How To Care For A Panther Chameleon

Panther chameleons are one of the most beautifully colored species of chameleons, making them very popular pets.

But like any chameleon, they require special care and handling.

If you recently purchased one of these colorful creatures but have no idea how to care for a panther chameleon or if you’re still trying to decide if you’re up for the challenge of owning one, this article is for you.

We answer common questions like, What kind of cage should I get?

How much water do they need? What type of foods do they require?

And many more to help you care for this amazing animal.

how to care for a panther chameleon

Basic Supplies You’ll Need For A Panther Chameleon

  • Cage
  • UVB and heating light
  • Plants
  • Water mister (automatic or manual)
  • Feeder insects
  • Mineral powder

Buy an Appropriate Cage

Chameleon cages are not one-size-fits-all. Rather, cage size and type depend on the species, age, and sex of the chameleon.

For the first six months of their lives, a panther chameleon of either sex should have a cage at least 16″ inches long by 16″ inches wide by 20″ inches tall.

After six months, the male panther chameleons’ enclosure must be a minimum of 18″ inches long by 18″ inches wide by 36″ inches tall, while female panthers can get by kept in a 16″ inches long by 16″ inches wide by 30″ inches tall cage.

These are the absolute minimum requirements, but bigger cages are always better for your adult panther chameleon!

A cage with at least two screened sides (as opposed to all solid walls) is best for your panther chameleon as chameleons can easily develop upper respiratory infections if kept in stagnant air.

Screens also increase water evaporation and help ensure your chameleon’s basking light doesn’t overheat the entire environment.

However, since the air in homes with heating and A/C can become dry, it’s best to purchase a cage with one or two solid walls to help maintain humidity levels and prevent misting water from getting outside the cage onto walls and furniture. 

Incorporate Plants & Vegetation 

Now with the right cage for your panther chameleon, it’s time to deck it out with plants and vegetation!

Why is it important to include plants in your chameleon’s cage?

Panther chameleons, native to the island of Madagascar, are trees and shrub dwellers, and they love to climb.

For your panther to survive and thrive in captivity, its cage environment must emulate its natural habitat, with plenty of leaves and branches for it to climb and hide in to feel safe and secure. 

Both live and artificial plants are safe to use in your chameleon’s cage.

Artificial plants like these Pothos Repta Vines and this Penn-Plax Reptology Climber Vine are easy to arrange, simple to keep clean, and aren’t another thing to keep alive!

Fluker's Repta Vines-Pothos for Reptiles and...
  • Comes with suction cups to affix to the tank and are made of non-toxic polythylene material for easy cleaning and...
  • 6 feet in length
  • Lifelike & natural looking.

However, live plants do provide a more natural-looking habitat and have some humidity benefits.

Live plants safe for your chameleon include umbrella trees, Pothos, and weeping fig trees. 

Install Proper Heating & Lighting 

Panther chameleons are basking lizards. In their natural environment, they are out during the day basking in sunlight (which provides them with heat and essential vitamins).

Your pet panther chameleon has the same need for heat and light, meaning it will require both basking and UVB lights during the day to survive.

For small, baby cages, a 75-watt basking bulb like this one should be sufficient to do the job, while in larger cages, a stronger 100-watt bulb like this should be used.

Your chameleon’s basking spot (under the heat bulb, not the entire cage!) should be between 90° and 95° degrees Fahrenheit (32° – 35° C) during the day.

Position a branch or vine below the basking light (which should be on top of or suspended over a corner of the cage) at an appropriate distance to ensure your chameleon will be able to perch and bask at the proper temperature to his heart’s content.

Since the panther chameleon’s cage temperature is so important, it might be wise to purchase a quality thermometer like this one from Amazon.

Exo Terra Digital Thermometer with Probe, Celsius...
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Accurate temperature indication
  • Single button operated

Always keep in mind, the bottom of the cage should not exceed 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) while the top must not climb higher than 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).

In addition to a basking bulb, your panther chameleon also needs a UVB light. UVB is an ultraviolet light ray frequency emitted by the sun.

Although invisible, UVB is essential to the production of vitamin D3 in reptiles, without which they cannot absorb calcium from their food.

In short, without a quality UVB light, your panther chameleon will not properly grow and could develop a severe and deadly bone disease called metabolic bone disease.

Remember, traditional basking lights do not emit any UVB.

You will need to purchase a quality UVB light like this Zoo Med Powersun UVB light or this Zoo Med ReptiSun UVB tube.

Zoo Med PowerSun UV UVB (100 watt)
  • Self Ballasted
  • Emits UVA and UVB
  • Fits standard ceramic sockets

In addition to indoor UVB lighting and heat, your panther chameleon should be exposed to natural light whenever possible, as no heat lamp or UVB bulb is quite like the sun!

Provide Adequate Water 

Water is one of the most important factors in panther chameleon care, and one of the easiest to get wrong.

As dehydration is one of the leading causes of death in captive chameleons, you need to know and understand your pet panther’s hydration needs.

Panther chameleons are native to rain forest regions in Madagascar, so naturally, they need a lot of water.

Water provides them with the humidity levels they need, adequate hydration, and is a way for them to keep their eyes clean.

Unlike some species of chameleons, it is very rare for a panther chameleon to drink water out of a dish.

Instead, panther chameleons drink water by licking droplets formed on leaves from morning dew or a rain shower.

So how can you provide your panther chameleon with water? 

First, you will need to mist your panther two to three times a day for five minutes with a handheld spray bottle like this one, an automated mister, or an automated fogger set on a timer (which is a cheaper option than most automated misting systems).

Zoo Med Reptifogger Terrarium Humidifier
  • Adjustable output
  • No spill valve
  • Plug n play ease

Misting two or more times a day gives your chameleon a chance to drink water droplets from the plant leaves while also keeping the cage’s humidity levels in the 60 to 70% percent range required.  

Second, run a dripping system (make sure the water is dripping directly onto plants or artificial foliage) twice a week for most of the day, or set it on a timer for 10 minutes a day.

This will ensure your chameleon has a chance to regularly drink large drops of water.

And bonus, it will also keep your live plants watered! 

Supply Nutritious Food

Feeding a panther chameleon is not complicated, but it does require some thought and preparation.

In the wild, panther chameleons subsist on a diet of anything crawling and fits in their mouths!

This translates to mostly crickets, mealworms, locusts, spiders, super worms, and roaches.

It’s good to feed your chameleon a varied diet, so make sure they’re getting different types of insects, just like they would in the wild.

Staple insects (those with adequate amounts of nutrition to constitute your chameleon’s diet) include roaches, crickets, silkworms, and super worms, with crickets and silkworms being the most popular and recommended staple feeders.

Treats (insects adding variety or stimulate your chameleon to eat but provide little nutritional value) include waxworms, mealworms, hornworms, and flies.

There are two ways to feed your chameleon insects.

The first is free-roaming, which means you set the insects free inside the cage, and your chameleon has to hunt them down.

This is the natural way your panther would eat in the wild, and it keeps him active while also giving his tongue exercise.

The other option is cup feeding.

To cup feed, simply place the feeder insects in a small cup and leave them inside the cage so the chameleon can eat them.

During the first 5 to 8 months of their life, chameleons grow quickly and have a hearty appetite!

During this time, you might want to feed once a day, six days a week.

Choose insects looking appropriate to the size of your chameleon’s mouth size, and give them a moderate amount.

If all the insects are gone within 10 to 20 minutes, offer more.

When a chameleon ages, his appetite will likely decrease.

So don’t be alarmed if your 1-year-old chameleon is pickier with his food choices and only requires food around five days a week–it’s perfectly normal!

Note it is important to dust your feeder insects with vitamin powders like calcium, D3, Miner-All, and Herptavite.

Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3, 8-Ounce
  • Highly bio-available source of calcium carbonate
  • Free of harmful impurities (not from Oyster Shells)
  • Safe levels of Vitamin D3

Check with your veterinary to find out your chameleon’s specific vitamin needs. 

Below we answer a few questions pet owners frequently ask on caring for their panther chameleon:

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Does my panther chameleon’s heat or UVB light need to be on at night? 

A: No.

Heat lamps and UVB lighting should only be on for 12-hour cycles.

It is very important for all lights to be off when your chameleon is sleeping at night.

Q: What if it gets cold during the night?

A: It is completely safe for your chameleon’s cage temperature to be around 70° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 24° C) during the night.

However, if your house gets cooler than 68° degrees Fahrenheit (20° C) at night, you may consider using a ceramic heat emitter to keep the night temperature comfortable for your chameleon.

Q: Is it OK to put leaves, vines, and plants from the outside into my panther chameleon’s cage as foliage? 

A: Yes, just be sure they are safe for chameleons, non-toxic, and “non-sappy” branches and plants.  


Do you feel better equipped to care for your chameleon?

Now since you know how to care for a panther chameleon, you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and purchase your very own?

We hope so! Panther chameleons are special creatures who deserve special care and attention, and we hope you’ll take these five basic steps of panther chameleon care home to your chameleon so it can enjoy the amazing life it deserves!

Spend Less Time Figuring Out What To Do And More Time Enjoying Your Pet

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