Chameleons are nature’s little rainbow ninjas with eyes that say, “I see you!”
Definitely intriguing. And so, you can’t resist adding one to your exotic pet family.
But are chameleons good pets?
Trust us; you need all the information you can get before bringing a pet chameleon home.
Chameleons make terrific pets. They are stunning. They are quiet. No mess, no smell. Plus, they don’t ask for a lot of your time either. But they do have specific needs when it comes to housing and food. Also, no cuddling.
Ready to learn more about pet chameleons? Stay with us as we discuss all things vivid and vibrant about these masters of adaptation.
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Do Chameleons Make Good Pets?
Honestly, it depends on what type of pet owner you are. Are you more of an “Aww, come here, you” or a “Nope, I’d rather just observe you from afar!” kind of person?
What about maintenance? How good are you in that department? Does feeding your pet expensive live food give you a bout of jitters?
Feeling confused? Relax.
We can help you decide whether you’re a chameleon’s perfect match. Here’s what you should know before you get a chameleon. These pointers will help you decide if a chameleon will be a good pet for you.
Chameleons Are the Touch-Me-Not Kind
Chameleons are skittish. They prefer to be left alone. So, if you choose the hands-off approach, you’ll soon become these tail twirlers’ favorite.
But if you’d want your chameleon to climb your back and sit on your shoulder, looking at you with their hypnotic orbs (eyes) – nope, that’s not happening.
Chameleons don’t do well with cuddles or too much handling. You’ll stress them out if you’re always picking them up. And that can also make them sick.
Since chameleons are solitary animals, they don’t like company. So, it’s best if you keep one chameleon in one cage. No fights, no stress.
Oh, yes, they do! Male chameleons can be very aggressive toward other chameleons, especially other males.
Chameleons are Sensitive
Chameleons get stressed like a color-blind artist at a rainbow festival. If they get too stressed, their immune system starts to crash. You don’t want that. It is why caring for a chameleon is like walking on eggshells – you need to be extra careful.
How? What should I do?
For starters, make sure you don’t use any household cleaners and room fresheners around their enclosures. If you’re popping your hand in the cage to feed your pet chameleon, make sure it is clean. No laundry detergents, no perfumes.
If it’s your first time, buy a captive-bred chameleon. He’ll be easier to raise than a wild-caught chameleon.
Chameleons don’t like change, especially if they’re snatched from the wild and thrown into some new digs. Plus, those wild ones can come with some baggage, like parasites. For a first-time parent, it can be too much to handle.
Chameleons Are Selective Eaters
Chameleons are drama queens when it comes to their diet. They don’t like anything except fresh food that’s alive and active.
So, what do chameleons eat?
Here are a few of their favorite bites:
- Stick Bugs
- Dubia roaches
Yes, most chameleon species are insectivores.
If you’re buying an adult chameleon, you’ll have to feed the guy a big meal every other day. Chameleons also need calcium in their diet. So, you will need to get your hands on calcium powder. Just dunk those nutrient-rich bugs in the powder, and (BAM!) your chameleon’s fed!
Where do chameleons get their water?
Chameleons drink water from the droplets that condense on the leaves and branches of their enclosures. Mist the enclosure daily, so your pet can get his daily fill.
How should I feed my pet chameleon?
You know that a chameleon’s tongue is stretchy, sticky, and lightning-fast – right?
Well, it is. It can be twice as long as his body.
So, if you’re planning on hand-feeding, get a tong.
Chameleons Require Roomy Homes
Crammed enclosures with no green aesthetics? No sir! Pet chameleons need plenty of room to roam, play hide-and-seek, and climb. They love foliage, too. It gives them a sense of security.
So, your terrarium must be tall and loaded with twigs and branches. There must also be some good hiding spots, just like their natural habitat.
Which plants should I add to the chameleon’s cage?
- Spider plants
- Golden Pothos
- Rubber plants
What about the size? How big should the chameleon cage be?
Ideally, a 4-feet tall and a 3-feet wide cage should be enough for a single chameleon. But if you’re considering having more than one in the enclosure, you’ll need a bigger one.
Wait, there’s more.
Since chameleons are native to steamy, tropical weather, they like it damp – at least 65-80% humidity – and they keep cool between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll need a humidifier, lights (UVB and basking light), and a temperature gauge.
Chameleons Deal with Health Hurdles
Chameleons are like teenagers. They’re always getting into trouble and making risky decisions. If your pet chameleon is not eating or drinking, he might suffer from vitamin deficiencies.
Insufficient vitamin D3 and calcium can result in metabolic bone disease. It is a severe condition that affects the calcium balance, resulting in weak bones and poor mobility.
Stomatitis is another common issue. It’s a mouth inflammation caused by bacteria, parasites, and fungi.
Did you know a chameleon’s mouth could rot in places?
The worst part is that chameleons aren't very vocal about their issues. You'll have to spot it yourself. Look for open, red sores in their mouth. If you spot any pus from the mouth (or nose), that's your cue to take your pet chameleon to the vet.
So, don’t be fooled by the carefree attitude of your pet chameleon. Here are a few signs that your tree trekker is unwell:
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Dull color
- Weird fecal matter
- Resting at the bottom of the cage
Chameleon Cages Require Cleaning
Chameleons don’t create too much mess. Lucky for you, their poop isn’t as pungent as other reptiles’.
But that doesn’t mean you can be sloppy about cleaning the cage. Follow a cage-cleaning regimen to keep your colorful camouflagers happy and healthy.
Stick to spot-cleaning and poop removal as your daily duties. For more intensive cleaning, you’ll have to set aside a day every month to wipe down the walls, dispose of any dead plants, and give the terrarium a makeover.
Chameleon cages usually don’t need any bedding. But if you’re trying to create a holistic environment, the bioactive substrate can be an excellent addition. All good pet stores should have it.
So, what do you think? Can you have a chameleon as a pet?
If yes, here are some chameleon species that you can consider.
5 Pet Chameleon Species to Keep as Pets
We know that a chameleon can make a great pet. Compared to other pets, chameleons are quiet, independent, and clean.
But there are over 150 chameleon species out there. Some are as tiny as a thumbnail, others big enough to fill your arms. Which to choose?
We have shortlisted some of the cutest pet chameleons for you. Scroll to see which one you like the most.
Panthers are the colorful jewels of the species. They sport a palette of colors, from yellow to electric blue. Male panther chameleons have ridges along their spine, giving them a regal look. They also boast a broken white stripe that runs from the nose to the back. Females, on the other hand, are slightly less flamboyant. They are usually tan or pale green.
These stunning colors make a panther chameleon one of the most wanted pets.
Also, panther chameleons are big lizards. They can reach up to 22 inches.
You know what that means, right? The price tag is high. An adult panther can cost about $300. And if you pick the prettiest one in the store, be prepared to shell out $600.
Panthers don’t mind human touch as much as other species do. Plus, they are low-maintenance. It makes them just the right chameleon pet for beginners.
Veiled chameleons are the spiky desert divas of the chameleon world. They come from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. And so, their other name is Yemen chameleons.
But part of their common name has to do with the large casque (helmet) on their heads. It’s like a veil that covers their face. Males have a bigger one.
A veiled chameleon is one of the most common pet chameleons. You’ll easily find one in a pet store. Veiled chameleons can cost between $30 and $100. They aren’t too nosy. They’ll thrive if you meet their primary care needs.
But do keep in mind that they don’t like a lot of touching.
As for colors, they aren’t as flashy as the Panthers. Veiled chameleons have a green base color with vertical stripes in yellow, pale blue, and brown shades. They can grow between 10 and 22 inches in size.
Say hello to the pocket-sized cuties. Pygmy chameleons are tiny in size but with big personalities. They have an amusing way of walking and love to explore their surroundings.
These cute creatures don’t grow beyond three inches. And that’s where they get their names.
Pygmies also don’t have the classic prehensile tails.
They are land-dwellers. They don’t need long tails to swing from branches. Instead of trees, they hang out in flowers and shrubs.
Since pygmies are tiny, you only need a 5-gallon terrarium to house them. But they do require special care.
Pygmies have a short lifespan and can be demanding when it comes to heat and humidity levels. If you’re ready to invest extra effort, pygmy chameleons can make excellent pets. A pygmy can cost you as low as $25. But most cost between $50 and $150.
Flap-necked chameleons are Tanzanian natives with groovy yellow and green colors. They’re tiny compared to other chameleons, maxing out at 12 inches long. That’s a pretty manageable size.
Unlike others on the list, flap-necks are mostly wild-caught. You’ll have to pay extra attention to their health. The good thing is that these marvels will do just fine in captivity. They’re naturally curious and active.
These lizards rock the classic ‘chameleon look’ with a cute little head horn and a long tail. Their bodies are usually decked out in varying shades of green, but some species can boast a stylish brown or orange pattern.
You can get a flap-necked chameleon for $50-$60.
Colorful and resilient, these East-African lizards have three horns that give them a Jurassic Park vibe.
These guys go from brown babies to bright green cuties at around four months of age. As for the size, Jackson’s stay between 8 and 12 inches in length.
Fun fact: Females don’t rock the horns, so don’t fret if your chameleon isn’t sprouting any. You probably have a lady.
Jackson’s are slow movers and feel more comfortable perching on a branch than running around. They also demand more love (from a distance) and care than other species. It’s why they are not a good choice for beginners.
But if you trust your reptile-caring skills, you can pick up Jackson’s Chameleon for anywhere between $90 and $240.
The Lifespan of Some Chameleon Species
Chameleons can stick around for 2-7 years on average, depending on their species. But if you have one of the larger breeds, they’ll hang around for longer – over ten years.
Let’s compare the lifespan of the common chameleon species we mentioned earlier, so you can better decide which color wizard you want as your pet.
- Panthers – These stunningly colorful lizards can live between three and eight years in captivity.
- Veiled – If you take proper care of your spiky chameleon, he’ll stay with you for up to ten years.
- Pygmy – Small size, short life. Pygmies only survive between six months and two years in captivity.
- Flap-necked – These active tree climbers have a lifespan of up to eight years.
- Jackson’s – These walking mood rings can live anywhere between two and five years in captivity.
The Cost of Keeping a Chameleon
Ah, the dreaded money talk.
Investing in a chameleon is no joke. But how much it costs to keep one depends on the species and your level of commitment to it.
On average, the total annual cost of owning a chameleon can fall between $1,000 and $1,500 per year. The exact amount depends on how often your tongue sniper falls ill, how much your vet charges, and the size of your terrarium.
If you need a cost breakup, here’s a quick one:
- Healthcare – $600-$1,050
- Food – $150-$250
- Maintenance – $300-$500
How to Choose a Chameleon?
So, are you thinking of getting a chameleon as a pet? They can be a real handful, but they are totally worth it for the right person!
But how do you decide which chameleon is right for you?
Ask yourself these three questions:
What’s Your Skill Level?
Do you have experience caring for reptiles or exotic animals? If not, it’s best to start with a less-demanding species. A veiled chameleon seems like your ideal match. This species is generally easier to care for than its relatives.
Appearance or Character?
Be honest. Wasn’t your first thought ”looks?” For some, aesthetics play a huge role when it comes to pets. Lucky for you, chameleons have some of the most striking patterns and colors out there.
What if we told you there’s one kind that’s both pretty and docile? Yep, Jackson’s Chameleon fits that bill perfectly!
How Much Can You Afford?
Chameleons need plenty of space and live food. But that doesn’t mean you have to construct an indoor rainforest and splurge on crickets. You can stick to the basics and still create an environment your pet will love if you know what to buy. How about a Pygmy?
Chameleons: The Unconventional Yet Rewarding Pet Choice
Chameleons aren’t for everyone. But if you’re willing to put in the work and money, they can be some of the most rewarding pets around. Striking colors, intriguing personalities, and a unique challenge each time you care for them!
So, what do you say? Ready to take on the chameleon challenge?
If you are, remember to keep your chameleon’s terrarium setup, diet, and health in check. These tree-huggers require more effort than your run-of-the-mill pet. Most chameleons are sensitive, and if they fall ill, it can get pretty nasty.
Also, do let us know which of the five mentioned chameleon species you settled for. We’d love to know about your experience.
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Now go get your chammy!