Panther Chameleons

a Panther Chameleon hanging from a plant

Panther Chameleons are a lizard native to Madagascar, an island in the south east of Africa. These lizards are able to change color rapidly, allowing them to blend into their environment. They are very agile, and can climb trees and bushes. They’re one of the few reptiles that can change their skin’s color to blend into their environment.

Panther Chameleons are known for loving to climb walls and trees, and will spend most of their time off the floor of their enclosure. They are very capable of climbing almost anything. They are also very curious, and will enjoy investigating everything in their environment.

Panther Chameleons can be several different colors, including black, green, pink, yellow or blue. Panther Chameleons can be very entertaining to watch, especially when they change colors. They are very easy to care for and will require little maintenance.

A Panther Chameleon needs a large enclosure, because it needs a lot of room to climb and move vertically in their enclosure. You’ll also need to create a hiding place for your Chameleon, so it doesn’t feel threatened by other animals in the house.

They are very easy to take care of, and will only need basic things like food and water. They are very calm and laid back, and are content just hanging out in their enclosure. You can purchase a Panther Chameleon from a reptile store, or a breeder. They are not cheap pets and will typically cost between $150 and $450.

Panther Chameleon Information

  • Average Length: Males – 21 inches, Females – 13 inches
  • Average Weight: Males – 6.2 ounces, Females – 3.85 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Multi-color with markings
  • Skin Colors: Blue, Green, Black, Yellow and Pink
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes! 
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Metabolic Bone Disease, Respiratory Issues, Mouth Rot and Gastrointestinal Disease.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 5 years


Panther Chameleons are native to Madagascar. While they can be found throughout the island, the vast majority of them exist only on the eastern and northern coasts.

Physical Appearance of Panther Chameleons

a close up of a Panther Chameleons head

Panther Chameleons are one of the most colorful species of Chameleons. These Chameleons can be a variety of different colors like blue, green, black, yellow and red all along their body. 

Males are specifically colorful with unique patterns or markings on their abdomen. Females are less colorful with most being a salmon pink color throughout their lives. While all Chameleons can change colors, Panther Chameleons seem to be able to change color faster than other Chameleons. They can dramatically change their colors in less than a minute. 

Males are longer than females. Adult males can grow up to 21 inches long and adult females up to 13 inches long. 

Males have a large crest on their heads and females have a less prominent, smaller crest.

Temperament of Panther Chameleons

While all Chameleons are territorial and aggressive, Panther Chameleons are known to be the least aggressive. Young Panther Chameleons prefer to hide and start fights but become calmer as they get older. Panther Chameleons can rapidly change their color when they feel stressed or fearful.

They are more likely to let you handle them than other Chameleon species. Handling should still be infrequent because like all Chameleons, excessive handling stresses them.

Panthers Chameleons are solitary animals and should be kept alone.

Their Compatibility with Children

Because Panther Chameleons are docile children can handle them without the risks of other Chameleons. Always have an adult supervise when children are playing with your Panther Chameleons until you know how they will interact. These lizards are fragile and children may accidentally drop them.

a rainbow colored Panther Chameleon standing at the end of a branch

Children should always wash their hands after handling your Chameleons. This is because most reptiles are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Washing their hands should prevent your children from contracting bacterial and fungal illnesses from your Chameleons.

Living Space for Panther Chameleons

Panther Chameleons should be housed in a cage with a screen. A screen keeps their enclosure ventilated but it may have problems containing the moisture. They are still better than glass tanks because glass tanks have extremely poor ventilation.

Reptile cages are an option or many Chameleon owners will make a DIY reptile enclosure. Panther Chameleons can be housed in outdoor enclosures but only if it doesn’t get very hot outside. Refer to the temperature section for more information.

Panther Chameleons like to live alone and their cage should be kept in a quiet room. They prefer a quiet room because noise can stress them. 

Enclosure/Cage Size

Young Panther Chameleons (under 6 months old) can be kept in a smaller 16”L x16”W x20”T cage. They should be moved to a larger enclosure when they get larger. Adults will need an enclosure with a minimum size of 24”L x24”W x48”T. If they can be kept in a larger enclosure then it will be better for them. The height of the cage is more important than length or width because Panther Chameleons are tree dwelling reptiles. They rarely spend time on the floor and love climbing on things.

Decorations

a red and blue Panther Chameleon resting on a branch

Panther Chameleons are tree-dwelling reptiles and like to climb. They’ll need several plants and branches inside their enclosure. Plants make them feel secure because it gives them places to hide. The plants help keep the tank humid as well as hide them. 

The plants should be dense but not overgrown. Good plant options are fig trees, umbrella plants and Pothos.

Make sure that the plants and branches used in their cage are secure so your Panther Chameleon can climb on them. The branches shouldn’t be too small or your Panther Chameleons might have difficulty gripping them. Think about the Goldilocks rule, not too big, not too small, but just right for your Chameleon to grasp.

Substrate

For substrate there are a few good choices. 2 to 3 inches of coconut fiber or reptile bark works really well. Reptile carpet is also a good choice if you want something longer lasting. Paper towels, butcher paper and newspapers can be good substrate options if you’re in a pinch and the other ones are not available. Paper may not be the best choice, but it is easy to replace.

Avoid using substrates like gravel, sand, moss or others that are made of small particles. Small particles can get attached to their tongue while catching prey. By not having any small particles, you keep them from accidentally eating indigestible substrate. 

Avoid using wood chips for substrate because these can cause health issues for your Panther Chameleons if they are ingested.

Best Climate for Panther Chameleons

Panther Chameleons prefer a more moderate temperature and slightly higher humidity than most Chameleons.

Temperature

a rainbow Panther Chameleon walking up a branch

The daytime temperature in their enclosure should be kept 75°F to 85°F with a basking spot at 90°F. The temperature at night can range between 70 to 75°F but should not fall below 68°F. 

Basking or incandescent lights can be used to keep the temperature at the desired heat. A ceramic heater is also a good choice for keeping the basking area hot.

Humidity

Panther Chameleons prefer a humidity of 60 to 85 percent. Misting the plants regularly should help keep the humidity between higher, but it might not be enough. Keeping plants in the enclosure as well as a substrate that retains moisture can help keep the humidity levels higher. If its still difficult to keep the humidity high enough installing a drip system can help by adding new water to the habitat regularly.

Panther Chameleons don’t need a water bowl because they won’t drink water from them. They stay hydrated by licking water from the leaves. Regular misting is important to keep the enclosure humid and keep your Panther Chameleons hydrated.

Lighting

Panther Chameleons need UVB lighting in their enclosure. The UV light should be kept on for 12 hours a day. Make sure they are positioned out of reach of your Panther Chameleons so they don’t come in contact with them. UV bulbs should be replaced every 6 months because they lose their efficiency.

The Attention a Panther Chameleon Needs

Panther Chameleons are relatively docile among Chameleons and may let you handle them. The temperament of individuals can vary and their owners should be careful and avoid frequent handling. Handling your Chameleon too much can stress them.

Most of their attention needs have to do with keeping your Panther Chameleon’s enclosure clean and the climate within the recommended range. Several thermometers and hygrometers will be needed in their enclosure to make sure it’s warm and humid enough.

Health Issues

Common Health issues in Chameleons include:

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory infections are a common health issue in reptiles. Poor enclosure conditions like excessive cold or humidity as well as stress can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia. 

Symptoms include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Bubbles in mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy

Take your reptile to your vet if they have any of the above symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. If the infection is severe, they may need to be hospitalized.

Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Maintaining the right temperature gradient and humidity levels inside their living enclosures can prevent your reptile from getting respiratory diseases.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is an infection in a reptile’s mouth. Mouth rot is very serious and can cause your reptile a great deal of pain, and could eventually lead to their death. Mouth rot is typically caused by an injury to your reptile’s mouth, or their enclosure not being kept at the correct conditions.

Symptoms of mouth rot in your reptile are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Blood in your pets mouth or their water bowl
  • Swollen areas in their mouth
  • Weight loss

The first step to fixing the problem is finding out if they injured their mouth on something, or if their enclosure’s conditions are not right. If their mouth is injured you should get them to a vet to have them look at your reptile. If the problem is environmental then fix the problems in their enclosure.

No matter what the cause of your reptile’s mouth rot, you’ll still need to take your reptile to your vet because the treatment requires prescription antibiotics. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the mouth rot. Because this infection kills tissues in your reptile’s mouth, areas may need to be removed, including teeth. It’s better to prevent this problem before it happens by keeping your reptile’s enclosure at the conditions they need to be happy.

Gastrointestinal Disease

Gastrointestinal (GI) disease is a common parasitic infection found in reptiles, including tortoises. The disease can also be caused by improper feeding habits.

Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Weight loss 
  • Runny or smeared stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea 

A major cause of concern is that this disease can be transmitted to humans while handling the sick animal. This is why its important to wash up after handling each reptile you have.

If you find any of the above symptoms in your reptile, take them to a vet immediately. Your vet will take a sample of your reptile’s stool to identify the parasite. In most cases medication will help treat the disease.

Salmonella

All reptiles are potential carriers of salmonella bacteria. The bacteria is present on their skin and shells (for turtles) but doesn’t seem to harm them. A major concern is that the disease can be transmitted to humans. Salmonella can cause serious and life-threatening conditions in humans. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain in humans

As a preventive measure, we always recommend washing your hands after handling any reptiles. Pregnant women, young children and older people shouldn’t handle reptiles. These people are at an increased risk of getting infected because they have a weaker immune system.

Grooming and Care

Chameleons shed their skin regularly and younger Chameleons shed even more often. When your Chameleon is preparing to shed, their skin color will become dull and they may start eating less. They might start rubbing their skin against the tank or branches to loosen the skin or puff out their eyes.

Chameleons don’t need a bath because it can be stressful for them. Chameleons keep themselves clean by shedding their dead skin. They shed often enough that they don’t need to do anything else to keep clean.

To help them shed, make sure the humidity is high enough in their tank, or even a little high. If it is below the range you can mist the tank as needed to keep it up. An automatic drip system is a great way to make sure that water is being added to their tank regularly and will help keep the humidity higher. Higher humidity conditions will help your Chameleons shed easier and with less stress.

Remove the old skin after it has been shed while you spot clean their enclosure. Avoid peeling any skin off of them yourself because it can cause bleeding or infections.

Remove extra food and any fecal matter from the tank daily. Replace the substrate completely once a month.

Their nails do not require trimming because they need the nails to climb and grip the branches. Their nails should wear down naturally because of all the climbing they do.

The top of the tank should be cleaned every other week. A deep cleaning should be done to the entire tank once a month. While doing the deep cleaning, remove your Chameleon as well as all decorations and sticks from the tank. Use a 5 percent bleach solution to clean the entire tank. Disinfect artificial decorations before placing them back inside. Rinse the enclosure carefully and let it dry completely before putting your Chameleon back inside.

Once the enclosure is dry, add the decorations and place your Chameleon inside. Always wash your hands after cleaning their tank or handling them.

mealworms are great food for a Panther Chameleon

Feeding A Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleons are insect eating reptiles and crickets should be their primary diet. If you want to give your Chameleon some variety they can also be fed locusts, butter worms, roaches, silkworms, grasshoppers. Superworms, mealworms and waxworms. Avoid feeding them wasps, fireflies or other insects that can sting.

Young Chameleons under 6 months should be fed 2 – 3 times a day. From 6 months until 12 they only need to be fed once a day. Once they reach a year they only need to be fed about 3 times a week. The reason younger Chameleons need to be fed more often is because they are growing. After they hit 12 months most of their growing has stopped so they don’t need as much food.

Young Panther Chameleons should be fed as many crickets as they want to eat everyday. This might mean you are feeding them 12 to 15 smaller crickets per day. Avoid feeding them wild-caught insects because these could have been exposed to pesticides. Make sure you remove any uneaten insects after about 5 to 10 minutes.

Gut loaded insects are best and don’t take that much more time than regular feeder insects. We have a great article on how to Gut Load your feeder insects. Dusting feeder insects with calcium and vitamin supplements every other week is another great way to get your Chameleon extra calcium. Dusting your Chameleon’s food is very important if your pet is housed indoors because they might not be getting enough UV rays. The extra calcium will help protect them from MBD.

A small portion of their diet should consist of plant material. Give them small amounts of fruits and vegetables like collard greens, dandelion leaves, kale, butternut squash, blueberries and thin slices of pear or apple. The fruits and vegetables will help round out their diet and make sure they’re not nutritionally deficient.

Because Chameleons don’t drink from a water bowl, it’s not necessary to add a bowl inside their tank. Make sure that there is condensation or water drops available for them to drink so they don’t dehydrate.

Related Questions:

Why are They Called Panther Chameleons?

Panther Chameleons have black markings on their body that look similar to the ones on panther cats. The stripes are what give them their name.