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Panther Chameleon Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Panther Chameleon
Scientific Name:Furcifer pardalis
Life Span:5 to 7 years
Mass:Male: 140 to 180 gramsFemale: 60 to 100 grams
Length: Male: 12 to 18 inchesFemale: 10 to 14 inches
Size:35 to 50 cm
Habitat:Forest floor, the foliage of tropical forests
Country of Origin:Madagascar

Physical Description

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Panther chameleons are celebrated for the variety of their colors and their unique behavior. When you look at their skin, males appear to have more vibrant colors compared to the females. Depending on their mood or visual stimulation, males may display colors that indicate a relaxed or excited state. Their color can inform a rival male that he is willing to defend his turf and inform a potential partner that he wants to court her. Matured female panther chameleons are colored in softer hues like peach, rose, and violet. Panther chameleons can appear in varying shades of blue, green, or black while bearing bright patches of yellow, pink, orange, and red.

Now, for anatomy, their five toes are fused together to two groups of two and three, appearing like a tong. Their eyes are conical in shape and can rotate quite freely. Each of their eyes can focus on two different things at the same time. They have two small nostrils above their mouth with white mucus around their nose. Panther chameleons also look like moderately long and flexible tail that the chameleon can curl according to their needs. Male panther chameleons are also even more recognizable for bearing small ridges that protrude from their head.

Life Span

With proper care, panther chameleons usually live up to 5 years. But in some cases, in captivity, some specimens have been found to live up to 7 years. Usually, males can outlive females.

Types

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Panther chameleons can be seen in a variety of colors and sizes, and most of these variations are related to the localities where they have naturally developed. Usually, these color variations are referred to as locales. They are named using these terms, followed by the word “chameleon.” This is the current list of updated panther chameleon locales:

  1. Ambanja
  2. Ambato
  3. Ambilobe
  4. Ambodirafia
  5. Ampiskiana
  6. Andapa
  7. Ankaramy
  8. Ankify
  9. Joffreville
  10. Maroantsetra
  11. Masoala
  12. Nosy Ankarea
  13. Nosy Be
  14. Nosy Boraha
  15. Nosy Faly
  16. Nosy Mitsio
  17. Nosy Radama
  18. Reunion
  19. Sambava
  20. Tamatave

Availability 

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If you seek to care for your own panther chameleon, they are commonly available from reputable breeders and can be found in most local reptile shops, reptile shows, or some internet marketplaces. The most common locale variants are Ambilobes and Nosy Be. Depending on their color, size, and other characteristics, panther chameleons vary in price.

Caging

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Panther chameleons should never be kept in glass terrariums. They need to be well-ventilated, so you should place them on a mesh enclosure. Refine metal or fiberglass mesh is not recommended for chameleon cages. Your best option would be PVC coated hardware cloth.

Having enough vertical space is essential for the chameleon to have space to climb. The recommended size for an enclosure is 24 by 36 inches or as big as 36 by 48 inches. If you can, invest in a taller and larger one for the panther chameleon because they enjoy climbing high up off the ground. An outdoor cage can also be used when the weather is warm enough, as long as you can prevent overheating to occur.

You should provide your panther chameleon’s cage with several plants that are of no harm to them, as well as some barks, logs, and branches. Chameleon enclosures can also benefit from an installation of some Ficus trees, but it requires some caution as the sap can be irritating. You can also try using hibiscus, pothos, and dracaena. Make sure that you will provide a great selection of branches, a set with different diameters should be provided.

Substrate

To prevent any form of growth of bacteria or mold, you must make sure that your enclosure is always as clean as it can be. To better protect the cage, it is best to line the bottom with newspaper or paper towels. If you are allowing live plants in the cage, use a plain paper substrate under your potted plants for more effortless cleaning. Do not use wood chips and other forms of substrates because it might be ingested and cause blockages to the panther chameleon.

Lighting and Temperature

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Panther chameleons enjoy basking under heated temperatures, so you should make sure that the warmth is at the optimum status. They need an ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light source, so you should invest in the right light bulb. A UVB light set up is one that is usually most recommended by people, which is a strip light, having a 5.0 Reptisun lamp inside. Utilize this type of set up aside from just using some conventional basking bulb, because these lights do not emit any form of UVB. If your chameleon’s living space is big enough for the heat to disperse, use a mercury vapor bulb instead. It is an excellent source of both UVB rays and heat.

The best temperature gradient would be around 75 and 90 degrees, with a basking spot at 95 degrees. At night, the minimum temperature should not go lower than 15 degrees. Heating works best when an incandescent light in a reflector or a ceramic heat element is used. Either of these should be placed outside of the cage to prevent burning your chameleon.

Humidity

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Panther chameleons thrive in high humidity locations. It is best to target a 60 to 80 percent level of humidity. You can accomplish this by misting the plants regularly. Having a misting system is recommended.

Panther chameleons also tend to stray away from drinking in water bowls. What they enjoy is licking the leaves of some plants to gain their water content. By having a misting system, you can give the chameleon an alternate water source. A great option would be to position the drip system in a way that allows water to cascade over the plants inside the enclosure. Another excellent investment would be a hygrometer.

Diet

Panther chameleons are insectivores, so you should be ready to feed them a variety of insects. The most fundamental part of their diet is crickets, but you can also feed them silkworms, flies, locusts, roaches, butter worms, grasshoppers, mealworms, wax worms, and super worms.

But, you should be very cautious in feeding them insects caught in the wild, because there might be possible exposure to a pesticide. Also, avoid feeding them fireflies.

The insects that you should feed panther chameleons must be gut-loaded, meaning fed with fresh vegetables, vitamins, and minerals, before they are eaten by the chameleons. Besides, you can also introduce your chameleon to eating plant matter, including mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, and pods of the sugar snap pea.

If you notice some uneaten insects or the chameleon gaining a lot of weight, you can adjust the volume of food you give to them or how often you feed them. Remember not to leave any form of prey for too long because the insects might attack your chameleon.

For the best health of your chameleon, gut loads the insects well and dust the insects with a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement two to three times a week.

Eating Habits

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The recommended time to feed panther chameleons is shortly after their cage lights are turned on. Avoid feeding them during the night. Panther chameleons need the activity and the heat in the daytime to digest their food. If you see food that is not consumed during the day, remove it before nightfall.

The general rule of thumb is that the length of the insect should not exceed the width of the panther chameleon’s head. They are known for eating some gigantic insects for their size. But the possibility of them choking is very realistic, especially while they are still young.

Baby panther chameleons under 3 months old should be fed with fruit flies and pinhead crickets. Young ones commonly feed on ¼ inch to ½ inch crickets. You can also offer them small worms. The best is to provide 10 to 15 of these daily.

For adult panther chameleons, offer them treats. It is standard for panther chameleons to sidestep a newly introduced insect at first. They might not identify it as food, and it will take some time before they take the first bite. But once they do, they usually go crazy for the new treat. At this age, they are mostly eating full-size crickets. You should feed your panther chameleon daily until they are fully matured at 18 months old. An adult panther chameleon should be offered 6 to 8 crickets daily. You may also do a feeding of 12 crickets every other day.

Water and Drinking Habits

In the wild, panther chameleons typically drink from water drops on leaves after rainfall or from heavy dew. In captivity, owners should try to replicate these situations. But, there can be mistakes like giving too much or too little.

Panther chameleons love to drink, and it is because they need it. Therefore, this is one of the essential things to consider while adopting one. You can instill a dripping water system inside the cage so that the chameleon can take in full drops, whenever it wants.

Sleeping Habits

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Like most species, the sleep that a panther chameleon should get depends on many factors like age, time of year, how much food it has eaten, and how much energy is lost. On average, panther chameleons sleep around 12 hours a day. They tend to start sleeping as long as the lights are off and often assume their sleeping position 30 minutes before the lights are turned off.

The best way to regulate your chameleon’s sleeping patterns is to buy yourself a few digital timers and set it your UVB light and basking heating light.

Sometimes, panther chameleons sleep with one eye open a little bit. But, usually, you will be able to see that they are asleep as they sink their eye turrets a little and close the center part of their eye so it will look like a slit.

The best way to see if a panther chameleon is sleeping is when they display their beautiful colors. Sometimes, the colors get so bright that they are almost white. 

Chameleons in captivity can also establish their own daily routines. They sleep the way they want and choose their favorite areas to get their rest. These chameleons stick to these chosen locations until they observe something changing in their homes. A little movement of a tree or having them in a room where they feel like its crowded can change a lot of things. 

Behavior

These lizards prefer to dwell on trees and are diurnal; meaning they are active during the day. They hunt from branches of plants to big bushes so that they can find their prey. Most of the time, they enjoy being alone in the territory that they consider their home. They only spend time with their partners during the mating season.

Panther chameleons can be very territorial so it would be best to house them separately. Handling them can be very stressful, so remember that they are the type of pets that do not like handling, so you just appreciate them by staring at them as much as you want.

Like most other chameleon species, the panther chameleon can be extremely territorial. If you house two males in one enclosure, they change their color and attack each other. This is how they attract female partners when left in the wild. When the two males come face to face, they become aggressive. Aside from changing their colors, they inflate their bodies to appear larger than they really are. The contest usually ends at this period with the loser backing up and leaving. It also changes its color to a dark or drab shade. But, if the battle doesn’t end, it would lead to a physical fight.

Some care experts argue that, in captivity, two genders would never leave together peacefully. The female will end up starving to death when she is living with a male. However, you can place two females safely together. Babies and young chameleons can also live together as long as they are within the same age.

Development and Reproduction or Breeding

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When the male panther chameleon reaches 8 months old of age, they measure around 10 to 12 inches long and get ready for mating. Their female counterparts can also mate when they reach 8 months old, but it is best to start when they are at least a year old. Generally, males are ready to breed right away. The females, however, must be prepared before they start mating.

Unreceptive females turn black, hiss, gape, and can also attack and bite advancing males. If the female is interested, they change their colors from brown, white, and khaki to beautiful salmon pink. When you see a female consistently displaying her salmon pink color, you may introduce her inside the male’s enclosure.

When he is displaying his best colors, the male will begin advancing toward the female chameleon. If still proven receptive, the female remains pink in color, and she accepts the advantage. As copulation commences, it can take several hours before they are finished. Owners can keep them together for several mating sessions until they see the female rejecting the male. There is no need to watch over them the entire time. But, you must check on them when they are too aggressive, and the female must be removed in the cage immediately when it happens.

Caring for Eggs

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Then, the gestation will take about 20 to 30 days. Around 15 days after mating, the female will stop eating until she begins laying eggs. She will roam around her cage, start digging a tunnel, then, lays her eggs. The laying area should at least be 10 inches deep with enough soil that is moist enough to hold a tube. Using a 5-gallon bucket or a small rubber tub will work just fine.

Take note that during this stage, it would be best not to watch the female dig or lay. Watching over females can lead to them being scared, abandoning their laying hole, and risk dying due to not being able to put the eggs. When she is finished, take her out and return her to the cage. Give her extra water and food that is rich in calcium.

After the female is returned to her cage, carefully dig up the eggs, and keep them the same way you have found them. When you find a clutch of eggs, you will normally see a count of around 10 to 40 eggs. To keep them safe, place the eggs in a sealed container with damp vermiculite.

Place the container in a cool, dark closet and leave the eggs alone for eight to twelve months. Do not open the cases to circulate air but drill two to three 1/16 inch holes into the top.

Caring for Baby Panther Chameleons

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When it comes to hatchlings, make sure you are well-equipped with valuable knowledge to better care for your pet. Give the chameleon enough room to grow but not too much space. If the area is too large, they may lose track of their food and have a difficult time catching their prey. While they are still a baby, keep them in a screened cage about 16” by 16” by 29”. 

As a baby, your chameleon will need a basking area, close to the top of its cage with temperatures between 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a lower temperature near the bottom of its cage at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A 75 Watt bulb should be able to provide the heating needs of the baby panther chameleon. 

Plants are also essential for living space. Give your baby something to climb that will also help control the humidity. It will provide your baby chameleon some cover when he feels like getting away from it all. Live plants are ideal choices for his home. Vines are also welcome, as well as grape wood branches, sandblasted bamboo roots, and Manzanita branches.

Common Health Problems and Preventing Illnesses

Panther chameleons are susceptible to a whole lot of health problems. Here is a shortlist of some illnesses chameleon owners should look out for.

Dehydration

Although it is not really a disease, it can lead to severe sicknesses like gout and kidney failure. It is the most common condition that chameleons get and it is the most common cause of death. This is caused by inadequate water supply, so sound misting systems and an adequate amount of water are more than enough to help your pet prevent this.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This disease is caused by insufficient exposure to UVB light. A lack of calcium and imbalanced nutrition in panther chameleons can also be a considerable cause. This condition is usually seen as a slow process, so watch out for these signs: rubbery jaws, clumsiness, and bowed legs. Eventually, you will see the chameleon having trouble with climbing, appetite loss, and difficulty in projecting its tongue to eat. To help your pet, load them with vitamins and calcium, enough water, and adequate UVB light.

Thermal Burns

This condition occurs when the heat lamp is kept inside the enclosure. It also happens when the warmth is too close to the top of the cage. Chameleons do not have a suitable sensation that allows them to escape from extreme heat. Because of this, they are more susceptible to burns. Symptoms are exhibited by gray and black blisters, necrotic tissue on the skin, infection, lethargy, and closing one or both eyes. For prevention, place the heat bulb far enough that it does not get in contact with the mesh. If the burns have already occurred, you should consult a vet to help your pet.

Egg Retention

Also known as egg binding, this condition occurs when a female cannot produce mature eggs during reproduction. It can commonly be caused by anatomical defects, dehydration, large malformed eggs, improper temperature, poor condition of the mother, and lack of a suitable nesting site. Watch out for inactivity, depression, and lethargy from your pregnant panther chameleon. The intervention of a vet is necessary for illnesses like this because your chameleon will be given an oxytocin shot to help her lay some eggs.

Stomatitis

Also known as chameleon mouth disease, this disease affects the tongue, palate, esophagus, and the oral cavity of a chameleon. It happens when there is an untreated infection spreading to the jaw bone. It can be caused by poor animal husbandry, poor nutrition, and bacterial infection. A gum line stained with a brownish-yellow matter which surrounds the periphery of the gums and teeth is an early symptom if this one, so you should check on that. When you see this health concern, go straight to the vet for a shot of antibiotics. You may also be given an antibacterial solution that you have to apply to the affected area until your pet chameleon gets better. 

Respiratory Infections

If your pet chameleon gets exposed in an enclosure where it is too cold, too dry, too wet, or too low, it may contract a respiratory disease. Symptoms of this disease include loss of appetite, gaping, lethargy, and labored breathing.  You can prevent your pet from contracting this illness so that you can make sure your pet won’t get sick. Antibiotics are used for this kind of treatment.

Edema

If you give your chameleon too many vitamins, it may develop edema. A significant sign of this disease is excessive swelling in the throat, neck, and chest. To avoid sickness, do not be tempted to feed your pet on food that is gut loaded with too many vitamins.

Parasitic Infections

As a chameleon owner, you would never want it to have some parasites. If you feed them insects from the wild or if you have some hygienic issues, they might contract this. Watch out for weakness in your pet and things like dehydration, weight loss, diarrhea, smelly feces, and a swollen belly. The best bet is to leave the diagnosis and treatment of this to veterinarians.

Fun Facts about Panther Chameleon

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  1. In 1829, a French naturalist named Georges Cuvier was credited to have been the first to describe the Panther Chameleon.
  2. The panther chameleon is a kind of chameleon that was known to have originated from the northern and eastern areas of Madagascar. Up until now, they are believed to live in the country.
  3. The panther chameleon gets its name from a Latin word, “pardalis.” This means “spotted like a panther” or “leopard.”
  4. In terms of taxonomy, the panther chameleon is part of Reptilia, under Class, Squamata, under Order, and Iguana, under Suborder. Basically, this means that they are reptiles with scales in the same family as iguanas.
  5. According to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1999, the limit of taking out panther chameleons from their homes in Madagascar is limited to 2,000 individuals per year. This move will assure that their number will not drastically decrease in their natural habitat.
  6. In terms of their population status, the panther chameleon belongs to the section of the least concern. Meaning, there are no signs of them facing extinction any time soon. According to its governing bodies, panther chameleons have benefited from breeding attempts in captivity and their peaceful existence, with freedom of breeding, in their natural habitats.
  7. The generic name of the Panther Chameleon is Furcifer. This word is taken from “Furci,” which means “forked” in Latin. The said quality describes the figure of the panther chameleon’s feet. Its feet are comprised of five toes that are stuck together to make two sets. These two sets, where one has three and the other two, make each foot look like a fork.
  8. The panther chameleon also has an elongated tail. This is nature’s way to provide the chameleon with an extra limb that allows it to climb trees and other high located plants without chances of falling or losing balance.
  9. Similar to other subspecies in their family, they have heads that can extend into their casque. The casque is a bone structure surrounded by muscle and fat located on the chameleon’s back. This can be identifiable once they reach eight months old.
  10. Additionally, chameleons do not have natural intuitive ways to defend themselves. In dealing with predators and prey, they do not have toxins, poison, or venom. Unfortunately, they are also not quick enough to run and escape threatening creatures. They are also not equipped to induce a fatal bite.

Danger to Humans

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Panther chameleons are not really dangerous. They can be aggressive and hiss at humans, but this just serves as a warning to avoid getting bitten by them. They are definitely not poisonous.

Generally, chameleons are peaceful reptiles, but like everybody else, they can get cranky, too. Chameleons have a pretty weak defense mechanism against predators, their best option is to try and blend in with their surroundings. This is the reason for their coloration and jerky movements to mimic leaves.

The only real other option they have is to make them bigger, a defense mechanism applied by many animals in nature. When they feel threatened a chameleon will puff themselves up, gaping open their mouths and hiss. This can be kind of intimidating if you’re not used to it, more so when you’re near them because you instinctively feel the chameleon is going to strike you, but this doesn’t mean they’re dangerous.

Where to Get Panther Chameleons

Panther chameleons are usually available in pet stores, specifically, pet reptile stores. Be careful to transact only with reputable breeders and pet stores. This will ensure that you will get a healthy one. You can seek advice from a veterinarian that specializes in exotic breeds’ medicine. Some reptile magazines and experts can also recommend several pet stores and breeders.

Take note only to purchase a captive-bred chameleon. Compared to wild-caught chameleons, those raised in captivity are healthier, less stressed, and free from parasitic concerns. Additionally, it is illegal to transport and capture wild chameleons.

FAQ Section

Are panther chameleons dangerous?

Not really. Panther chameleons are quite solitary animals. Forced handling or unwanted handling can cause hissing and biting. A chameleon’s bite is painful, however, not toxic or harmful to humans.

When do panther chameleons change colors?

They display various colors depending on how they are feeling. Even when at rest, a panther chameleon can show some vibrant colors. Also, when males are in the presence of females, they will display their bright breeding colors. They also change their colors when sleeping.

Do panther chameleons smell?

No, chameleons do not smell. They are relatively clean reptiles, as long as you keep your enclosure clean, you will not have any problems with odors.

What temperature do panther chameleons need?

Matured panther chameleons require a basking spot of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit with the ambient temperature between 75 to 85 degrees; younger panther chameleons should have a low temperature of 75 degrees and a basking area of 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Do panther chameleons die quickly?

On average, chameleons can live up to 7 years. Some can even live longer. They can die quickly without proper care and guidance.

Are panther chameleons nice?

Panther chameleons generally prefer being alone and not enjoy much handling. However, many experts testify that panther chameleons have great temperaments and some tolerate handling and recognize their owners.

How do panther chameleons sleep?

Most chameleons sleep while clutching a branch in the same area in which they feed. But most panther chameleons establish their own routine and sleep where they are comfortable in their living space.

When does a panther chameleon get their colors?

Panther chameleons develop their full coloration at 18 months old. But, you will notice them displaying beautiful colors starting at six months. At ten months, they will be fully colored, but their brightest colors come at 18 months.

Can panther chameleons be housed together?

No. Panther chameleons are very territorial. Even one male and one female should not be housed together because it gives them stress. 

Is it okay to use a glass terrarium?

In general, it is better to avoid glass enclosures. You will need a mesh-enclosed cage for your panther chameleon. Proper ventilation is a necessity for panther chameleons.

Do chameleons scream or make noise?

No, chameleons do not make noise. Occasionally, they might give off a hissing sound. When the community talks about “screaming,” they mean their bright and vibrant colors, and not their ability to scream.

Can you handle panther chameleons?

Panther chameleons are not like domestic pets and dogs. Handling them can be a little pointless. You can take care of your chameleon in different ways. Basically, try not to characterize your chameleons with human feelings, since you cannot be entirely aware of what is inside its head.

What does a panther chameleon eat?

Crickets would be the most popular choice. But, panther chameleons also eat other insects, worms, bugs, grasshoppers, dried flies, and roaches.

What is gut loading?

Gut loading means that you feed your insects nutritious foods before feeding them to your chameleon. It also involves dusting the insects with calcium throughout the week.

How does a panther chameleon drink?

Panther chameleons do not like to drink from standing water sources, and they actually pee and poop on standing water. They prefer to drink water droplets, so you should have a misting system for that.

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