Panther chameleons (Furcifer Pardalis) are one of the most commonly known and kept chameleons. Panther chameleons are considered beginner chameleons but that isn’t a criticism, they are good animals to keep well and are generally quite happy being handled.
Panther chameleons come from Madagascar and there are regional variations.
Males: Adult male panther chameleons range in size from 12-22”. They reach sexual maturity at around 6-8 months of age, and will become territorial with colour displays towards rival males, usually achieving full colour by about 12 months of age. The hemipenal bulge will become obvious on the underside of the tail near the vent. They will begin courting females by brightening their colours and bobbing their head up and down.
Females: Adult female panther chameleons are smaller than the males, reaching only 12”. Females reach sexual maturity at 10 months, but it is best to postpone any planned breeding until the females have reached full size at 12 months. This is because of the high demand for calcium during egg calcification. Females lay on average 1-5 clutches per year, with 3 being the average. The egg count can range from 15-45 eggs. Calcium issues can cause serious problems for females and supplementation is very important.
Housing: Panther chameleons are naturally found in the tree canopy and in low land woody areas. You will need to mimic this by providing a good mix of live plants, vines, and branches. Live plants are important in keeping up the humidity, and giving the chameleon a more natural living environment along with a sense of security. Some of the most commonly used plants include the Ficus, Pothos, and Dwarf Umbrellas. Be sure to check that the plants you use are not toxic. Having plants in containers standing on paper towel is often best for disease prevention.
Panther Chameleons are solitary animals, and only meet when it is time to breed. They do not live in groups, and should not be housed in groups. They should be kept alone as they are solitary in the wild, and the males are territorial and aggressive towards each other. Even keeping females together isn’t recommended.
Cages can be placed side by side, but a visible barrier must be placed between the two cages otherwise animals will become stressed. This will prevent one chameleon from seeing the other. Cages should also be out of view from other animals or heavy traffic.
Males are very territorial towards rival males, and can become highly aggressive towards one another. Mixing a male and one or more females in the same cage should also be avoided. Males will stress the females with consistent breeding attempts. Gravid females will not even tolerate the site of a male.
Baby panther chameleons need 20"x18"x12". Anything much bigger than this should be avoided, as young chameleons will find it difficult to hunt if the cage is too large.
From the sub-adult stage of the chameleon’s life, long term housing needs to be set up. The minimum cage size for an adult male Panther Chameleon is 24x24x48. An adult female Panther Chameleon is 18x18x36.
Lighting & Heating: Expose your chameleon to as much unfiltered natural sunlight as you can, weather permitting. Unfiltered light consists of natural sunlight that does not come through window glass, plastic, or acrylic. These materials filter out most, if not all, of the UVB rays. With indoor housing and little natural sunlight, we need to resort to artificial UVB sources. UVB is an important element in the production of vitamin D3 for your chameleon. D3 is utilized by a chameleon to absorb calcium for healthy bone growth. Without it, the chameleon will most likely develop metabolic bone disease (MBD). MBD is a disease that causes bone deformities from the lack of calcium or D3 in the diet. These effects can be stopped but not reversed.
Panther Chameleons need a basking site with a temperature of 26-32oC. The basking site should be monitored and adjusted according to seasons. During winter months, you may need to use a larger bulb to provide the correct temperature. During summer months, you may need to lower the bulb wattage. You can also adjust the height of the heat/basking bulb from the basking site. A gradient temperature should be provided throughout the cage. Higher temperatures should be present near the basking area, while lower temperatures should be present at the bottom of the cage.
Food & feeding: It is important to provide your chameleon with a wide variety of prey items. This includes crickets, silkworms, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, and flies. A staple diet of crickets is recommended for daily feeding. Other food items listed should be fed only as treats. Wild bugs should be avoided unless you know that they are non-toxic, clean and suitable for your chameleon. A clean source would be an area free of pesticides or toxins that bugs may come in contact with. Urban areas are unsafe for collecting wild bugs for chameleons.
Generally youngsters need feeding once or twice a day, keeping food items constantly available. Adults will often settle down to feeding on alternate days although breeding females will require food more often
Water: Panther chameleons will not drink standing water from a bowl. Their natural source of water comes from the dew drops that form on leaves. To simulate this in captivity, we use a dripper or a mister to provide the dew drops. Daily dripping and misting is a must. Misting should be done at least 3 times daily; dripping should be done for a few hours daily. An automatic misting system is very useful in providing an adequate water supply while you are away. Panthers are a tropical species, and humidity should be maintained at 60-80%.
Supplements: Calcium, D3, and a vitamin supplement are a requirement for keeping your chameleon healthy. We recommend that all insects be fed Nutrogrub for gut loading and lightly dusted in Nutrobal before feeding.