Capable of displaying a rainbow of bright and vibrant colors, the panther chameleon is a unique and delightful reptile to own. Under optimal care in the proper living environment, domestic panther chameleons can live between 3 and 7 years. Read on to learn some panther chameleon facts and how to care for this exotic pet.
Get to Know the Panther Chameleon
Panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) are indigenous to Madagascar and were first imported to the United States in the 1980s. Their natural habitat is the tropical rainforest, 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 and branches, using both live and artificial plants. The panther chameleon diet consists mainly of insects. They do not usually enjoy being handled, so they are best for people who will be happy just watching them.
The ambilobe panther chameleon is the most popular sub-species for pets due to its vibrant colors. 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.
Average Size and Life Expectancy of Panther Chameleons
Male panther chameleons are larger than females, typically measuring 12 to 18 inches long and weighing 140 to 180 grams. The average female is 10 to 14 inches long and weighs 60 to 100 grams.
The male panther chameleon lifespan is between four and seven years. On the other hand, the female panther chameleon lifespan is typically shorter — around two to three years, 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 young (less than 6 months), the cage should be small enough for it to catch prey with ease. A cage that is 16x16x20 inches is the perfect size.
Once your panther chameleon grows into adulthood, bigger is always better when it comes to its living space. It should have an enclosure no smaller than 18x18x36 inches, but a larger cage is recommended for optimal health. Panther chameleons are very territorial, so do not house more than one together; they will fight.
Chameleons need a lot of fresh air and can contract 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 plenty of fresh air. If the air inside your home is dry, especially if you use an 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.
Keep the Surface Simple for Your Panther Chameleon
Your panther chameleon will spend most of its time hanging out in the plants above ground, so you don’t need any fancy type of substrate. Some people choose to leave the floor uncovered to provide effortless cleanup. You can also select something simple, such as newspapers or paper towels.
Vary the Temperature of Your 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 cooler areas to regulate its temperature; this is called thermoregulating.
Young panther chameleons prefer slightly cooler temperatures than the adults. Their 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 Chameleons Need Plenty of Light
Panther chameleons need a UVB light in which to bask for 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.
Benefits of Live Plants for Panther Chameleons
Live plants are beneficial to panther chameleon care because they contribute to more humidity in the cage. When using live plants, clean the leaves and change the soil to 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
Panther Chameleons Prefer Flowing Water
Panther Chameleons love water and use it for hydration, humidity and cleaning (for 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 shimmer of moving water. It is imperative to provide them fresh, clean water and adequate humidity throughout the day.
Live plants will help provide moisture inside 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 between misting cycles and don’t let excess water pool at the bottom. You may also invest 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.
You should maintain 60 to 80 percent humidity inside the panther chameleon’s cage. Buying a hydrometer, a device that measures the humidity inside the cage, will help to monitor your pet's environment.
What Do Panther Chameleons Eat?
As insectivores, the panther chameleon diet should consist primarily of insects, and they love variety. Crickets and dubia roaches are excellent as the main staples of chameleon food. A plethora of other insects also make for good panther chameleon food choices:
Panther chameleons love to eat worms, but don't overindulge your pet with too many. Although they are tasty for the chameleon, worms are similar to junk food for them. A little bit now and again is fine, but a better—and healthier—panther chameleon food option is a diet plan that includes plenty of dubia roaches.
Gut Load the Insects Before Feeding Your Chameleon
Before feeding insects to your panther chameleon, you must first gut load them at least 12 hours in advance to provide optimal health benefits for your pet. 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 for 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.
Your Chameleon's Feeding Schedule Depends Upon Its Age
Young panther chameleons are super hungry and will seemingly eat everything you put in front of them. At this stage, you should feed them daily. As they get older, however, chameleons won't need to eat as often—every other day is a good feeding schedule.
Practice Portion Control for your Panther Chameleon
In the wild, a panther chameleon never knows when its next meal may be, so these creatures tend to eat anything they can fit into their mouth, and as much of it as possible. As pets, finding food is not a concern anymore, as a chameleon's owner is always ready with a tasty meal. This is why it's important not to overfeed your ambilobe panther chameleon, which can get fat and suffer from diseases caused by overeating. Four or five medium-sized insects per feeding should be sufficient to keep your pet reptile happy and healthy.
Dubia Roaches: Superfood for Your Panther Chameleon
Dubia roaches are among the best options for feeding your panther chameleon. These roaches have a long lifespan (some live up to two years), which makes it easy to buy a bunch of them to keep on-hand for your chameleon's feeding time. They also do not fly, which makes them easier to manage than other feeder insects, and they don't make noise, unlike crickets. But maybe most importantly, dubia roaches are meaty and healthy for your panther chameleon. Buy dubia roaches from TopFlight Dubia today!
Buy Your Chameleon's Food From TopFlight Dubia
TopFlight Dubia offers a wide selection of top-quality dubia roaches for panther chameleons. Our clean feeder insects are available in a variety of sizes and quantities. For live panther chameleon food that will keep your pet healthy and happy, shop TopFlight Dubia today!Shop Dubia Roaches