Are Chameleons Hard To Take Care Of? What You Need To Know

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If you’re thinking of getting a Chameleon for a pet, then let’s talk about their care. If you’ve never owned a Chameleon before, then there’s plenty of research for you to do.

Luckily, we’ve got all the answers you need about caring for Chameleons.

In this article, we’ll first share a quick overview of what a Chameleon is, where they come from, and how they act.

Then, we’ll discuss how to take care of Chameleons overall. For example, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of having Chameleons as a pet, what you need to take care of a Chameleon, and the best types of Chameleons as pets. We’ll also discuss if having a Chameleon as a pet is a good idea for kids.

Overall, we’ll answer the question, “how hard are Chameleons to take care of?”

What Is A Chameleon?

A Chameleon is a reptile that’s part of the Iguana family. However, they’re smaller than Iguanas, but there are about 160 known species of Chameleon. They all range in size, from about three inches long to up to 24 inches long.

The Chameleon is naturally found in areas such as tropical forests and deserts. They need plenty of humidity to stay hydrated, but they thrive from warm temperatures since they’re cold-blooded.

In the wild, Chameleons don’t travel far and are quite slow, so they’re often found climbing trees and plants. They have protruding eyes that allow them to see from all sides to keep an eye out for predators and prey alike.

If needed, they can change their skin color or camouflage with their surroundings. This allows them to hide from predators but also to hide from unsuspecting prey.

Finally, Chameleons have a long, sticky tongue that’s fast. So, when prey comes along, Chameleons can snatch them up quickly.

Their prey consists mostly of insects and sometimes smaller mammals, such as small birds. However, they’ll also munch on leaves from time to time.

Depending on the species of Chameleon, they have varying lifespans ranging from one year to ten years. So, if you decide to get one as a pet, you could have them for a long time.

There’s a lot to love about Chameleons, but are they good to have as pets? And if so, how easy are they to care for?

Chameleon
Chameleon

Can Chameleons Be Pets?

The short answer is yes. Chameleons can be pets.

However, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet to care for, the Chameleon might not be the best choice – especially if you’re a novice reptile owner.

Overall, they’re easy enough to care for once you know what you’re doing. If you’ve owned a Chameleon before (or another kind of reptile,) then learning to care for a Chameleon should be simple enough.

Although, it’s best to research Chameleons before adopting a Chameleon so you can be sure you can care for it. Also, you’ll want to make sure that keeping Chameleons as pets is the right choice for you and your family.

Are Chameleons Good Pets?

So, do Chameleons make good pets?

Yes, Chameleons make great pets once you know what you’re doing. But, on the other hand, Chameleons are quite sensitive and can be fragile at times, depending on their care quality and mood.

There’s a lot to love and a lot to learn about these reptiles. They make a great choice for a pet because they’re low-energy and don’t make a lot of noise.

Also, their habitat won’t take up too much space since it’ll be more tall than wide. Not to mention, they’re fascinating to watch climb.

On the other hand, they might smell if you don’t clean their enclosure often enough, and they’re also prone to health issues (which can also make them smell sometimes).

In addition, Chameleons have specific needs for their habitat and dietary needs. Yet, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try having a Chameleon as a pet if you want one. You just need to research Chameleons beforehand.

But before we go more in-depth about caring for Chameleons, take a look at this Chameleons as pets pros and cons list.

Pros Of Owning A Pet ChameleonCons Of Owning A Pet Chameleon
They are low-energyMay have body odor
They’re fascinating to watch climbProne to many health issues
Their habitat doesn’t take up much spaceNeed a special, precise environment
They’re quiet reptilesHas specific dietary needs
They don’t require much attention (aside from maintenance)Prefers to be alone

Are Chameleons Good Pets For Kids?

Yes, Chameleons are excellent pets for kids.

Your kids can be involved in caring for the Chameleon by helping clean the cage and feeding their reptiles.

Also, it’s a great way to learn about responsibility. Not only will the kids help care for the Chameleon, but one of their jobs can be to switch the lights and heat on and off and read the thermometer and hydrometer to make sure their enclosure is set up correctly every day.

While this reptile prefers to be alone and they don’t like to be handled, they’re fascinating to watch. Also, when they do need to be handled, it’ll teach your children to be gentle with animals, not just Chameleons.

Finally, kids will have a fun time learning all about the Chameleons and enjoy watching them climb and eat.

Are Veiled Chameleons Good Pets?

Veiled Chameleons as pets are a good choice. In fact, this species of Chameleon is one of the more popular ones.

They’re the hardiest out of all the other Chameleon species, but they’re also the largest.

If you’ve never owned a Chameleon before, a Veiled Chameleon will be a great choice for beginners.

Read our full Baby Veiled Chameleon care guide here.

Are Panther Chameleons Good Pets?

Yes, Panther Chameleons are a good choice for a pet.

For instance, Panther Chameleons are a more docile species of Chameleons, so they’ll be friendlier and more laid-back to care for than some other Chameleon types.

Which Types Of Chameleons For Pets?

Can you keep Chameleons as pets? Yes, but only some species of Chameleon.

For instance, there are many species of Chameleons, and, unfortunately, not all of them will do well as pets. In fact, you won’t find most of the species in pet stores.

For a quick list, in addition to Veiled Chameleons and Panther Chameleons, here are some other Chameleon species that you can bring home as pets:

  • Carpet Chameleon
  • Fischer Chameleon
  • Flap-Necked Chameleon
  • Four-Horned Chameleon
  • Jackson Chameleon
  • Meller Chameleon

How To Take Care Of A Chameleon

Let’s talk about how to care for a Chameleon.

Once you do the research and get the hang of taking care of Chameleons, they’re easy enough to maintain. So, let’s take a look at all the things you’ll need to do to take care of a Chameleon. 

Chameleons Need Proper Housing

The first thing you want to do when caring for your Chameleon is to make sure that you have a proper environment set up for them.

You’ll want to mimic their natural habitat as best as possible with what the pet stores provide for you.

Before bringing home your pet Chameleon, make sure you have the house all set up with the proper temperature. This way, you can introduce your Chameleon to their new home and allow them to get used to it without you fiddling around with the decor or lighting.

With that said, you’ll want to go on a shopping spree at your local pet store and get everything you need for your new reptile friend because they’ll need a lot.

Read more about what a Chameleon needs here.

Tank Size

Chameleons, depending on the species you get, vary in size. For instance, a Veiled Chameleon is the largest, and they can grow to be up to 20 inches long. In some cases, they’ll grow to be 24 inches long.

In addition, they’re arboreal creatures, so they’re often climbing in trees and plants. So you’ll want to provide as much room as possible for your Chameleon to climb high in their tank but also give them plenty of room to roam horizontally.

Regardless, the tank should be taller than wider since they’ll prefer to be up high.

A good size for a tank will be 24x24x48 inches. Of course, you can get away with having a tank that’s 40 inches tall, but no less than that.

Finally, be sure to grab a cage with screened sides all the way around. Chameleons need proper ventilation, so a plastic or glass tank won’t suit them well.

Not only will they not get the ventilation they need, but your Chameleon might see their reflection and become stressed or aggressive.

Flooring And Decor

Once you have the enclosure, you’ll need to fill it up.

First, you can add flooring if you want, but it’s not needed. You can add reptile-friendly dirt, flat stones, paper towels, or nothing at all.

The decor is where you’ll want to fill up the enclosure. First, of course, you want to give your reptile enough space to wander around, but they’ll love plenty of vines, tree branches, and plants to climb on.

When adding plants, you can use artificial ones or add live plants. Your Chameleon will feel more at home with live plants and might even munch on them from time to time. However, it’ll be more upkeep for you.

In addition, you can use zip ties to hold tree branches in place on the screened sides, building your ramps and structures for your Chameleon to climb on.

Veiled Chameleon
Veiled Chameleon

Lighting And Heat

Since Chameleons are cold-blooded creatures, they’ll need heat to help regulate their body temperature.

During the day, their enclosure should be at least 75 to 85 degrees F. At night, it can be cooler, between 65 and 75 degrees F. However, it should never drop below 60 degrees F at night.

Also, for about 12 hours a day, Chameleons need a basking spot. This area should be heated to about 90 to 95 degrees F with a UVB light to help keep them warm and help them digest their food.

Drip System And Misters

Finally, you’ll want to have a drip system and misters within their tank.

A drip system gives your Chameleon a consistent water source since they won’t drink from standing water.

On the other hand, a mister will mist their tank, boosting the humidity and staying hydrated.

You can get a drip system that does both, an automatic mister, or simply get a spray bottle to manually mist the enclosure yourself a few times per day.

Learn more about drip systems for Chameleons here.

Chameleons Need A Special Diet (And Supplements)

Chameleons can also be difficult to care for until you get their dieting needs right. For instance, different species have different dieting needs.

For example, some Chameleons are insectivores and will only eat insects, while others are omnivores and they’ll eat live insects in addition to dark leafy greens. In some cases, some Chameleons will also eat fruits and vegetables.

Their diet will also depend on their age. Hatchlings will only need live food, and they’ll need a lot of it. The protein helps them grow and develop.

As they grow older into juveniles and then adults, they’ll eat less but eat a more varied diet.

In addition to protein, Chameleons need a diet rich in calcium, and vitamin D. Calcium will help their bones and overall body grow. In contrast, vitamin D helps them digest their food properly so they can absorb all of their nutrients.

With that said, Chameleons will need supplements with their meals. For instance, you can gut-load insects with dark leafy greens and other veggies so that your Chameleon will get added nutrients. Or you can sprinkle calcium powder over their food for a boost in calcium. 

Read what baby Chameleons eat here.

Pay Attention To Chameleon Body Language

Finally, Chameleons “speak” by body language. They won’t make much noise at all, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Chameleons will show signs when they’re feeling threatened, stressed, anxious, or sick.

They can get into these moods when they’re feeling overwhelmed, are hungry, don’t have proper housing, or are handling too much since they’re shy solitary creatures.

For example, if you see your Chameleon doing any of the following:

  • Hissing
  • Changing skin color (darker colors or blending in with their environment)
  • Staring you down

Then there’s a good chance that something is wrong.

For example, they might be territorial or might not be used to your presence just yet, especially if you just brought them home.

If something spooked them or they feel threatened, they could stare you down or simply change their skin color to hide within their environment.

Should you notice this happening, you’ll want to move slowly around them to show them that you’re not dangerous and safe.

Check their environment to ensure they’re getting enough water, eating well, and that the temperatures in their enclosure are correct.

If so, you can give them some space but still keep an eye on them just in case.

For instance, another reason they might be acting as such is that they’re not feeling well. If you notice them shedding their skin, foaming at the mouth, or being lethargic, for example, then you’ll want to call your vet. 

Are Chameleons Hard To Take Care Of?

So, are Chameleons good pets for beginners?

The bottom line is that Chameleons aren’t that difficult to care for once you get the hang of what they need. For instance, their care is a learning curve at first, making it seem like Chameleons are hard to take care of.

However, once you have their setup right and you’re feeding them the correct diet and keeping an eye out for signs of illness or stress, you may answer in the affirmative to are chameleons easy to take care of.

Conclusion

So, how hard is it to take care of a Chameleon?

Overall, Chameleons aren’t too difficult to care for once you get the hang of it. However, it’s a learning curve at first, and it can be tricky to get their enclosure just right.

Luckily, Chameleons will be able to tell you through their body language if something isn’t right. However, you need to keep your eyes open because Chameleons can be fragile and get sick easily.

Regardless, they’re a quiet pet, fun to watch, and interesting to learn about. 

Want to know more? Click here to find all our Chameleon guides. You can also find our guide to everything they need here, whether they smell here and whether they are dangerous here. Want to know if you can hold your Chameleon? Click here.

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Jason Williamson

By Jason Williamson

Jason is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever he can.