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The care and bioactive maintenance of the Panther Chameleon

The care and bioactive maintenance of the Panther Chameleon


Furcifer pardalis


Panther chameleons are considered to be one of the most strikingly beautiful animals with a versatile range of colors, showing off a rainbow of hues dependent on the locality of  northern coastal regions of Madagascar where these animals originate from. 

These brightly colored animals are extremely territorial, can be testy in attitude but  are rewarding animals to keep for an experienced reptile keeper. Typically males will be the larger of the species, more commonly found available in the pet trade and being brighter in color variating from bright reds, oranges, yellow and even blue! Males top out between 14-20 inches with a 5-7 year life span. Females are smaller, not as bright, typically being more light grey to dark brown in color are average around 10-14 inches with a shorter life span of 3-5 years. 


Terrarium size 

Panther chameleons are an arboreal species that need space to move and hide to feel safe and secure. We recommend a minimum of 24”x24”x48” for an adult; however larger is always better for an adult. A smaller size can be utilized  for a younger chameleon. In general, chameleons are an extremely delicate tree dwelling species that need adequate space for room to grow, density for hiding and security with air flow and room to explore. Custom cages are also an option, as are outdoor enclosures during the appropriate summer months if your climate allows for it. Keeping Panthers on Bio active is perfect because the cage space needed allows for lots of room for real plants to grow upwards, fanning out offering shade and thriving while the soil does its job of taking care of excess waste, giving your chameleon the best chance at living its best life in captivity possible. 

While glass aquariums seem to be a common go-to for reptiles this is not the case for Panther chameleons as they typically do best in a screen enclosure giving the keeper a jump start on the air flow needed; as they are prone to upper respiratory infections that can be caused by stagnant air. This can be done by more experienced keepers in tune with tweaking things just right to abide by the animals delicate husbandry requirements. As The Dude always recommends, setting up the enclosure before hand is the way to go for delicate species so you aren't adjusting things while the animal is still acclimating. 


We recommend using The Bio Dudes Terra Firma substrate with a chameleon pouch to keep the substrate inside the enclosure with a depth of at least 12 inches for the larger plants giving room for air pockets and stability. This substrate has been made with the CuC (clean up crew) in mind, designed to be used without a drainage layer and to hold the small burrows the CuC will make to help their population flourish. While using the chameleon bag is a good way to keep soil inside of the screen enclosure, it does leave a gap of 1-2 inches between the bag and the enclosure. We include extra sphagnum moss in the kit to fill these spaces.  As female chameleons are prone to parthenogenesis and will produce eggs without ever being with a male, The Dudes substrate mix is perfect for holding up the egg tunnels dug by the female without collapsing. This is great for not only Panther chameleons, but other egg laying chameleons such as Veiled Chameleons. 


Chameleons are an active species using every bit of space given to explore, this includes anything stable enough for them to climb on. Using sturdy plants and trees mixed with secured branches like ghostwood, with at least two spots for basking is a good way to keep a chameleon happy. When designing your enclosure it's good to start with the heavier decor so it can be used as a base to place the lighter, more viney plants like a pothos, giving multiple spots for the vines to thrive providing hiding spots. Ficus, bromeliads, and other tropical plants like Ferns, dracaena, algonema are also good additions creating water spots for the chameleon to drink from, the more the merrier.  Securing the larger wood decor with nuts, bolts and zipties will keep things from toppling over while the chameleon explores. 


Specific UVB lighting for chameleons is absolutely important for their health. They require full UVB on a 12 hour cycle as it helps the animal produce its own vitamin D3 preventing Metabolic bone disease. Giving the chameleon a large enclosure we recommend using an Arcadia 6% T5 Bulb for an adult so it reaches through to the depth of the enclosure. For a younger or juvenile chameleon we suggest an Arcadia T5 6% as well. This light is best placed with the basking areas 6-7 inches away for the best basking spot. 

The plants in the cage need the same 12 hour cycle as the animal does but with using an LED instead, The Dude’s chameleon kit includes a 16” Glow and Grow LED with an adapter. LEDs offer plants inside our home the right lighting needed to flourish and grow brighter, stronger allowing them to be sturdier for your animal. Using a timer will help you keep the lights on cycle easily. 


This tropical species needs a range of nice hot temperatures at different basking areas to let them choose the space they like best. The wattage on the bulb you need is dependent on where you live and how you need to adjust to get the right temperatures. A 60-70 wattage soft white bulb is recommended to reach temperatures of 90-95 for day time basking areas as this is important for the animal to digest properly. If in the nighttime your home gets cooler we suggest using a Ceramic heat emitter to supplement for heating. Anything used for heating purposes should always be used with a thermostat. 

  • Day time 90-95 
  • Ambient 75-85
  • Night time 70-75


Chameleons in general are attracted to active fresh water for drinking; which is usually dew, water inside epiphytes, leaves and small pools. In captivity it is recommended to  utilize a misting system such as a mist king. You can also gain the high levels of humidity between 60-70% by daily spraying/misting and monitoring by using a hygrometer.  Repti safe can be used for water quality.  For the evenings and night time a Reptifogger is commonly used as normal heating and cooling of your home will dry out the air which in turn can cause shedding issues for the animal. Air flow is necessary to help the enclosure keep the humidity without becoming stagnant and causing health issues. 

Food and Vitamins

Thankfully chameleons have a varied carnivore diet, which allows  you to offer a multitude of options for their picky senses. Using a heavy bottomed bowl will let the chameleon hunt the non climbing bugs on its own while other bugs can be put into a feeding cup attached to the side of the enclosure up in the foliage. Chameleons are attracted to moving live bugs, offering them a range of food is the best way to incite a feeding response. Using the Chameleon Bar on the Dude’s website is a great option as well. 

Having a high protein diet is best, using Super worms, Dubia Roaches and Crickets as a staple feeder, adding treat bugs such as wax worms always dusted every feeding with a calcium supplement without D3, and twice a month with calcium with D3.  Younger chameleons will want and need more protein in their diet, but with them being so delicate providing a varied diet can be a challenge. Using a fruit fly cup secured to the side of the enclosure is a good way to keep the feeders like the fruit flies and silkworms inside the cup while letting the chameleon eat when it wants.  Utilizing feeding stations with your loose bugs can also make a huge difference with neonatal animal success. Gut loading any feeders at least 24 hours before feeding them to your animal is best, we use the Dude’s Bug Grub for everything as it can be used dry or mixed wet into a paste. 


If you want an animal to hold and watch TV with, these are not it. They thrive on being left alone and love the seclusion. If you cannot see the chameleon inside the foliage, it's a happy chameleon. They tolerate minimal handling and do fine being shown off, but certainly not an animal to handle daily. As they are brightly colored they are a top prey item for birds, They take being picked up easier by going from underneath letting them walk onto your hands.  Getting a well started juvenile or adult will make handling a lot less stressful on the animal letting them get used to it easier. Sometimes adults can show a pretty intimidating threat display, but it's mostly bluffing. The more gentle you are with not constricting them, allowing them to walk to you as if you were a tree is best. 

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  • Josh Halter


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