Chameleons are popular reptiles known for their ability to change color based on their surroundings.
There are many subspecies of chameleons, such as the panther chameleon and the bright green veiled chameleon.
Even though these lizards are well-known, there are a lot of misconceptions about the amount of care they require.
If you are considering a baby chameleon, there are a few things you need to know about their care requirements.
Caring for baby chameleons is not recommended for beginner reptile keepers. They’re sensitive to handling and may die quickly. Even outside this, they often don’t survive long due to their intense environment and dietary requirements.
Taking care of a baby chameleon requires a lot of time and effort, and you need to be very dedicated to proper husbandry to keep the animal happy and healthy.
Read on for helpful tips you should know about caring for baby chameleons.
Table of Contents
Are Baby Chameleons Hard To Take Care Of?
As a general rule, chameleons are more difficult to care for than other reptile species such as bearded dragons or leopard geckos. Without the proper diet and habitat, a baby is prone to gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, and metabolic bone disease.
Only experienced reptile keepers should care for baby chameleons due to their strict husbandry requirements.
Chameleons are also easily stressed, something to consider before purchasing one online.
Many times, the reptile does not survive the shipping process.
Instead, you will be better off purchasing your chameleon from a local breeder or pet store.
Once you bring a chameleon home, reduce stress to the animal by keeping the enclosure in a quiet, low-traffic area away from other pets.
It is also not advisable to keep two chameleons in the same enclosure.
Baby chameleons may be safe to house together until they are three months old, but they must be close to the same size.
Larger chameleons are known to attack smaller ones, so they must be separated.
Once they are older than three months, they tend to become territorial and attack each other.
How Long Does A Baby Chameleon Stay With Its Mother?
As soon as a chameleon is born, it leaves its mother. Chameleons are born with the ability to crawl right away as part of their survival instincts. Baby chameleons are very vulnerable to predators as well as larger chameleons.
The female chameleon does not take care of her babies at all, and the young chameleons must learn to survive independently.
Even in captivity, baby chameleons are not safe due to the cannibalistic tendencies of the mother or any larger chameleons.
How Are Baby Chameleons Born?
Chameleons are born either by hatching from an egg or live birth depending on the species. Egg-laying, or oviparous, chameleons include the panther chameleon and the veiled chameleon. Chameleons such as Jackson’s chameleon give live birth, known as ovoviviparous.
An oviparous chameleon will dig a hole between 6-12″ inches deep to lay her eggs and then cover them with the substrate.
Once the eggs are laid and covered, the mother does not return to them.
The gestation period for the eggs is different depending on the chameleon species.
For instance, the gestation period for panther chameleon eggs is 10-15 days, while the gestation for veiled chameleon eggs is between 20-30 days.
The incubation period for chameleon eggs also varies according to species.
The average incubation period for chameleon eggs ranges from 4-12 months, but the Parson’s chameleon eggs must incubate for up to 24 months.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out our response to the question of how many eggs chameleons lay.
Let’s talk about ovoviviparous or live birth, like the Jackson’s chameleon does.
The gestation period for the Jackson’s chameleon ranges from 5-6 months.
In ovoviviparous chameleons, the embryos develop in eggs inside the female’s body.
These internal eggs do not have hard shells, and they are shed just before the chameleons are born.
The developing chameleons receive all of their nutrients from the yolk sac instead of a placenta attached to the mother.
The chameleons are born with the yolk sac, which will become their first meal after being born.
Newborn chameleons also need to be frequently misted to keep them from becoming dehydrated.
Misting also stimulates the reptile’s appetite.
What Do You Feed A Baby Chameleon?
Chameleons are insectivores, and the best food for baby chameleons includes small insects such as flightless fruit flies and pinhead crickets. The insects need to be gut-loaded so they provide optimum nutrition for your chameleon.
Other food choices for your baby chameleon are Dubia roaches and locusts, as long as they are small.
Never feed your chameleon an insect larger than the space between its eyes to reduce the risk of choking.
As a treat, feed your baby chameleon waxworms or butterworms.
Check out our article on the best worms for baby chameleons for more ideas.
In addition to various small insects, your baby chameleon needs calcium and vitamin supplements.
A multivitamin supplement containing vitamins A, D3, and E is good.
To avoid vitamin A toxicity, be sure to choose a multivitamin supplement with beta carotene.
A reptile will be able to convert beta carotene into the amount of vitamin A its body needs without the risk of getting too much.
Another important supplement to include in your baby chameleon’s diet is calcium.
Without enough calcium, your lizard will likely suffer from metabolic bone disease.
There is no cure for metabolic bone disease, and it is very painful for your chameleon, so it is best to prevent it.
Choose a calcium supplement without vitamin D3, such as this one, if your multivitamin already contains D3.
When using any vitamin powder supplement, it is best to lightly dust the feeder insects rather than heavily coat them.
Too much vitamin or calcium powder on the insects will make them unappealing to your chameleon.
It is best not to use calcium and multivitamin supplements simultaneously.
Use the calcium supplement at every feeding except for one every week, which is when you will use the multivitamin supplement.
How Often Should You Handle A Baby Chameleon?
Do not handle your baby chameleons if at all possible. Chameleons are known as a “look but do not touch” pet as they do not enjoy being held. Handling your baby chameleon too much will cause it to become stressed, making the animal more susceptible to illness.
In the wild, any contact chameleons have with larger animals usually results in being eaten.
When you handle a chameleon, its instincts tell it there is immediate danger and causes the reptile to become stressed.
These instincts may cause your baby chameleon to bite you when you pick it up.
Chameleons do not lose their instincts, even when bred in captivity.
If you need to handle your chameleon, such as cleaning its enclosure, use a light touch.
Only restrain the animal enough to keep it safe from falling or jumping away from you at a great height.
An excellent method of handling your baby chameleon is to hold the perch it is on.
This will allow you to safely remove your chameleon without causing too much stress to the reptile.
How Fast Do Baby Chameleons Grow?
A baby chameleon will grow between 1-2″ inches per month as long as it is fed a nutritious diet. It is important to track your chameleon’s growth every month to ensure it is receiving the proper nutrients. If your chameleon is not as it should be or is losing weight, this may be a sign of improper husbandry or stress.
Males are usually larger than females, and a chameleon is fully grown after one year.
Chameleons typically reach sexual maturity between 6-12 months, depending on the species and size.
Veiled chameleon males may grow up to 2′ feet long and are one of the larger chameleon species.
According to age, the following table shows a veiled chameleon’s average length and weight.
Most chameleons have this same growth rate, but they may be larger or smaller depending on the species.
|Age||Length||Weight||Percentage of Adult Length*|
|Hatchling||3-4” inches||Less than 1/10 of an ounce||17%|
|One month||4-6” inches||0.2-0.3 ounces||25%|
|Two months||5-7” inches||0.7-1.25 ounces||29%|
|Three months||8-12” inches||1.5-2.5 ounces||50%|
|Four months||10-14” inches||2.75-3.25 ounces||58%|
|Six months||12-18” inches||4.5-6 ounces||75%|
|Nine months||14-20” inches||6-6.75 ounces||83%|
|One year||18-24” inches||6.75-9 ounces||100%|
*To figure out your specific breed’s growth chart, take their anticipated or typical adult length and multiply by the percentage in the right column.
A small enclosure will not stunt a chameleon’s growth, but it will become stressed if there is not enough space for the animal.
Prolonged stress will cause the chameleon not to grow properly and shorten the reptile’s lifespan.
Baby Chameleon Enclosure Set Up
Baby chameleons need a tall enclosure made of plastic-coated wire mesh. Do not use a glass enclosure because baby chameleons become stressed when they see their reflection. The recommended dimension is 16″ x16″ x30″ inches.
Since chameleons are exceptional climbers, the enclosure needs to be taller than wide to allow the reptile plenty of room to explore.
Keep the enclosure away from windows or skylights because too much sunlight is harmful to chameleons.
Once the chameleon is six months old, transfer the reptile to a larger 60-gallon enclosure.
Providing your baby chameleon with a variety of plants and climbing areas is ideal, and it makes the reptile feel safer by giving it plenty of space to hide.
Since chameleons spend most of their time climbing, a substrate is unnecessary.
If you decide to use a substrate in your reptile’s enclosure, it is essential to choose the proper one concerning your pet’s safety.
Some chameleon owners avoid a loose particle substrate because of the risk of impaction if the animal ingests it.
A topsoil mixture is considered a safe substrate if it does not contain any sand, fertilizers, or reptile carpet.
A soil substrate is ideal if you have live plants in your chameleon’s enclosure.
A simple paper towel substrate is often used, which makes it easier to identify any issues with your chameleon’s bowel habits.
Reptile carpet is usually avoided because it will snag on the chameleon’s claws.
Do not house more than one chameleon in the same enclosure, as these reptiles are very territorial and are known to fight to protect their space.
Plants & Branches
Chameleons are avid climbers, and they need an arboreal habitat to suit their lifestyle. Branches, vines, and other plants will give your baby chameleon a variety of options for climbing. Bonsai trees, ivy, ferns, and orchids are all excellent plant choices for your chameleon’s enclosure.
Feel free use fake plants as well, but you will need to boil them in hot water before placing them in the enclosure.
Boiling the fake plants for at least 15 minutes will kill any bacteria and sterilize them, so they are safe for your chameleon.
Many plants also help your baby chameleon feel safe and more secure by providing the reptile with places to hide if it feels threatened.
Any plants you use need to be as tall as the enclosure to give your chameleon the maximum available climbing space.
The plants also need to span the entire length of the enclosure.
For more info, check out our in-depth list of the best plants for chameleons.
Temperature & Lighting
Baby chameleons need a temperature gradient ranging from 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) on the cool side to between 85-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) on the warm side. A 50-watt halogen bulb will provide the chameleon with the proper lighting for a basking area, with a UVB light along the length of the enclosure.
Like most reptiles, chameleons cannot regulate their body temperature, so they rely on external temperatures.
If you find it challenging to maintain the proper temperature in the enclosure, consider using a ceramic heat emitter.
The UVB bulb should have a strength of 5.0 and reside in a hood fixture above the enclosure along with a reflector.
Find the size best fitting your hood or installed system online, but for best results, look for one similar to this.
UVB bulbs gradually weaken over time and need to be replaced every six to nine months.
A baby chameleon needs twelve hours of light during the day to simulate a day and night cycle.
This day and night cycle is very important in maintaining the chameleon’s natural circadian rhythm.
If you have difficulty remembering to turn the lights on or off at the proper times of day, consider investing in a light timer.
A light timer allows you to set specific intervals for the lights in your chameleon’s enclosure to turn on and off and gives your reptile a steady light cycle.
In addition to the correct temperature and lighting, a baby chameleon requires humidity levels between 40% and 60%.
How Do You Feed A Baby Chameleon?
The two most common ways of feeding a baby chameleon are by using a cup and giving them free-range food. You will need an opaque cup between 8-24 ounces in size for the cup feeding method.
A larger cup prevents crickets and other insects from jumping out.
Fill the cup with 5-10 gut-loaded and supplement-dusted insects, and place the cup directly underneath a branch or plant.
Secure the cup to the branch or plant with a string, so the chameleon cannot turn it over when it goes after the insects.
For the free-range feeding method, you will put the insects directly into the enclosure and allow the chameleon to hunt for them.
Place the insects near the chameleon on plants and branches, and start with just a few at a time.
Putting too many insects in the enclosure increases the risk of the insects finding hiding places near rocks and plants, and they may come out later to bite at your chameleon or cause other injuries.
Be sure to inspect the entire enclosure after feeding time is over.
Always remove any uneaten insects from your chameleon’s habitat.
Many insects, especially crickets, will bite and injure your reptile.
Pinhead crickets will make up the majority of your baby chameleon’s diet.
Aim to feed your baby chameleon between 12-18 appropriately-sized insects every day.
Consider feeding your chameleon twice per day with just eight insects at each feeding.
How Do You Give A Baby Chameleon Water?
Chameleons will not drink from a water dish like other animals. A chameleon gets its daily hydration from water droplets on leaves. Spray the plants in your baby chameleon’s enclosure at least twice per day.
You must be very careful not to spray your reptile directly.
Baby chameleons are so small they will easily drown if they get too much water in their nose.
This is a rare occurrence but still something you need to be aware of so you are able to take proper precautions.
Because of this drowning risk, it is not advisable to use an automatic mister until the chameleon is at least six months old.
To avoid adding too much humidity to the enclosure through frequent misting, many chameleon owners install a water drip system, which provides the reptile with constant access to water.
Some get really cool, like this Ninuo water system.
It simulates the raining water on leaves for chameleons to sip up as they would in the wild.
How Long Do Baby Chameleons Sleep?
How long a baby chameleon sleeps depends largely on the season. The chameleon will sleep for around 13-15 hours a night in the warm summer months. When it is colder during the winter months, they usually sleep between 10-12 hours per night.
The sleeping habits of a baby chameleon are not too different from those of an adult chameleon.
It is normal for your baby chameleon to take a short, 2-3 minute nap during the day.
If you discover your chameleon is sleeping more than this during daylight, it likely means your pet is stressed or suffering from an illness.
Check enclosure conditions to ensure everything is set up correctly, and keep the area free from any loud noises or frequent movement.
If you suspect your chameleon may be sick, it is important to seek veterinary care right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.