Panther Chameleon (Furcifer Pardalis)

A rainbow of bright and vibrant colors, the panther chameleon is a very unique and delightful reptile to own. Panther chameleons are indigenous to Madagascar and were first imported to the United States in the 1980s. Their natural habitat is the tropical rain forest – where they live in the trees and vines above the forest floors. The vertical tendencies of the panther chameleon allow you to create a fun and visually stimulating environment full of vines, branches and both live and artificial plants. Note, panther chameleons do not usually enjoy being handled, so they are best for people who will be happy just watching them.

Colors of Panther Chameleons

Panther chameleons can be found in a range of brilliant colors such as blue, green, yellow, orange, pink and black. Some of them have vertical bars of vibrant blue and red. Others have bright yellow mouths. Panther chameleons reveal color changes to show their mood, to communicate or to blend in with their habitat. They even can change color to absorb and reflect heat more effectively. 

Male panther chameleons have a wide range of color combinations and will use them to indicate whether they are in an excited or relaxed state. Green colors typically show that the chameleons are calm and relaxed, while yellow colors suggest anger and aggression. When the males are ready to mate, they turn shades of blue to court the female chameleons. 

Female panther chameleons are usually hues of brown and orange. They will turn soft pastel peach, rose or violet when they are ready to mate. If she is not interested, the female will display quite the opposite: dramatic combinations of black with red, orange or pink. Panther chameleons are very aggressive towards each other – hence the name “panther” – and should never be housed together.

Fun Facts About Panther Chameleons

  • Panther chameleons have long, sticky tongues to catch their prey midair 
  • A fairly long and flexible tail helps the panther chameleon climb trees 
  • On each foot, they have five toes that are fused together in two groups – one with two fingers and one with three fingers. This makes their feet look like tongs 
  • Panther chameleons have cone-shaped eyes that extend out of their heads and can turn on their own, in different directions 
  • For protection, their eyes are covered in scaly skin 
  • Males have ridges around the sides of their head that make them look like they are wearing a helmet

Average Size and Life Expectancy of Panther Chameleons

Male panther chameleons are larger than females, typically measuring 12 to 18 inches and weighing 140 to 180 grams. The average female is 10 to 14 inches and weighs 60 to 100 grams. 
Under optimal care and living environment, domestic panther chameleons can live between three and seven years. Females may live shorter than this, especially if they have been bred.

Housing Your Panther Chameleon

Panther chameleons are tree-dwellers by nature, so you will want to design an enclosure that is well-suited for vertical climbing. When the chameleon is small (under six months), the cage should be small enough for it to catch prey with ease. A 16-inch x 16-inch x 20-inch cage would be excellent. 

Once your panther chameleon grows into adulthood, bigger is always better for its cage. It should have an enclosure of at least 18-inch x 18-inch x 36-inch, but larger is recommended for optimal health. Again, panther chameleons are very territorial, so do not house more than one together, they will fight. 

Chameleons need a lot of fresh air, and they can get upper respiratory infections if they are left in stagnant air. Consider either an all-screen cage or a cage with at least two screened walls to provide ample amounts of fresh air. If the air inside your home is dry, especially if you use the air conditioner or heater, having a few glass walls can be valuable for retaining humidity in the cage. In warmer months, you can use an outdoor cage. 

The panther chameleon’s home should be designed for life above ground. Include lots of vegetation, vines, branches and a mix of live and artificial plants. Panther chameleons love to climb, and an assortment of greenery will give them climbing entertainment and places to hide. Include a few areas that are entirely hidden from view to provide them with a full sense of security. 

Live plants are beneficial because they contribute to more humidity in the cage. When using live plants, make sure to clean off the leaves and change the soil to ensure you remove any pesticides. Replant them in a natural potting soil, and place smooth stones over the dirt, so the feeder insects don’t bury underneath. Some great options for live plants include:
  • Weeping Fig 
  • Umbrella Plant 
  • Pothos Plant 
  • Hibiscus 
  • Dracaena

Panther Chameleon Substrate

Since your panther chameleon will be hanging out in the plants above ground the whole time, you don’t need any fancy type of substrate. Some people choose to leave the floor uncovered, as this provides effortless cleanup. You can also select something simple, such as newspapers or paper towels.

Temperature of Panther Chameleon Cage

Panther chameleons are ectotherms, so they need different temperatures throughout their cage. Create a basking spot with a heat lamp positioned above a branch or vine so the chameleon can climb as close to the heat as it likes. Place the heat lamp over the screen or suspend it from the top of the cage. 

You should have two thermometers, one on either side of the enclosure, to ensure the temperature is in the correct range. The basking area should be on one side of the cage and should be between 95- and 100-degrees Fahrenheit. The other side of the cage should be between 75- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. The chameleon will move from warmer areas to colder areas to thermoregulate (regulate its temperature). 

Young panther chameleons prefer slightly cooler temperatures than the adults do. The basking spot should be between 85- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit and the other side of the cage should be around 75-degrees Fahrenheit. If your home drops below 68-degrees at night, use a ceramic heat emitter.

Panther Chameleon Lighting

Panther chameleons need a UVB light to bask in about 12 hours a day. They rely on the UVB light to stay healthy and to regulate eating and sleeping patterns. Position a branch about six inches under the light so the chameleon can bask in the glow and synthesize critical vitamin D.

Water & Humidity for your Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleons love water and use it for hydration, humidity and to clean their eyes. Unlike some other reptiles, panther chameleons will not drink water from a dish. Instead, they prefer water that moves and flows – they are attracted to the glisten. It is imperative to provide them fresh, clean water and adequate humidity throughout the day. 

Live plants will help to provide moisture in the enclosure, but you will also want to mist the chameleon two to three times a day. Always allow time for the housing to dry out in between misting cycles and don’t let excess water pool at the bottom. You can also consider investing in an automatic drip or rain system and run it during the day twice a week. This will give the chameleon big, juicy droplets of water to drink and will also keep the plants watered. 

The humidity levels in the panther chameleon’s cage should be around 60 to 80 percent. To ensure these levels are maintained, invest in a hydrometer, which is a device that measures the humidity inside the cage.

Panther Chameleon Food

Panther chameleons are insectivores and love eating a diet full of variety. Crickets & dubia roaches are excellent as the main staple, while you can also factor in a variety of these insects as well: 

Before feeding the insects to your panther chameleon, you must first gut load them at least 12 hours in advance to provide optimal health benefits. Gut loading the insects consists of feeding them a nutritious powdered diet. You feed the insects by placing them in a container with the powder, along with a piece of a potato as a form of hydration. You should also dust the insects with a powder containing essential vitamins, minerals and calcium before feeding them to the panther chameleon. To dust the insects, place them in a bag or can with the powder and shake lightly to coat.


The panther chameleon is the perfect pet for anyone who is more interested in observing a beautiful creature in its natural habitat than playing with it. Whether they are hunting for insects with their long sticky tongues, changing color or climbing in the vines with their tong shaped hands, panther chameleons are sure to provide you hours of entertainment – and fascinate your house guests!