Panther Chameleon Care Sheet

Panther Chameleon Care Sheet

Panther chameleons (Furcifer paradalis) are 16-20” long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to northern Madagascar. They prefer a lowland rainforest habitat and spend most of their lives in the trees.

Like other chameleons, panther chameleons have large, triangular heads, protruding eyes, vertically flattened bodies, zygodactylous feet, and a curled prehensile tail. What makes them unique is their incredible diversity of bright colors! Coloration is typically dependent on locality. Males are much more brightly-colored than females.

Panther chameleons are not easy animals to keep as pets, despite their ready availability in the pet trade. They are very sensitive to poor care, although somewhat more hardy than other chameleon species. However, when properly housed, they can be rewarding pets that live 6 years or more.

Recommended terrarium size for panther chameleons

The recommended minimum enclosure size for a single panther chameleon is 24”L x 24”W x 48”H or 36"L x 18"W x 36"H. If you are able to, larger is always better! Fully mesh enclosures are great for maximum ventilation, which is important for chameleons, but they are not required. If you live in a very dry climate a fully mesh enclosure can cause some issues, even with this more forgiving species. PVC enclosures are also a good option, especially if the front and top are ventilated. If air flow becomes an issue in any enclosure, a small computer fan can easily fix that problem.

Housing multiple panther chameleons in the same enclosure is not recommended.

Do panther chameleons need UVB?

Yes! Panther chameleons require UVB lighting for their survival. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.

Here are the best UVB bulbs for panther chameleons housed in a 24”L x 24”W x 48”H enclosure:

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a fixture with a reflector such as the Arcadia ProT5 kit or Zoo Med Reptisun Hood. Make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is housed in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover, as plastic and glass block UVB. Place the basking branch so the chameleon’s back will be about 6” below the lamp. Their target UVI is a 3 at the basking level, this can be accurately measured using a Solar Meter 6.5 or 6.5R.

Panther chameleons also benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment. Add a bright ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the enclosure to thrive.

Most people do a 12 hours on and 12 hour off lighting schedule. However, you can also do longer times on during the summer and shorter times on in the winter to mimic the actual sun.

Best temperature for panther chameleons

Panther chameleons need a basking area temperature around 85°F measured with a temperature gun. The ambient temperature can be between 75-80°F everywhere else, as measured by digital probe thermometers. We recommend no lighting at all at night and temperatures to drop to 60-70°F.

Provide heat for your chameleon with a halogen heat bulb placed above the basking branch. We do not recommend ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective and are more likely to cause burns.

For best results, use the Exo Terra Light Dome or similar fixture with a ceramic base and elevate the lamp above the top of the enclosure with Exo Terra Light Brackets.

Best humidity levels for panther chameleons

Panther chameleons do best with lower humidity during the day and high humidity at night. Aim for about 40-50% humidity during the day and 75-100% at night. Humidity can be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.

You can increase humidity by misting the enclosure every morning and night with a large pressure sprayer or automatic misting system. We also recommend a cool mist humidifier to run at night, connected to a humidistat to maintain humidity levels above 75%.

Reptile humidifiers and foggers should only be used with distilled water and require frequent disinfecting to keep your reptile from getting sick.

Best substrate for panther chameleons

Panther chameleons are strictly arboreal, so they don’t really need substrate to dig in or walk on. With the exception of having a female, we recommend not having any substrate at all. Females will require a lay bin in order to lay eggs.

You can keep the solid bottom and add a drain that goes into a large bucket. This will require some DIY, but is well worth the effort. There are many DIY guides available on YouTube and in chameleon groups/forums if you are interested.

Lay Bin

If you have a female panther chameleon, she will lay eggs at some point. It is best to be prepared by having a lay bin in the enclosure where she can safely lay eggs. You can use a 12" wide x 8" deep container, give or take. They prefer square shapes, in our experience! Mix plain top soil and play sand together and add just enough water so the soil can hold a tunnel. You can even add a plant to one side for some extra security, but it is not required.

How to decorate a panther chameleon terrarium

An empty enclosure makes for a bored and stressed panther chameleon, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet relaxed and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

You will want plenty of vines, thin branches, and foliage to decorate your terrarium. Arrange them in such a way that the chameleon has somewhere to hide as needed, with an open area under the heat lamp for basking. 

All climbing branches should be securely anchored to the walls of the enclosure.

What to feed to a panther chameleon

Panther chameleons are insectivores. This means that they only eat insects. Here’s a very basic feeding schedule:

  • Juveniles (3-9 months) — No limit, every day
  • Adults (over 9-12 months) — about 3-8 feeder bugs, depending on size/type, every other day.

Feeder insect options: crickets, discoid roaches, dubia roaches, banana roaches, grasshoppers, red runner roaches, black soldier fly larvae & flies, hornworms & mothers, silkworms & moths, superworms

We recommend a wide variety of insects, not just one or two different kinds!


You will also want calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your chameleon from developing a deficiency. Follow this schedule for supplementing a panther chameleon:

Every feeding: (one) calcium without D3

2x/month: (one) multivitamin

    It's always a good idea to make sure your feeder insects are well hydrated and gutloaded prior to feeding. We recommend Dubia Diet chow and Dubia Dew hydration crystals!

    Provide drinking water for your panther chameleon

    Although panther chameleons don’t drink from water bowls, misting may not be enough to keep your pet properly hydrated. Installing a dripper over a leaf for your chameleon to drink from at any time of day is a good way to fill in the gaps and help prevent dehydration. This can also be accomplished with ice cubes!

    How to handle your panther chameleon

    Chameleons generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Some tolerate it more than others, but generally panther chameleons prefer to be left alone. That being said, some of them learn to tolerate low levels of handling and will walk onto their keeper’s hand when offered. 

    Chameleons generally have a reputation for being a bit grouchy and difficult to socialize. Even if you have a calmer chameleon, it is still important to gain their trust, and be especially careful to create a positive association with yourself in their mind. It’s best to encourage your pet to come out of the enclosure and climb onto you on their own rather than simply grabbing them. Never grab a chameleon out from its hiding place as this surely will make it feel unsafe. Grabbing also often results in rib injuries, so you really do want to avoid that.

    Treats and hand-feeding are very effective for teaching your chameleon that you are not something to be feared, since food can motivate your pet to move outside of its comfort zone. You can use soft-tipped feeding tongs, but holding the bugs just with your fingers is just fine also.

    *This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!

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