All You Need to Know About Panther Chameleons as Pets


All You Need to Know About Panther Chameleons as Pets

Say what you like about the panther chameleon, but one undisputed fact remains, they make your life brighter. I’m not talking about their cheerful personality (they hardly have any), nor the instant connection they create with their humans (it’s not instant by a long mile). I’m referring to their rainbow colors which change constantly giving you a different pet every time.

Panther chameleons add a touch of color to your home. Their pied skin reflects a rainbow of color around the clock. They’re small animals which makes them easy to handle and the right pet for curious children attracted by their spectacular hues and shades. In short, they are a fascinating pet to adopt, watch, and marvel at.

In the movie Blade Runner 2049, the digital girlfriend ‘Joi’ changes dresses and makeup on the fly while serving dinner to the protagonist ‘K. Now your pet panther chameleon may not serve you dinner or light your cigarette with its finger, but it will change its colors and styles in a similar way. Read on to find out all that you need to know about these wondrous and colorful lizards.

Are Panther Chameleons Good Pets?

With a name that means in its original Greek, earth lion, it’s not hard to imagine why people would want to keep these reptiles as pets. You buy yourself a green panther chameleon and the next morning you find it all shades of red and violet. It’s like having a new pet every day.

While all of that is true, and there’s no dull moment around panther chameleons, you should know that they are not easy to keep. For one thing, all these color changes are not for your personal pleasure. Panther chameleons change color because, among other things, they’re stressed or going through emotionally rough times.

If you have no prior experience raising reptiles, don’t start with this species. They’re not the cuddly type and if you approach them without caution, you’ll trigger a change of color that reflects their rising levels of anger. These are animals that when they see red, they turn red.

How Much Does a Panther Chameleon Cost?

When you consider purchasing a panther chameleon and wonder how much they cost, you’re not just talking about the price of the lizard. You need to factor in the costs involved in raising the reptile from housing to feeding and the odd visit to the vet.

On average, buying a panther chameleon will set you back anything between $140 to over $600. As we mentioned they put a colorful display for anyone who cares to watch. So you’re not just paying for any pet, this is a showboat of a pet that will keep you entertained for long hours.

Food, housing, lighting, and upkeep will need a substantial investment on your side as well. These rainbow reptiles hail from hot Madagascar and they thrive in a habitat similar to their original home in every way including food, humidity, and bright lights. You can set aside $500 annually on a conservative estimate to raise one panther chameleon.

How Big Does a Panther Chameleon Get?

One of the most appealing qualities of panther chameleons is that they don’t get too big to handle. And even though there are differences in size between the males and females of the species, that difference is no more than a couple of inches at most.

Male panther chameleons grow to the modest length of 12 inches and some might even reach 18 inches which makes them giants by lizard standards. The females, on the other hand, keep a low profile and stay within the 10- to 14-inch range.

For many owners, this is fortunate. Imagine the costs of keeping a panther chameleon if it grew to the size of a cat for example. By staying small and manageable, panther chameleons only endear themselves to their humans. Their weight correlates to their small size with the average male weighing 180 grams on a good day while the female watches her weight and won’t allow herself to get over 100 grams.

How Long Do Panther Chameleons Live?

For their small size, panther chameleons are known for longevity. With proper care and in the right conditions they might live to the ripe old age of 7 years. When we talk about longevity as related to panther chameleons, we are talking in relative terms of course.

When a panther chameleon celebrates its fifth year on this earth, it becomes wistful and starts to act its age. They will be slower, even slower than their young and spritely kin who might not appear to be moving to the naked eye.

Still, if you want your rainbow reptile to live beyond the normal age of 7 years, you’ll have to feed it a special panther chameleon diet. That’s a diet that consists of protein-rich crickets to give your pet a long and unnatural life the way Sauron’s Ring gave Bilbo Baggins.

What are the Different Types of Panther Chameleons?

Just like people, panther chameleons come in various locales. These locales each have a distinct color based on which geographical location the panther chameleon originally hails from. In a recent study, scientists managed to classify panther chameleons into 20 locales.

They named each new colored lizard based on where it was first discovered. So you will have the Joffreville panther chameleon which is very much different from the lizard found in Sambava which has the same name as that tiny island.

Other locales include Ambanja, Maroantsetra, Tamatave, and Reunion. And you also got a whole family of Nosy panther chameleons. These are Nosy Be, Nosy Faly, Nosy Ankarea, Nosy Boraha, Nosy Radama, and Nosy Mitsio. We don’t like to judge, but it appears this family is notorious for its prominent schnozzle.

What Age Do Panther Chameleons Change Color?

When you buy your baby panther chameleon you take it home anxiously and sit there watching for hours to put a show for you. Most likely, you’ll be disappointed. You might think the seller gave you a fake chameleon or a lizard with makeup to make it look like a panther chameleon.

That couldn’t be further from the truth though. You do have a panther chameleon, but it’s too young and hasn’t developed her color-changing skills yet. It will take about a year and a half before the chameleon starts showing its true colors.

But that doesn’t mean that during these 18 months your pet wouldn’t surprise you with some fancy dresses of its own. One day it’s green, the next, it’s a deep purple that immediately fades into a drab yellow when it spots you peeping at it.

Why is My Panther Chameleon Black?

Out of the millions of color combinations, panther chameleons have at their disposal, black is the least favorite. In fact, that color is reserved for special occasions, none of which are happy ones. You might say the lizard is mourning and you wouldn’t be more or less accurate. The four main reasons your panther chameleon is black are

  • Stress: there are many reasons panther chameleons get stressed. The enclosure might be too small for them, they have nowhere to hide, or you might have left a few crickets in the cage with them that really annoy them.
  • Fear: the lizards might be scared because other pets or chameleons are getting on its nerves, or it might see too many people in the room around it. Also, make sure the cage is away from the window. Cars and other urban fixtures inspire fear in the gentle chameleon.
  • Low Temperature: as the cold-blooded reptiles they are, panther chameleons need the room to be warm to keep them feeling cheerful. The cage should be in the mid-90s Fahrenheit to get them looking lively and bring out the rosy color on their cheeks.
  • All of the Above: the panther chameleons will turn dark for any of these reasons or a combination of them. Check for safety, comfort, and cage temperature.

Are Panther Chameleons Aggressive?

Even though panther chameleons are not the cuddly pet you had in mind when you fantasized about owning a multi-color lizard, that doesn’t mean that they are aggressive to humans by nature or that they view you as an enemy.

That said, this calm demeanor of these reptiles would change on the drop of a dime when two adult males meet during the mating season. Competition over females is not a unique feature among people. And while you may not go to extreme lengths to eliminate a rival to the beauty you matched with on the dating app, panther chameleons take this stuff seriously.

When they meet up, the two males change their colors and swell their chests to look more intimidating. If one of them doesn’t beat a hasty retreat at this stage, then a vicious fight ensues. Make sure your panther chameleons are of the same gender in the enclosure. Also, don’t stick your finger in the cage or you might get bitten.

Are Panther Chameleons Endangered?

Thanks to their camouflage and ability to blend in their background, panther chameleons have managed to survive and even flourish in the wild. According to IUCN 3.1 are not an endangered species. In fact, their official categorization is LC which stands for Least Concerned.

What all of this means to you is that you’re owning a pet that is one among many. Its brothers and sisters and thousands of cousins are foraging safely in the jungle. You can raise this one as your own pet and enjoy all its spectacular color shows without worrying about the safety of the species.

Do Panther Chameleons Like to be Held?

That depends on your approach and social skills. You should treat your panther chameleon the way you plan for a new date. Take deliberate and slow steps as you approach the one you fancy otherwise you will spook them and make them run.

Panther chameleons are sensitive and alert. They’re also slow in their movement and don’t appreciate anything moving too fast. To hold the colorful lizard, slowly hold its front with one hand as you untangle its tail with the other. Don’t keep a finger near its mouth or you might get a nasty bite.

Now slowly allow the panther chameleon to find your fingers and hold on to them with its paws. With the tail freed, you can now pick it up slowly and bring it closer to you.

How Long Does it Take for Panther Chameleon Eggs to Hatch?

When the female panther chameleon comes of age, it knows it doesn’t have much time to lose if it wants to preserve its species and populate the realm of rainbow reptiles. Once she becomes fertile at the tender age of seven months, the lady panther chameleon will actively pursue any male within sight and mate with the one who has an excellent physique.

The mating ritual is rather entertaining. The male reptile will bob its head up and down and spread its colors all over the place. If the female is impressed, she’ll invite him to a safe place for a little fun.

The mating season is usually between January and May every year. After 6 months the baby reptiles hatch and make a dramatic entrance.

How Many Eggs Does a Panther Chameleon Lay?

During her lifetime, the female panther chameleon only lays eggs only 5 to 8 times. The eggs are anything between 10 and 40 per clutch depending on how healthy and well-fed the reptile is. If you do the math, you’ll come to the conclusion that the whole brood a female lizard can produce is no more than 320 younguns.

This assumes that all the eggs would hatch or that they all will survive. And even though the female panther chameleon lives between 5 and 7 years on average, not all those years are fertile ones. The last two years of the lizard’s life are infertile and she would die after that. This gives her a narrow window to mate and breed.

Do Female Panther Chameleons Lay Infertile Eggs?

This is a phenomenon that female panther chameleons share with other species such as chickens. If you grew up on a farm or your mom liked to raise chickens in the backyard, you no doubt have heard about infertile eggs. Even with a virile rooster in their midst, the hens would slip out the occasional infertile egg.

The same applies to female lizards. The panther chameleon produces a limited number of eggs throughout her fertile years and not all of them will hatch. The reasons are still not known why some of those eggs are infertile. In some cases, the whole clutch might be infertile and you’ll have to wait until next year to see some young hatchlings in your enclosure.

Caring for Panther Chameleons

The Temperament of Panther Chameleons

We already mentioned that panther chameleons, for the most part, display a calm disposition unless provoked. The easiest way to provoke them is to place two adult males in the same cage during mating season and watch them duke it out together.

But there are other ways to get your pet riled up. One of them is to plunge your hand in the enclosure, grab the reptile, and yank it out. Not only can you hurt the panther chameleon that way, but there’s a good chance it might lose its tail for good.

It’s no wonder then that panther chameleons don’t like to be held, cuddled, or have human hands come inside their cages. You’ll need to have developed a special rapport with your pet for it to allow you to hold its small body in your hands.

Cage Size

As climbing animals, panther chameleons like to have high cages with plenty of vertical space. For that reason, your cage should be tall and wide. The reptiles don’t like to hang around at the bottom of the cage and instinctively seek heights for safety.

The ideal cage measurements are 36 inches high and 48 inches deep. This should be enough to give the rainbow lizard room to move around, climb, and even hunt insects that you drop in its cage from time to time.

Also, remember to house the panther chameleons in cages made of mesh as opposed to glass or fiberglass. They do need their ventilation and an enclosure that lacks air will make them feel uncomfortable.

Food & Water

Insects are the only diet that panther chameleons can stomach. It’s their nature and also their small size doesn’t allow them to hunt anything larger than crickets or locusts. You can on occasion persuade them to dine on a roach or a grasshopper but mainly they prefer crickets.

Crickets, however, don’t provide the panther chameleon, especially the fertile female, with the calcium needed to make eggs. So you need to introduce a little bit of worm variety to the reptile’s menu. Butter worms are a good source of calcium. You might also slip in the odd silkworms, mealworms, super worms, or wax worms as a treat.

As for water, they don’t drink off bowls the way other pets do. Instead, they suck a droplet of water off a plant.

Heating & Humidity

Because they originally live in hot and humid climates, your pet panther chameleon will need extra installations in its cage that mimic its natural habitat. As for humidity, panther chameleons thrive in a cage where humidity levels are between 58 and 60 percent.

A hot cage is also necessary. Aim for 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 75 degrees at night. This provides the perfect temperature for your pet to grow and show bright colors.

Lighting

To really encourage your panther chameleons to put on a good display of colors for you, you have to install a source of ultraviolet light in their cage. You’ll find plenty of UVA and UVB bulbs in the market for that very purpose.

Keep these lights on for at least 12 hours each day. Additionally, you might need to take the panther chameleons out in the open from time to time. They love to bask in the sun. Make sure to replace your ultraviolet bulbs every 6 months as they have a limited lifespan.

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