Panther chameleons (scientific name: Furcifer Pardalis) are one of the most commonly known and kept chameleons. They are all originally from Madagascar. Panther chameleons are considered “beginner” chameleons. They are among the easiest to keep when you compare their care requirements to other chameleon species. In addition to being easy-to-keep, they also have great temperaments.
There are many different panther locales throughout Madagascar. You will notice a name before the word “panther” when you see them for sale. For example, you’ll see something like “Nosy Be Panther”. The name before the word “panther” dictates the locale of Madagascar, where the chameleon originates. So Nosy Be Panthers come from the island of Nosy Be off Madagascar on the northwest coast. The locale is what determines the coloration of the panther. Here is a sample illustration of the different locales (check our Projects page for a full-list).
To accurately know the locale of the panther, you will need to rely on the source you are purchasing from. When buying a Panther, who you purchase from is extremely important. Too often, unscrupulous vendors sell panthers as one locale, when they are really something else.
Male Panther Chameleons
Adult male panthers range in size from 12-22” on average in captivity. Males reach sexual maturity at about 6-8 months of age, and will become territorial with color displays towards rival males. The hemipenal bulge will become evident on the underside of the tail near the vent. They will begin courting females by brightening their colors and bobbing there head up and down. Males do not attain there full colors until they reach adult hood at over 1 year of age.
Female Panther Chameleons
Adult female panthers are smaller than males, reaching only 12”. Females reach sexual maturity at 10 months, but it is highly recommended to hold off breeding until females reach full size at 12 months. This is due to the high demand of calcium put on females during egg calcification. Females lay on average 1-5 clutches per year, with 3 being the average. Egg count can range from 15-45 eggs.
Panthers will require an all screen cage. Other forms of caging should be avoided. It is important to have the correct size cage to ensure the safely and well-being of the chameleon. Naturally smaller chameleons will need a smaller cage and larger chameleon will need a large cage.
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Baby panther chameleons will need an all screen cage from 20″x18″x12″. Anything bigger than this should be avoided. Although chameleons are pretty good at catching their food, young chameleons will find it difficult to hunt if the cage is too large.
Sub Adults to Adults
At this stage of the chameleon’s life, you want to look at long term housing for your panther. The minimum cage size for an adult male Panther Chameleon is 24x24x48. An adult female Panther Chameleon is 18x18x36.
It should be made clear that housing chameleons together in the same cage should almost never be done. In very rare cases, females can be kept together under the watchful eye of an experienced keeper. 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. 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 out the females with consistent breeding attempts. Gravid females will not even tolerate the site of a male. Cages can be placed side by side, but a visible barrier must be placed between the two cages. This will prevent one chameleon from seeing the other. Cages should also be out of view from other animal or heavy traffic.
Lighting & Heating
There is nothing like natural sunlight. Expose your chameleon to as much unfiltered natural sunlight as you can, weather permitting. Unfiltered light consists of natural sun light 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.
UVB lighting comes in many different forms. Most commonly, it is found in a fluorescent bulb. There are different amounts of UVB in various bulbs. You will notice a number like 2.0, 5.0, and 8.0 followed by UVB. This number is telling you how much UVB the bulb puts out. For example, a 5.0 UVB bulb puts out a total of 5% UVB light. For chameleons we recommend the Zoomed® Reptisun™ 5.0 UVB fluorescent bulbs. With the UVB bulb, you will also need a heat/basking bulb ranging in size from 60-100w. Your other lighting/heating option is to use a Zoomed® PowerSun™ mercury vapor bulb.
Panthers need a basking site with a temperature of 80-90F. 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.
What you put in the cage is just as important as what you use outside the cage. 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.
It is important to provide your chameleon with a wide variety of prey items. This includes crickets, silkworms, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, hornworms, roaches, and flies. A staple diet of crickets and/or silkworms is recommended for daily feeding. Other food items listed should be fed only as treats, with the exception of roaches. 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, such as the city, would be an area that is unsafe for collecting wild bugs for chameleons.
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%.
Calcium, D3, and a vitamin supplement are a requirement for keeping your chameleon healthy. But with any supplement, extreme caution should be practiced at all times. Each manufacture of the various supplements has their own recommended dosages. Be sure you read the recommended doses before using any supplement. Food items should be lightly dusted before feeding. All pray insects should be well gut loaded before feeding.