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Warm Climate Chameleon Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers a variety of species, including:

warm climate chameleon


Chameleons are a diverse group of over 150 species of diurnal (active during the day) lizards of varying sizes, colors and temperaments. Males are typically larger and more vibrantly colored than females. While generally gentle, they are easily stressed by handling, and the more stressed they are, the darker their colors. Nearly all chameleon species are arboreal (tree-climbing) and use their prehensile tails to hold on to branches as they climb. Their cone-shaped eyes can move independently of each other, so they can see 360 degrees around them. They have long, sticky tongues—nearly twice the length of their bodies—that they protrude quickly from their mouths to catch moving insects. Some species of chameleons prefer to live in warmer climates. Warm climate chameleons, also called lowland or tropical chameleons, include carpet chameleons, panther chameleons and veiled chameleons.

Table of Contents

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Carpet chameleons:
    • Native to Madagascar off the African coast, these chameleons have adapted to living in mountains, deserts and rainforests but thrive in areas of highest humidity
    • These chameleons, also called jeweled chameleons or white-line chameleons, are known to be one of the most colorful species of chameleons and get their name because they resemble highly patterned Oriental carpets
    • Unlike many other chameleon species, females are more patterned and ornate than males
    • Males are typically green with white stripes when relaxed and brighter green with yellow and sometimes blue when stressed; females are brown to red with some yellow and white when relaxed and become black, yellow, orange, blue and red when stressed
    • Despite their beauty, this chameleon species is typically shorter-lived than many other chameleon species, generally living no longer than 3 years
    • They generally grow 6–10" long
    • Carpet chameleons are notoriously shyer and more sensitive than other species of chameleons and may be stressed easily
  • Panther chameleons:
    • Also native to Madagascar, panther chameleons are one of the most popular pet chameleon species, perhaps due to their brilliant colors
    • Males typically grow to 12–18", while females reach 10–14"
    • They display a rainbow of skin colors, ranging from red and green to orange, blue and yellow in an array of patterns, including vertical and horizontal stripes and spots
    • Male chameleons are more vibrantly colored than females
    • Their skin is covered with a variety of differently sized bumps
    • They can live up to 5–7 years as pets when cared for properly and are generally considered hardier than many other pet chameleon species
    • While panther chameleons are more docile than some other chameleon species, they still don’t like to be handled often
  • Veiled chameleons:
    • Originating in Saudi Arabis and Yemen in the Middle East, this chameleon species is also known as the Yemen chameleon, where they live on most mountain slopes and valleys; they are now also found in Maui, Hawaii, and in Florida
    • Veiled chameleons are one of the larger chameleon species, with males reaching 24” long and females reaching 18”
    • They are easily recognized by the tall bony protrusion (the casque) on top of their heads that directs water that falls on it into the chameleon’s mouth; both males and females have casques
    • When well-cared for, they can live 4–8 years as pets
    • As juveniles, they are green; males become bright green and develop vertical light yellow and blue stripes along their bodies as they mature, while females are duller green with white, orange, yellow or tan mottled patterns


Care difficulty Advanced
Average Life Span Up to 4–8 years with proper care, depending on species
Average adult size Up to 24 inches long, depending on species
Diet Insectivorous
Minimum habitat size

24” L x 24” W x 36” H for one adult

24” L x 24” W x 48” H for one large adult veiled chameleon


Habitat size

Provide an appropriately sized and shaped habitat to accommodate normal activity; chameleons are arboreal species, so vertically oriented habitats with room for climbing are preferable. Chameleons are best housed individually in well-ventilated aquariums or mesh/screened habitats, with tightly fitting lids to prevent escape, as long as appropriate temperature and humidity levels can be maintained. The minimum enclosure size for a single adult is 24” L x 24” W x 36” H for one adult. Ideally, large veiled chameleons should have a larger enclosure (24” L x 24” W x 48” H). Most species of chameleons reach full size by 18 months under ideal conditions.

Building your habitat

  • Décor
    • Chameleons can become very stressed if they don’t have adequate hiding spaces; provide numerous visual barriers in the habitat with densely planted artificial or live plants (such as ficus, pothos or other nontoxic vegetation), commercially available vines and branches to allow chameleons to climb freely throughout the habitat and choose various temperatures at which to perch and bask
    • Branches and vines should be of varying widths appropriate to the size chameleon’s feet as they grasp and climb on them
  • Humidity
    • Depending on their species, warm climate chameleons require different humidity levels to stay hydrated and shed properly
    • Carpet chameleons prefer 60–80% humidity, increasing at night
    • Panther chameleons enjoy 50–60% during the day, increasing to 75–100% at night
    • Veiled chameleons prefer 30–50% humidity during the day and 80–100% at night
    • Use a humidity gauge to monitor humidity levels
    • Spraying the enclosure multiple times per day will help maintain humidity and allow chameleons to drink droplets of water from the décor
    • Commercial drip systems, misters and bubblers may also be used, as long as they are cleaned once or twice a month with dilute bleach and rinsed thoroughly to prevent bacteria and mold from growing in them, which can lead to potential medical problems
    • Humidifiers are particularly notorious for growing microbes, so they should be avoided
  • Substrate
    • Because warm climate chameleons are housed at high humidity levels, substrates that are easy to clean and less likely to become moldy are best
    • Chameleons also spend very little time on the ground, preferring to climb on branches and vines higher up in the habitat, so they require little to no substrate
    • Partner with your veterinarian on substrate recommendations if you have a gravid, egg-laying female
    • Commercially available paper-based substrates and bark are recommended
    • Small particle substrates, such as sand, gravel, and mulch, should not be used in chameleon habitats; they commonly irritate chameleons’ eyes and the delicate skin around their mouths, plus chameleons often ingest these indigestible substrates and develop potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstructions
  • Temperature
    • Provide a temperature gradient in the habitat so that chameleons—who are ectotherms whose body temperatures depend on environmental temperatures—can move around and adjust their body temperatures accordingly
    • Daytime temperatures should range from 95–100°F in the basking area down to 80°F for the cool end; nighttime temperatures can reach 65°F
    • Monitor temperature with at least two thermometers—one in the cool zone and the other in the hot (basking) zone
    • Heat may be provided by an incandescent or ceramic heat bulb
    • Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures
    • Hot rocks should not be used as a heat source, as they can burn reptiles
    • Reptiles not kept at the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick
  • Lighting
    • Chameleons require full-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) lighting for 10–12 hours a day to expose them to UVB rays, which enable them to make vitamin D in their skin so that they can absorb dietary calcium
    • UV bulbs should be turned off at night to establish a clear day-night cycle and changed every six months, as their potency wanes
    • Chameleons in well-ventilated mesh habitats can also be placed outside in direct sunlight if it is warm enough, as long as they have adequate spots for hiding and shade

Cleaning your habitat

  • Every day, thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls and spot-clean the habitat to remove droppings
  • At least once a week, follow these steps to thoroughly clean the habitat:
    • Place the chameleon in a secure habitat
    • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
    • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell
    • Dry the tank and furnishings and add clean substrate before putting the chameleon back into the habitat


A well-balanced warm climate chameleon diet consists of:

  • A variety of live insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, mealworms, calci-worms, superworms, Dubia roaches, flies, butterworms, silkworms, hornworms, earthworms and waxworms
  • Veiled chameleons may also eat dark, leafy green vegetables, such as collard and dandelion greens, endive, escarole and romaine, plus pothos and ficus leaves

Things to remember when feeding your cool climate chameleon:

  • Crickets should be no longer than the width of the chameleon’s head
  • An open bowl of shallow water may be provided on the floor of the habitat; however, chameleons typically don’t drink from standing water but prefer to drink water droplets off plants or habitat screens
  • Commercial drip systems, misters and foggers or hand misting 4–5 times per day can provide water on plants for chameleons to drink
  • Feed juveniles daily and adults every day to every other day
  • Juveniles can be fed as many insects as they will eat at a time, while adults typically eat between 5 and 15 insects every 2–3 days
  • Insects may be placed in the habitat for chameleons to catch or may be fed by hand, one at a time, to tamer chameleons
  • Uneaten insects should be removed from the habitat to prevent them from chewing on and injuring chameleons; alternatively, chameleons may be removed from their habitat and fed in a separate feeding container to monitor appetite and prevent injury from uneaten insects
  • Sprinkle food with a calcium supplement containing vitamin D3 every other day for juveniles and twice a week for adults
  • Sprinkle food with a multivitamin once a week; because chameleons cannot make vitamin A from its precursor, beta carotene, be sure the multivitamin supplement contains preformed vitamin A so your chameleon doesn’t develop vitamin A deficiency
  • Discard uneaten vegetables within 10 hours so that they do not spoil


Chameleons regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow proper shedding. If chameleons retain small pieces of shed skin on their feet, toes or heads, increase habitat humidity to aid in shedding.

Where to buy

Warm climate chameleons are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.


Habitat mates

  • House adult chameleons separately
  • Do not house different reptile species together


Signs of a healthy chameleon

  • Active, alert and interested in their habitat and in humans
  • Clear eyes, nose and mouth
  • Body and tail are filled out
  • Skin is supple and smooth without lesions, discoloration, swelling or retained shed skin
  • Tongue protrudes and retracts from mouth normally
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Grasps habitat décor and climbs normally

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Mucus or discharge from mouth, eyes, or nose
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to close the mouth or retract the tongue
  • Twitching/tremors/seizures
  • Bumps, sores, wounds, discolorations, or abrasions on skin
  • Labored breathing
  • Weakness or paralysis of limbs
  • Abnormal feces
  • Nonrotating eye(s)
  • Swollen abdomen

Common chameleon health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Gastrointestinal disease Runny or bloody stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent, weight loss, loss of appetite; caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection Consult your veterinarian
Metabolic bone disease Inability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or improper amounts of dietary calcium/vitamin D3; if untreated, can lead to deformed, softened or fractured bones, swollen limbs, decreased appetite, weakness and lethargy Consult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting, a balanced diet and the proper amount of calcium/vitamin supplements
Respiratory tract disease Labored breathing, mucus and/or bubbles in the mouth or nose; can be caused by inappropriate habitat temperature and humidity, leading to secondary bacterial, viral or fungal infection Consult your veterinarian and ensure habitat has the proper temperature and humidity
Egg Binding Females with swollen abdomen, decreased appetite, lethargy, weakness, straining to pass eggs unsuccessfully; may be due to calcium or vitamin D deficiency, inadequate UV light exposure, lack of appropriate laying sites or the presence of other underlying diseases Seek veterinary attention immediately to determine proper treatment
Vitamin A deficiency Signs include swelling around the eyes/lips/head, dull skin color, squinting and discharge from eyes, retained shed skin; may be caused by ingestion of beta carotene (vitamin A precursor) in diet, rather than preformed vitamin A, as chameleons cannot make vitamin A in their bodies Consult with your veterinarian and provide proper diet and nutritional supplements


  • How big do carpet chameleons get? Carpet chameleons grow 6–10" long, making them one of the smaller pet chameleon species.
  • How long do panther chameleons live? Panther chameleons can live up to 5–7 years as pets when cared for properly and are generally considered hardier than many other pet chameleon species.
  • What do panther chameleons eat? Panther chameleons can be fed a variety of live insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, mealworms, calci-worms, superworms, Dubia roaches, flies, butterworms, silkworms, hornworms, earthworms, and waxworms.
  • How big do panther chameleons get? Panther chameleon males typically grow to 12–18", while females reach 10–14".

Additional Care Sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile. Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about Lizards and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.