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The Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)

Synonyms and names in other languages

Pantherchamäleon (German)


Order: squamata

Family: chamaeleonidae

Subfamily: chamaeleoninae

Genus: trioceros

Species: Furcifer pardalis.


The panther chameleon is endemic to the island of Madagascar. It can be found in the coastal areas in the north of the island where the humidity is high, as well as on the nearby small isles. Also it has been introduced to Mauritius and Reunion.  Often they are seen near the residential areas.


An adult male can reach 50 cm in length, but normally they are about 25-30 cm long. Females are smaller. Also males are much more vividly colored.

Male coloring is very varied. The specialists map out several color morphs within the same habitat. The main colors are normally green, blue and red. The spots on the sides are reddish, bluish or brownish color and sometimes they are separated with white line. Females are usually orange, beige or brown with vertical dark stripes on their sides. Due to the combination of orange and black and the pattern of dots and stripes these lizards got their name pointing out their resemblance with big predators. Among all the chameleons this species is an absolute leader in terms of different color morphs (they are counted in dozens). 


The panther chameleon is a great pet and their bright and vivid coloring makes them even more coveted. They are healthy and friendly lizards that easily get used to people and can be handled. They are also fun to watch in the enclosure and this makes it an ideal reptile for home keeping.  

Housing and Care

The panther chameleon needs a simple vertical tank at least 60х40х80 cm large for one lizard.

Good ventilation is very important, there should be two air inlets in the lower and in the upper parts of the enclosure covered by net. For substrate you can use gardening soil or bark, moss, coconut husks. In order for the chameleon to climb you will need a couple of big branches or logs. Live plants will help to maintain humidity and will serve as hiding places for the chameleon.

For light you will need both fluorescent and UV lamps. The panther chameleon is a diurnal species and they develop vitamin D under UV light. They need about 12 hours of light every day. For heating you can use reflectors that should be switched off for the night in order to create the temperature gradient. The reflector has to be directed at a log for the chameleon to bask on it. But you have to remember that the lamp shouldn’t be close to the lizard or it may get burnt.

The temperature in the enclosure should be around 22-24*C at night and 26-28*C at daytime, reaching 35*C in the basking spot.

The air humidity should be between 60 and 90%.

UV lamps are a must.

In the wild the panther chameleon drinks licking the water drops from the leaves. In the tank they will lick drops from the plants too, so daily misting is compulsory, but you don’t have to put a water bowl in the tank. But it is desirable to have a water cascade in the enclosure. 


These lizards eat mainly insects, small reptiles and rodents. In the wild they can also catch small birds. In captivity the best food for the chameleon is crickets. It has all the necessary nutritional elements and can be bought in any pet store. Also you can breed crickets yourself. Grasshoppers are also good food, but if they are big you might have to remove spikes  from their legs before feeding them to the lizard. A few times a week you can give to your chameleon different kinds of cockroaches, superworm, mealworm, bee moth. You shouldn’t give mammals to your lizard more often than once a month, otherwise it might cause a liver disease.

You should cover the insects wit calcium powder and vitamins before feeding them to the chameleon.

Young panther chameleons have to be fed daily. Adult lizards should be fed every second day: their liver is very fragile and overeating damages it.

It is very interesting to watch the chameleon hunting: it waits until the prey gets close to it and then it shoots with its sticky tongue and catches the prey. Then it chews the food very slowly. 


It is a brightly and vividly colored species.

The panther chameleon is easy to feed and to keep.

It easily gets used to being handled.

It is fun to watch.

You should keep the chameleon alone, these lizards tend to be aggressive towards their specimens.

They require a large tank.

Live feed is necessary. 


If the chameleon is dehydrated, it develops wrinkles, the lizard becomes lethargic, loses appetite and weight. Dehydration is caused by insufficient misting of the tank. In this case you will have to make the lizard drink from the syringe.

Rachitis is a development disorder which makes bones distorted due to the lack of calcium.  It can be prevented by regular adding of calcium to the food and UV lamps in the tank.

If the shedding is incomplete, some molted skin can stay on for a few days (most often on the lizard’s fingers and tail). It can lead to necrosis which is lethal. If this occurs, you will need to remove the molted skin very carefully with the help of tweezers, but you have to wet it properly first. For prevention you should see to that the lizard gets enough of A vitamin and that the air humidity in the tank is high enough.

If the chameleon lacks certain minerals, it can start eating soil. You will have to add various mineral supplements to the food.

Respiratory infections occur due to poor husbandry. The lizard becomes lethargic, it pants and breathes heavily, the body swells. You should show the chameleon to the vet and he will prescribe antibiotics. You will have to improve the reptile’s environment too.

Stress is the most common problem with the chameleons. . It can be caused by other lizards in the same enclosure, wrong type of light or wrong temperature or too many people around the enclosure. It is easy to know when the chameleon is stressed: it stays darker than usual for a long time. If the chameleon grabs a branch and sits like that for a long time, this means it is stressed. You should find the reason for it and eliminate it. 


You should put the lizards together only for mating since they are very aggressive towards their specimens. The mating starts with courting ritual: the male inflates and show to the female its bright coloring. Then the male comes close bowing its head. If the female is ready for mating, it will stay calm and wait for the male to approach.   If it isn’t ready, it will hiss and bend its back. Then the chameleons have to be separated at once.  The copulations lasts for about half an hour. After that females get very anxious and their appetite increases. Several days later their coloring changes to dark-brown or black with pink spots. The pregnancy lasts for two months. When the female starts walking down, it means it is looking for a place to lay eggs, and you should put in the tank a box with damp vermiculite.  The female will dig a hole there and lay 15-30 eggs. Two weeks after that the female will be ready for mating again.

You should take the eggs away and put them in the incubator. There they should be in the same position as the female laid them, otherwise the embryos will die. The incubation period lasts for 8-9 months. The eggs need to be ventilated and the substrate has to be kept damp. In 9 months tiny hatchlings come out.  They have to be placed to the tank that has been prepared in advance. The hatchlings are fed with drosophila, cricket powder and small cockroaches with vitamins and mineral supplements. It is impossible to tell the sex of small chameleons.

Average life span is 8-10 years. Females live longer than males. 

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