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Keeping Panther Chameleons

Please be aware that this article is intended to help you care for your chameleon correctly, it is not indended to be definitive or by any means the only information you should seek. Please do research other sources before thinking of buying any reptile.

By James H from lancashire on Wednesday 10th June 2009

Housing Panther Chameleons

Taller terrariums are advised for Panther Chameleons as they are an arboreal species who spend most of their time up high. Screen enclosures are advised as glass terrariums do not provide adequate ventilation and can easily become stagnant. Reflection issues and barrier confusion are both also commonly associated with glass enclosures. Adult males should be housed in individual enclosures unless the enclosure is of an adequate size, has enough basking spots and foliage to provide cover. It is advisable though that if keeping more than one chameleon in the same enclosure, they should be one male to maximum of two females. Babies can be housed together until approximately four months provided all the babies have similar body weights.

Male panthers can do well in enclosures 4ft tall, but 6 ft is preferable. Horizontal space should not be forgotten, as although they will spend most of the time up high they will still explore the cage while hunting for food.

Chameleons require a good cover of foliage to feel secure with live plants being preferable over fake as some chameleons have been known to eat some of the plants provided. Ficus or Hibiscus are good choices, while umbrella plants and rubber plants are not. All plants should be washed thoroughly to ensure no pesticides are left on them before placing them into the enclosure. Real plants also aid humidity in mesh enclosures.

Vertical and horizontal branches of all dimensions should be provided to allow the chameleon access to the whole of the enclosure and so it can grasp differing branch sizes.

Substrates can be used, but they are of little or no use to the chameleon and can become a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus which can be fatal to chameleons. Bare bottom enclosures are much easier to keep spotless which is entirely more beneficial for the chameleon. Paper towels can easily be removed
and replaced after misting. Whichever method is used, the bottom of the enclosure should be kept spotless at all times.

Chameleons require UVB radiation to fully facilitate their metabolic calcium processes. Chameleons should be able to sit 12 inches away from the source of UV for maximum utilisation. An incandescent light source should also be provided for basking. The heat bulb should be placed at the highest point in the tank to provide a temperature gradient. This will allow the chameleon to vary its body temperature as it pleases as they rely on outside sources to regulate their temperature. Babies are susceptible to high temperatures and care should be taken not to overheat. The basking spot should be in the high nineties with the bottom of the tank around 70-71 (f). This will provide a good temperature gradient and ambient temperature. Chameleons should not be able to get too close to the bulb as burns can easily happen without the chameleon noticing.

Bulbs which provide UV and heat together do not provide a sufficient temperature and UV gradient. Chameleons enjoy a temperature drop at night so an addition source of heat in not nesecary at night.

Feeding and water for Panther Chameleons

Chameleons do not recognise still water as a source of drinking water and should not be provided with a drinking bowl as this can become a source of stagnant water. Waterfalls may encourage the chameleon to drink but are not advisable as the chameleon is likely to defecate over the waterfall and it is another piece of equipment to clean. Chameleons should be misted heavily a couple of times a day for a minimum of five minutes as chameleons may not start to drink until they have been misted for a few minutes. They will begin to lick their lips and lap water which they can see dripping off leaves. Misting also helps keep humidity at an acceptable level; 50-60% humidity is desirable. Misting is inadequate as a primary water source however and a drip system should also be provided to provide the chameleon with a source of drinking water throughout the day. This can be done via ice cubes left to melt over the enclosure or a plastic cup with a pin hole in to allow water to drip out over the course of the day. Ice should not be used in baby's enclosures.

A varied diet is required to balance nutrition and prevent hunger strikes (live food). Good examples are, meal worms, crickets, butter worms, silkworm and morio worms, treats can include super worms. All feeder insects should be fed a nutritious meal before being offered to the chameleon and dusted with the correct calcium supplements. Chameleons should not be fed any wild caught insects as they could contain harmful pesticides from plants or parasites.

Sexing Panther Chameleons 

As adults, panther chameleons are easily sexable as males will display the brilliant colours of their locale, while females will take on a more typical brown/tan/peach/orange colouration regardless of their locale. Babies are harder to sex, as colourations do not really start to develop until the chameleon is around 6 months. As a rule, to the trained eye, sexing a male baby can be done by looking for the hemipenal bulge at the base of the tail, which is absent from females from birth.

Choosing a healthy Panther Chameleon

In general a healthy chameleon is indentified by the colour of its skin. A dark skin colouration indicates that the chameleon is stressed or the temperature is wrong. Stress can be fatal to chameleons in as little as 5 days.

A healthy chameleon will when in a relaxed state display their locale colours which should look vibrant and hydrated. Eye turrets should be visibly protruding and whilst awake constantly alert. Sunken eyes or casque indicate dehydration and an unhappy chameleon. Chameleons should not sleep during the day, and a chameleon that spends a lot of time during day light hours with their eyes closed is probably not in good health. Healthy chameleons will have straight backs, legs and jaw line. A chameleon who does not, may be suffering from an easily preventable disease called metabolic bone calcium disease. This is avoided by proper dusting of feeder insects with calcium powder and allowing the chameleon proper access to UV radiation.

Elongated lumps under the skin can be signs of filarial worms and darkened/grey areas on the skin indicate a fungal infection.

Choose a chameleon that is active and has been feeding well; avoid babies that do not seem to have kept up the same growth rate as their siblings. Enclosures should be inspected where the chameleon has been kept, if the enclosure is dirty and has dead insects, stagnant water and dirty foliage the chameleon probably has not been cared for properly. A chameleon with a flexible casque is also not likely to be healthy. A chameleon has makes popping or crackling noises whilst breathing or who seems to spend a lot of time gaping their mouth may have a respiratory problem.

Panther Chameleon colourations

Females are typically uniformly peach/pink/brown/tan regardless of their locale, unlike males who are very distinctive in terms of colouration from location to location. Please refer to the "differentiating between locales" section of the website for full colour descriptions of locales (please note that information is not intended to be definitive and if researching panther chameleon colourations I advise that other resources are also used).

Females, although quite "normal" by chameleon standards, once gravid will display a brilliant darkened, sometimes black colouration with contrasting bands of orange or pink. Some females may display slight colouration indicative of their locale, usually slight blues or yellows in the cheeks or around the lips. Females will have a lateral stripe but visibility is varied.

True colours will appear once the female is sexually mature, females will usually show a very light version of their colouration with any banding or stripes faint or absent. This may happen at around 5 months of age but if breeding it is advisable to wait until 9-12 months for the health of the chameleon. Males also reach maturity at around 5 months.

Breeding Panther Chameleons

Panther chameleons are capable of producing 5-8 approx clutches of 12-30 eggs approx per year with or without having mated. It is a common that keepers who do not breed their chameleon when she shows she is receptive, to think that she will die egg bound. The female will only become egg bound if she cannot find a suitable place to lay her eggs or she feels threatened or unsafe. The female will lay a clutch of infertile eggs quite normally if a suitable nesting spot is provided for her and she receives proper care and attention. A female carrying infertile eggs will still display gravid colours.

Breeding requires observation as injuries and stress are common. Females will begin to show reception about 2-3 weeks before oviposition (egg laying). If you wish to breed, this is when you should start to introduce the male, as the eggs have to be fertilised by a male to avoid infertility. Males should be introduced to females, and if upon introduction, the female keeps her receptive colours and does not seem to be distressed by the presence of the male she is willing to breed and will either allow the male to mount from behind or invite him to follow her around the enclosure before allowing him to mount. A male with intent to mate will jerk his head and display beautiful colours to impress the female.

If the female is unwilling to mate she will darken her colouration to warn the male off and may hiss or try to bite the male. If this happens remove the male as if left together injuries on both sides are likely.

Copulation usually lasts between 10-30 minutes and the female may start to display gravid colours during or just after, but this may take up to a day. Once the pair are separated and copulation has finished, they should be moved back to individual enclosures as females can become aggressive once gravid, and the male may still try to mate with her.

Once in her own enclosure a nesting spot should be provided for her to lay. She should be watered and fed and kept a close eye on during this time. Nesting spots can be placed in the enclosure with the female or the female can be moved to a specific laying facility. Nesting areas should ideally be made of a deep container such as a bucket filled with moist sand/soil which will be moist enough to hold any tunnels that the female may burrow. It should not however be wet.

UV and basking lights should be provided for a nesting female. The female will show signs she is ready to lay, by wandering around her enclosure, actively looking for a place to lay. She may also begin to refuse food.

Once the female has started to dig she should be left alone and any disturbance to her should be avoided. She should be allowed to deposit the whole clutch uninterrupted. The size of the clutch will depend on the size and husbandry of the chameleon. After deposition the female will bury her eggs over and emerge from the bucket exhausted. She should be offered food and water and misted well. She may refuse to eat but it is vital she is offered food and water.

The bucket can be removed once the female has been cared for and is back in the enclosure. Do not move the female out of the bucket, she should be allowed to do this herself.

If an adequate nesting spot is not provided for the female she may become egg bound or scatter her clutch on to the bottom of the enclosure.

Panther Chameleon egg incubation

Once the bucket has been removed, the eggs should be placed in an incubator, a spoon can be used to carefully dig for eggs. The eggs should be placed as carefully as possible into a container half filled with hatch rite or vermiculite. The hatch rite or vermiculite should be moist enough to leave slight moisture on your fingers when pressed, but not wet at all as saturated eggs are harder to revive that dehydrated eggs. The containers can have lids, but should be ventilated.

Incubators are widely available, or home made ones work well enough if you have the correct heat and humidity levels. Panther eggs hatch well at 20-25 (Celsius) with the earlier months being the coolest. The exact time that Panther eggs will take to hatch is quite varied, as it is so dependent on the diapausal period. In nature may different things will affect egg hatching time such as the natural temperature and humidity and in captive breeding it is an ongoing quest to find the correct variables for hatching to a specific timeline.

Eggs should be placed into the incubator and the incubator should be kept in a place where the light and heat is consistent and will not be subject to massive variations. Eggs should be checked periodically in the first few months and more regularly towards hatching.

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