies, roaches, silkworms, and waxworms. Life Span: approximately 5 years in captivity.