The world is home to approximately 180 different types of chameleons. Varying in colour, size and appearance, some make better pets than others. Furthermore, there are only a small percentage of breeds bred in captivity, whereas the remained can only be found in the wild.
Different pet breeds of chameleon can vary drastically in temperament and habitat specifications. Generally speaking, some are easier to look after than others. Before you decide on which type of chameleon you want, it can be best to research the characteristics of each type and determine if you would be able to provide the care and time needed to keep your new pet healthy. Below we have outlined some of the most popular chameleons to keep as pets.
Originating from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, veiled chameleons are one of the most popular types of chameleon and are considered a good first choice for any newbie owners. They live between 6 to 8 years and vary between 10 and 24 inches in length depending on sex; females tend to be much smaller.
They are named veiled chameleons due to the large helmetlike structure that sits on their heads. In the wild, this casque is used to steer rainwater into their mouths. They tend to have bodies coloured in shades of green, yellow and brown which change to morph into their surroundings.
You should keep your veiled chameleon on their own. This may seem cruel, but they are extremely territorial and will attack other chameleons. They are docile with humans and very hardy, although they can become distressed if over-handled.
Panther chameleons are popular as they come in some incredible colour morphs, often named after the geographic location they come from in their native country of Madagascar. In the wild, panther chameleons tend to arrow to around 21 inches in lengths, but tend to be a bit smaller than this in captivity.
Like veiled chameleons, panther chameleons will display aggression towards other chameleons. They should be housed alone and aside from the usual necessary handling, they are a chameleon that prefer to be watched than touched.
They tend to live for around five years and require a daytime temperature of 26°C and humidity of around 70%. They eat a mix of insects and plant matter and are a great option for a first chameleon as they are no-nonsense.
The prehistoric-looking Jackson’s chameleon are readily available as pets and originate from East Africa. They are born a deep brown colour and develop their bright green hue at around four months of age. Unlike the four-horned chameleon, Jackson’s chameleons (which have three horns) are one of the easier breeds to looks after and are very resilient. Don’t be alarmed if your Jackson’s chameleon doesn’t have very prominent horns, or none at all, it is likely to be a female!
As insectivores, like all chameleons, Jackson’s enjoy a plant and insect-based diet. Their diet is commonly made up from crickets, but they also enjoy mealworms, roaches, flies and grasshoppers. Just remember to remove any uneaten live prey from the cage and to ‘gut load’ any prey for your chameleons. This means feeding the insects nutritious food so that the goodness can be passed on to your Jackson’s chameleon.
Also known as the Malagasy giant chameleon, Outstalet’s are a large species of chameleon endemic to Madagascar. They can grow up to 30 inches in length at their biggest and in the wild they have been known to eat small birds and other lizards.
Due to their size, Oustalet’s are robust and ideal for owners who are nervous about handling some of the smaller breeds. However, their size means they require a large enclosure measuring a minimum of four feet tall, three feet wide and three feet deep. Enclosures can be indoors or outdoors depending on the climate of where you live but will need a hotspot for your chameleon, as well as a reptile-specific UVB fluorescent light.
Outstalet’s chameleons can live for up to 12 years so ensure you are able to look after your pet for this long. They are ideal for somebody looking for a larger reptile and have a very passive temperament.
Native to Tanzania, the flap-necked chameleon come in hues of yellow and green. They are one of the smaller breeds of chameleon, growing to around 12 inches in length on average. They get their name from the sections of skin which protrude over the neck and can be raised to frighten rivals or predators away.
Flap-necked chameleons prefer living in screen cages rich with plants and trees. As they are territorial they are best suited to living on their own in a cage 24 inches wide and deep, by 48 inches high. All chameleons love to climb so the taller the enclosure, the better.
Sadly, flap-necked chameleons only live for two or three years. However, they make excellent pets as they are very forgiving and cope well in captivity, particularly if you are considering breeding. However, this should not be undertaken by a novice chameleon owner.