10 Types Of Chameleons That Make Great Pets For Experienced Owners

Considering a chameleon as a pet? Before you buy, learn here which ones are best for captivity and if they will be a good fit for your household.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Do chameleons make good pets?
  • Which ones are best?
  • What’s the best type of chameleon for beginners?
Pet chameleon resting on a thin tree branch.

Chameleons are iconic reptiles known for their flamboyant colors, independently moving eyes and long tongues that shoot out of their mouths to capture prey. They are often depicted in the media with fast-changing skin to camouflage themselves with their surroundings. 

Despite being popular pets, chameleons require dedicated and attentive care and have specific needs especially when it comes to their habitats, making sure they are stress-free, and the correct humidity levels. They are not usually recommended for first-time reptile owners but with enough preparation and research, beginners can successfully care for these magnificent creatures as well. 

Don’t worry though, with our care guides and this quick rundown of the different types of chameleons and their characteristics, making an informed decision on the type of chameleon that is right for you should be easy. 

Caution

All chameleon species are protected under international law (IUCN-Threatened or Near Threatened); buying wild-caught chameleons should be avoided. Import to the United States under the pet trade is one of the causes of their decline so please obtain chameleons from certified breeders that responsibly propagate the species. This also ensures your pet chameleon will grow to have good health and be suited for a life in captivity under your care. 

Introduction to Chameleon Care

Chameleons belong to a distinct group of lizards of about 200 known species in the family Chamaeleonidae. They are found throughout the world but mostly in the mainland of sub-Saharan Africa and on the island of Madagascar. There are a few species that live in northern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, southern India, Sri Lanka, and smaller islands in the western Indian Ocean. Their natural habitat widely ranges from rainforests, mountains, and even the desert.

Chameleons are solitary animals that, in general, are not too keen on being handled and can easily be stressed out. Some are even quick to bite and can hiss to show their displeasure. They are best treated as “display” animals so keep that in mind if you are considering caring for one. Sometimes, even the slightest exposure to people and other animals can affect your chameleon negatively. Over time, your pet chameleon will grow accustomed to your presence and may even let you handle them from time to time (important for health checks!) but they are best left alone. 

📚 Read More >> What Do A Chameleon’s Colors Mean?

They thrive well if you give them a large enclosure, with a dimension of at least 2’ x 2’ x 4’ (24” x 24” x 48”) LxWxH and lots of foliage they can hide in. Most chameleon-specific enclosures will be oriented taller to accommodate plants but chameleons can also thrive in wider enclosures. 

The key thing is to furnish your enclosure well so that your chameleon can feel safe inside it. An area that is hidden from full view is always recommended to help keep your chameleon feel safe. Mesh or hybrid enclosures are recommended over glass ones to provide better airflow and avoid stress. Chameleons won’t easily realize that they cannot walk through clear glass enclosures and stress themselves out trying to. It’s also best to keep only one chameleon per enclosure as these are highly territorial animals. 

General reptile care such as providing a source of UVB light, heat, and the correct humidity levels applies to chameleons. Since reptiles thermoregulate through their environment, it’s always important to create a gradient in their enclosure where one side is hotter, brighter, and more humid than the other. One unique thing about chameleons is that they require more frequent and longer mistings in their enclosures since they only drink water from droplets that fall from leaves. However, you should also pay attention to keeping surfaces dry to prevent fungal or bacterial growth. Showers can also help keep them hydrated. 

Chameleons will eat the usual insect feeders and some plant matter. As with reptiles in captivity, it’s best to provide supplements such as calcium, multivitamins, and vitamin D3, by way of dusting or gut loading insect feeders.

10 Types Of Chameleons

The type of chameleon you choose can be determined by your readiness to provide the correct care for these beautiful creatures. However, if you have a particular type of chameleon in mind that you’d really like to care for, then proper preparation, rigorous research, and a good breeder support network are your best weapons in giving your pet chameleon its best life. 

Below, we run down the commonly found chameleons in the market: Veiled, Panther, and Jackson’s. A few smaller chameleons: Dwarf, Elliot’s, Carpet, and Pygmy for those who cannot build large enclosures and of course, the giants of the chameleon world: Meller’s, Parson’s, and Oustalet’s.

Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)

A veiled chameleon walking slowly on a branch isolated on a back background
Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)

Veiled chameleons are known for their tall casques (helmet-like crown on the chameleon’s head) and beautiful colorways. Originally from Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, these are commonly available from breeders and have been successfully bred in captivity. 

They are known to be hardier and generally require less attentive care than most chameleons making them the best choice for first-time or less experienced reptile owners. They are, however, known to be somewhat feisty and/or shy so don’t expect Veiled chameleons to do well with interaction. Veiled chameleons are usually brightly colored in green, yellow, and brown stripes.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

Veiled chameleons are known as voracious eaters due to their genetic disposition for rapid growth rates. However, proper nutrition especially when it comes to calcium and vitamin D3 supplements (in addition to good UVB lighting) should be met to ward off the onset of metabolic bone disease due to their rapid growth.

Care should also be taken so that veiled chameleons don’t overeat as these can lead to different health problems due to fat build-up. Babies and juveniles can eat unlimited food items every day until they mature while adults can eat 2-3 food items every other day. Chameleons eat insects and some plants. Fruits shouldn’t be offered since they are high in sugar. 

📚 Read More >> Veiled Chameleon Care Guide

Habitat Requirements

Both male and female veiled chameleons do well in 2 x 2 x 4 feet tall cages as adults with temperatures between 72–78˚F during the day and 55-65°F at night. The basking spot for veiled chameleons should be about 80-85˚F. Pay attention to the placement of your basking bulb as veiled chameleons can easily burn due to their tall casques. 

Daytime humidity should be: 30-50% RH, while nighttime humidity should be: 80-100% RH. Make sure good ventilation is maintained despite the high humidity requirements.

A perching area and a hiding spot should be available in the enclosure, preferably behind dense leaves, that is completely hidden from view and can block light. Screen cages are preferred though glass-screen hybrids also work. Veiled chameleons thrive in a “forest edge” type of foliage arrangement, with one area of the enclosure dense with plants and the other serving as an open basking spot. 

Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)

Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) in a terrarium
Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)

Native to the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa, these large (up to 20 inches), brightly colored Panther chameleons have a calmer disposition compared to Veiled chameleons (but they can still be quite feisty). They are known for their good memories, can easily memorize feeding schedules, and recognize their owners. 

They have very vibrant colors of red, turquoise, green, and almost all colors of the rainbow. In their native Madagascar, Panther Chameleons have distinctly different colors from different locales.

Panther chameleons are widely available and have been bred successfully in captivity. They are also quite hardy and are relatively easier to rear and have good breeder network support. 

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

For the first year of panther chameleons, they will need to eat every day for good growth. Give as many food items as they will eat in about 15 minutes every day. Once they mature into adults or you notice them growing in girth more than in length, lessen feed items to 4-5 pieces and start feeding every other day. Panther chameleons are also avid eaters so you should definitely watch for overeating.

Supplements such as calcium, multivitamins, vitamin D3, and vitamin A should be given as well. Calcium supplements should be given every day while the rest can be given every 1-2 weeks. Daily mistings and showers will help with hydration.

Habitat Requirements

Panther chameleons also do well in 2 x 2 x 4 feet tall cages but would do better in cages twice the size of that or at least a bit wider at 4 x 2 x 4 feet, especially for males. Similar to Veiled chameleons, Panther chameleons also prefer an enclosure with dense foliage on one side and an open basking spot on the other. Make sure that a hiding spot that is completely guarded against view is available as well as a perching area at a safe distance from your heat lamp.

Screen cages work well but you may want to consider a 3 solid-sided enclosure with one screen side to help maintain the required daytime humidity of 50-60% RH (nighttime at 75-100% RH). Alternatively, a shower curtain can be used to cover the sides of your screen enclosure. This will also depend on the weather or ambient temperature of the room you place your enclosure in.

Daytime temperatures should range from 72-77˚F, nighttime temperatures should be: 60-70˚F, and basking temperatures should be: 85-90˚F. Set up the heating lamp and UVB lamp outside its enclosure to prevent burns.

Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii)

Close up of a Jackson's chameleon resting on a branch
Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii)

The iconic three-horned Jackson’s chameleon is another famous choice for a pet chameleon, especially for dinosaur enthusiasts. Originally from Tanzania and Kenya, with a few populations in Hawaii and US Mainland, these have steadily grown in popularity in the pet trade. Jackson Chameleons are unique because they give birth to live young. They also have a prehensile tail with a surprisingly good grip and are known to be mild-mannered. 

They do require more attentive care than most chameleons but they shouldn’t be too challenging for a well-prepared first-time owner. Though considered calmer than Veiled or Panthers, chameleons in general still do not like being held so make sure you limit your handling time even with your Jackson’s Chameleon.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

As babies, Jackson’s chameleons should be given as much as they can eat so they grow well. Between 6-12 months old, the food items can be reduced to about 10 pieces per feeding, every other day. As adults, they can be given about 3 pieces of gut-loaded feed every other day.

Jackson’s can tend to be picky but this is usually because your chameleon is still too full to eat. To remedy this, reduce feeding frequency or offer smaller portions of food.

Calcium supplements should be given every feeding time while multivitamins and vitamin D3 can be given every 1-2 weeks.

Habitat Requirements

Jackson’s chameleons are from higher altitudes and so will tolerate colder nighttime temperatures (50-65˚F). During the day, temperatures are a bit lower at 68-75˚F and basking temperatures should be at 80-85˚F. Again, make sure that the UVB and basking lamps are at a safe distance from their perching area.

Cages that are  2 x 2 x 4 feet tall are best though males will appreciate wider cages. Their temperature and humidity requirements are closer to the usual human home so a screen enclosure works well. However, a tarp or plastic cover on one to two sides of the enclosure will help regulate the required nighttime humidity (75-100% RH). Make sure to maintain good ventilation throughout the night. During the day, the humidity should be 40-50%RH. 

Similar to Veiled and Panthers, Jackson’s chameleons will thrive in enclosures that have dense foliage on one side (“forest-edge” type) with a hiding place hidden from full view.

Elliot’s Chameleon (Trioceros ellioti)

Elliot’s chameleon is a smaller-sized variety originally from Eastern Africa that has calm or mild personalities. They are quite hardy and are also easier to care for. They sometimes go by the names: Side-striped Chameleon and Groove-throated Chameleon and have different colors between green, gray, brown, and orange.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

Elliot’s chameleons are not picky eaters and will often eat anything that moves in front of them and are especially fond of flying insects. Do pay attention to the feeder size though, these smaller chameleons prefer smaller feed sizes. 

As babies, they should eat as much as they can until they mature. While adult chameleons can eat 3-5 pieces of food every other day. Make sure to dust or gut load your feeder insects to provide your chameleon with their needed supplements (calcium, multivitamins, and vitamin D3). 

Habitat Requirements

Since these are smaller chameleons, they can thrive well in cages that are about 1.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 feet but 2 x 2 x 4 feet tall cages are still best. Keep daytime temperatures at 72-78˚F and nighttime temperatures at 55-65˚F. Basking temperatures should be about 88˚F; make sure to set up your UVB and Basking Lamp at the proper height from their perch. 

Humidity should be 30-50% RH during the day and 80-100% RH at night. Again, make sure the surfaces are dry and that proper ventilation is maintained. A tarp or plastic cover in one or two sides of a screen enclosure can help maintain a good balance between humidity and ventilation.

Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis)

Carpet chameleon resting on a bamboo shoot
Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis)

Carpet chameleons get their name from their unique markings which consist of spots, stripes, and circles that resemble oriental carpets. Females are usually more ornate than males especially when they are gravid. Their beautiful patterns and small size (up to 10 inches) make them popular choices especially for those with limited space. 

Males are usually green to lime green in color while females can have patterns in green, white, yellow, orange, and red. Both sexes have stripes on their throats.

Carpet chameleons are native to the forests of Madagascar. Before only wild-caught carpet chameleons would be available in the market but these have been successfully reared in captivity in recent years.

Carpet chameleons tend to be shy and can easily be stressed so proper care and an excellent habitat setup are required to keep them in good health.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

Carpet chameleon care is similar to Panther chameleon care wherein daytime temperatures should range from 72-77˚F, nighttime temperatures should be: 60-70˚F, and basking temperatures should be: 85-90˚F. Set up the heating lamp and UVB lamp outside its enclosure to prevent burns and far enough from the highest perch.

Carpet chameleons are still efficient hunters despite their size so insects such as crickets, flies, and worms will do well. As they are growing, they’ll need to feed more frequently. As adults, feeding should be lessened to prevent obesity. Make sure insects are gut loaded with supplements (calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins) to ensure the good health of your carpet chameleon. 

Habitat Requirements

Enclosures that are 1.5 x 1.5 x 3 feet should be great for Carpet chameleons, but larger is always better. Fill the enclosure with lots of plants and places to hide to make your Carpet chameleon feel safe and at home. 

Since Carpet chameleons will need high humidity but with good ventilation, a hybrid screen enclosure or covering 2-3 sides of your screen enclosure to maintain a good balance between humidity and ventilation. Glass enclosures will also work provided no unwanted reflections are seen by your chameleon.

Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampoleon sp.)

Small Pygmy leaf chameleon resting on a thin tree branch
Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampoleon sp.)

Pygmy chameleons are one of the smallest at just 3.5 inches (at most) hailing from the forests, woodlands, thickets, and savannas of central East Africa. They have more muted colors like browns and greys since they are often found in the bushes and leaf litter on the forest floor instead of up on trees like other chameleons.

Perfect for smaller enclosures, these chameleons are one of the only ones successfully kept in groups but with caution, still. Proper observation of pygmies in groups should be done to avoid unnecessary stress and males should never be kept together.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

These small chameleons can be quite sensitive to proper care so good research should be done before getting a pygmy chameleon. Pygmy chameleons will eat smaller crickets, baby hornworms, and baby silkworms. Pay attention that the size of their feeder insects is not bigger than the space between their eyes. Juveniles will need to eat more frequently than adults. 

Habitat Requirements

These chameleons will do well with a small 5-gallon tank or an enclosure that is 1 x 1.5 x 1 feet. They are not climbers so will not need tall enclosures. If you intend to keep more than one, then a larger enclosure is required.

Temperatures should be kept at about 60-70˚F at night and about 65-78˚F during the day. Basking lights should be installed with care as temperatures above 80˚F can become lethal to pygmies. 

Humidity should be about 60-80% RH throughout the day and about 80% RH at night. Plants and daily mistings help regulate humidity.

Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates)

Dwarf chameleons are the smallest species in the world
Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates)

The Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is on the rarer side in terms of availability but they are similar in care to the Jackson’s chameleon tolerating colder temperatures due to their natural habitats in the midlands and woodlands of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal). These small chameleons give birth to live young similar to Jackson’s chameleons.

They are quite small and only grow to 3 inches. Natal Midlands Dwarf chameleon has bulbous scales of different colors around its body with a yellow crest on its head and white coloration on its throat. Males can have orange stripes on their bodies while females are often colored brown. 

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

As with all smaller chameleons, care should be taken on the size of your feeder insects. Make sure they are not bigger than the space between your chameleon’s eyes. Dusted or gut-loaded pinhead or small crickets are great. Make sure they get enough supplements especially while growing. Help them hydrate well with daily mistings and the occasional shower.

Habitat Requirements

Dwarf chameleons can be housed in slightly smaller screen or hybrid enclosures of at least 1.5 x 1.5 x 3 feet tall since these chameleons will still need their plants and dense foliage in their enclosures. 

Daytime temperatures can be 70-75˚F with nighttime temperatures at 65˚F. Their basking spots should be about 80-85˚F. Make sure the bulbs are not too close to their perching areas and make sure they have a place to hide hidden from full view. 

A tarp can help maintain the humidity at 75-90%RH at night but make sure you still have good ventilation. During the day, the humidity should be between 50-65% RH.

However, a tarp or plastic cover on one or two sides of the enclosure will help regulate the required nighttime humidity (75-100% RH). Make sure to maintain good ventilation throughout the night. During the day, the humidity should be 40-50%RH. 

Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer Oustaleti)

Endemic Malagasy giant chameleon or Oustalets's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), very large species of chameleon. Antsiranana, Madagascar wildlife and wilderness
Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer Oustaleti)

One of the world’s largest chameleon species that grows up to 27 inches in length is the Oustalet’s chameleon native to Madagascar. They are also known as the Malagasy giant chameleon and are mostly sedentary in the wild, staying still to evade predators. 

These chameleons are grey or brown with dark vertical bands along the body. Females have a bit more hues (greens and yellow) and even red coloration on the head and limbs. 

The availability of captive-bred Oustalets is steadily increasing but there are still some wild-caught ones being sold in the pet trade. Wild-caught Outstalet’s chameleons should be immediately taken to the vet to check for parasites.

Usually more docile in temperament, these gentle giants require attentive care and are often reserved for more experienced owners due to their large size and specific enclosure requirements. 

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

Oustalet’s chameleon will take all manner of feeder insects but owing to their large size, you may also want to consider breeding feeder insects to cut down on costs. In the wild, they are even known to feed on large hissing cockroaches and small birds. Gut loading or dusting feeder insects is always recommended. Calcium supplements are especially important during the growth phase. Vitamin D3 and multivitamins are also a must. 

Juveniles will need to be fed daily while adults can be fed every other day. Cut back on the number of feeders once you notice your chameleon increasing in girth. A lot of health complications in chameleons come from obesity, especially in large chameleons such as the Oustalet’s. Regular misting and showers will help keep your chameleon hydrated.

Habitat Requirements

Such a large chameleon will need a bigger enclosure with a minimum dimension of 3 x 3 x 4 feet tall. Bigger enclosures will allow you to set up their habitat perfectly. Screen enclosures or hybrids are best; screens ensure good ventilation while having one or two sides covered will help maintain the humidity levels. Daytime humidity should be 50-60% RH while nighttime humidity should be 75-100% RH.

Daytime temperatures should range from 72-77˚F, nighttime temperatures should be: 60-70˚F, and basking temperatures should be: 85-90˚F. Make sure you set up the heating lamp and UVB lamp outside its enclosure to prevent burns.

Since chameleons are arboreal creatures, they need a lot of branches to climb and hang out in. Make sure their enclosure has a lot of plants especially those with dense foliage to help create little areas hidden from view that your Oustalet’s can hide in. 

Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

Large turquoise Parsons chameleon resting on a dirt trail
Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

These giant and heavy chameleons are native to the humid, primary forests of eastern and northwestern Madagascar. They can grow up to 27 inches and length but are also known to grow quite heavy. Males have a ridge from their eyes to their nose and are mainly green or turquoise with yellow-orange eyelids. Females are smaller and are green, yellow, or brown with an orange tinge. 

Parson’s are arboreal chameleons, often found clinging to tree branches. They are typically docile and inactive but observant of their surroundings and can be territorial when threatened. 

Export of native Parson’s chameleons is regulated but captive-bred Parson’s chameleons are steadily increasing in number and availability in the local pet market.

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

Parson’s are reported to be omnivorous but would do well with gut-loaded or dusted feeder insects in captivity. Make sure to provide a steady supply of calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamin supplements by way of gut loading or dusting feeder insects.

Feed juveniles every day until they mature and can start to eat every other day. As with most large chameleons, always watch out for growth in girth which signals obesity. Lessen the number of feeder insects to maintain an ideal weight. 

Parson’s chameleons do have a greater hydration requirement so longer mistings and a 5-10 minute shower every 2 days will work wonders.

Habitat Requirements

Parson’s chameleons can grow quite large so a bigger enclosure with a minimum dimension of 3 x 3 x 4 feet tall is better. Though some will do well with a 2 x 2 x 4 feet tall cage, that will compromise your space for plants and foliage which is a must for chameleons.

Again, screen or hybrid enclosures are best to ensure good ventilation while maintaining humidity. Daytime humidity should be 50-60% RH while nighttime humidity should be 75-100% RH.

Daytime temperatures should range from 72-78˚F, nighttime temperatures should be: 60-70˚F, and basking temperatures should be: 85-90˚F. Make sure you set up the heating lamp and UVB lamp a good distance from the highest perch to prevent burns. 

Give your chameleon a nice place to hide that is fully obscured from view to help it feel secure in its enclosure.

Meller’s Chameleon (Trioceros melleri)

Green and black Meller's chameleon walking on a branch
Meller’s Chameleon (Trioceros melleri)

The Meller’s chameleon, sometimes called the giant one-horned chameleon, hails from the mountains of the East African mainland. They are the only one of the giant chameleons that do not hail from Madagascar. 

Known for the ridge on their back and a single rostral horn, the Meller’s can grow up to 24 inches in length. They have brown, dark green, yellow, or even black spots or bands on their sides with a base color of forest green with white stripes. These chameleons also change their color according to the circumstances (temperature or stress).

Meller’s chameleons are export regulated in the international pet trade but have increased the availability of captive-bred individuals over the recent years. These are quite challenging chameleons to care for due to their sensitive hydration and humidity needs in addition to their large sizes. 

Quick Care Requirements (Diet/Nutrition/Handling)

These are mostly insectivores so the usual feeder insects (crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, worms, cockroaches) comprise most of their diet in captivity. Supplements (calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins should be added to ward off diseases especially during their growth phase. As with most giant chameleons, obesity should be avoided by watching their growth in girth.

Hydration is key for Meller’s so make sure they get daily misting and a shower at least 1-2x a week. 

Habitat Requirements

Meller’s chameleons do best in large cages with dense foliage. A minimum of 3 x 3 x 4 feet tall cage is good but bigger is always better. You’ll be surprised at the difference a bigger enclosure can make for the health of your Meller’s chameleon.

Still, screen or hybrid enclosures are best but for Meller’s you may want to consider plastic tarps that cover the sides to ensure the high humidity requirement. Daytime humidity should be 50-70% RH while nighttime humidity should be 90-100% RH. Make sure your surfaces keep dry even with regular misting to prevent fungal and bacterial build-up.

Daytime temperatures should range from 75-80˚F, nighttime temperatures should be: 65-75˚F, and basking temperatures should be: 90-95˚F. 

Which Chameleon Is Best For Beginners?

Veiled and Panther chameleons are usually the best species for beginners since these aren’t too demanding or sensitive in terms of care. Veiled and Panther chameleons are also more readily available from breeders and have been successfully bred in captivity. 

The advantage of Panther chameleon over Veiled chameleons is that usually, Panther chameleons are more responsibly bred. Since Veiled chameleons are so widespread, it’s harder to find reputable breeders that produce good chameleon broods. In addition, the network of Panther chameleon breeders offers great support for first-time owners.

Sometimes, Jackson’s chameleons can be handled by new reptile owners but these tend to be more demanding. Given a large enough enclosure, Oustalet’s chameleons can also work for beginners.

New owners can also consider getting males over females since females will keep producing eggs even without the presence of males. Egg production will require extra nutritional needs which make caring for female chameleons a bit more complicated. That being said, female chameleons are also great to take care of given the proper care. Male chameleons will have brighter and more distinct patterns and colors. They will also be larger as well.

Pro-tip

As a first-time owner, aside from carefully choosing the type of chameleon to care for, consider buying from reputable and hands-on breeders, so you have someone to consult about your new pet.

📚 Read More >> Can Reptiles Be Emotional Support Animals?

Conclusion

Chameleons are iconic and magnificent creatures that are a prize to have for any reptile enthusiast. However, they often have specific needs making caring for them quite challenging as they can be sensitive to the slightest error in husbandry. 

They are therefore best left to attentive keepers who are well prepared to give their chameleon the best care possible from their large enclosures to their detailed habitat setup in terms of temperature and humidity. 

Chameleons are also best kept as “display” pets since they do not tolerate too much handling. First-time chameleon pet owners should do exhaustive research before getting one. Luckily, guides such as these as well as an extensive breeder network are available as support. 

FAQs

How many different types of chameleons are there?

There are over 200 known/documented species of chameleons in nature.

In captivity, there are about 10-15 species usually kept as pets. Not to be confused with “morphs” and “clades” which are different colorations and patterns within a single species. 

Do chameleons bite humans?

Chameleons, especially the more aggressive and territorial ones like Veiled and to some extent, Panther’s have been known to bite when threatened. However, these creatures did not evolve to have a strong bite which is why in the wild, they compensate by being masters of hiding in trees and branches. Chameleon bites aren’t toxic and though it won’t likely draw blood, it can be a bit painful.

What is the best type of chameleon for a beginner?

Veiled and panther chameleons are usually the best species for beginners since these aren’t too demanding or sensitive in terms of care.

Veiled and panther chameleons are also more readily available in pet stores and have been successfully bred in captivity.

Sometimes, Jackson’s chameleons can be handled by new reptile owners but these tend to be more demanding. Given a large enough enclosure, Oustalet’s chameleons can also work for beginners.

What is the friendliest type of chameleon?

The concept of a chameleon being “friendly” is often a misinterpretation. Chameleons will tolerate their pet owner’s presence and recognize them as the source of food and therefore grow to be calmer around humans. 

There are chameleon types that generally have a mild disposition such as the Jackson’s chameleon but this is actually just a behavioral trait wherein Jackson’s chameleons often prefer to stay still in the presence of a predator or a source of stress. Compared with Veiled or Panther’s that usually display their annoyance by hissing or even biting. 

Again, chameleons are best left as “display” pets with minimal handling and interaction. That being said, individual chameleons can have different personalities unique from their expected disposition and some can be “friendly.” 
The best practice as a chameleon owner would be to respect your pet’s boundaries and observe their reaction towards you over time. 

References

Informative article on chameleon care:

Introduction to Chameleon Husbandry

Scientific article on the biology of chameleons:

(PDF) Biology of the chameleons: an introduction

Great guide to choosing a chameleon (the site also offers a lot of information on chameleon care):

Choosing a Chameleon

Basics of Chameleon Care:

Chameleon Basics

Great article with good visuals that explain how chameleons change their skin color:

Chameleon Colors Reflect Their Emotions

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

1 thought on “10 Types Of Chameleons That Make Great Pets For Experienced Owners”

  1. I think the primary issue with chameleons tends to be dedication to their care. Which is an issue that arises with new reptile owners (a lot of the time young kids). They may skip days of misting, feeding, supplenting diet, etc. Which for other popular pet reptiles like bearded dragons and leopard geckos isn’t nearly as punishing. However continually skip on misting a chameleon they will soon dehydrate and if that doesn’t kill them than kidney failure will.

    Another issue generally with beginners is enclosure cost. You can get a 40 breeder enclosure for 50 bucks and that would be great for a bearded dragon. But for a chameleon a properly sized screen enclosure is typically anywhere from 150-250 dollars. Parents getting a chameleon for their kid will want to skimp out and get the cheapest thing they can; typically a 10 gallon tank or something. Which has poor air circulation and doesn’t even hold humidity all that well.

    Obviously there are a few other reasons why they aren’t really recommended for new reptile owners like having a fragile rib cage, but that would take forever to post. Honestly chameleons aren’t even really hard to keep. It’s just people don’t buy the correct equipment and aren’t dedicated to the care of their chameleon. If more chameleons were treated with as much importance as a family dog there would be a lot less dead chameleons.

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Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

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