A chameleons’ natural habitat varies between mountains, rain forests and deserts but they all have one thing in common. They all reach high temperatures for most of the day and throughout most months of the year. This means that in captivity you need to provide high temperatures for your chameleon to survive.
What temperatures do chameleons need? All chameleons need a temperature gradient in their cage. What those temperatures are will vary slightly depending on what species you have as a pet but on average a chameleon will need a basking spot between 85° and 90° and an ambient cage temperature between 75° and 82°.
I will be discussing temperatures for baby and adult chameleons. By baby I mean between 3 and 6 months. Chameleons shouldn’t really be kept as pets younger than 3 months, unless of course you’ve bred them in which case you should know the information contained in this article already.
What temperature do veiled chameleons need?
Veiled chameleons live in forested areas of the Yemen and are increasingly found in Hawaii as a result of escaped pets breeding. Temperatures in the Yemen are often in the 90s so this needs to be reflected in captivity.
A veiled chameleon needs temperatures of:
- Basking Spot – 85°F – 90°F
- Ambient – 75°F – 82°F
Baby veiled chameleons need the basking temperature to be around 85°F as they are more likely to get too hot because they have not properly learned how to regulate their temperature at this age.
What temperature do panther chameleons need?
Panther chameleons live in the rain forests of Madagascar where it is hot and humid all year round. This means they need temperatures more or less the same as veiled chameleons but slightly higher.
A panther chameleon needs temperatures of:
- Basking Spot – 87°F – 90°F
- Ambient – 75°F – 82°F
Baby panther chameleons need the basking temperature to be at roughly the same as baby veiled chameleons for the same reasons.
What temperature do Jackson chameleons need?
Jackson chameleons live in forested areas in the mountains of East Africa. Temperatures in these areas are quite a bit cooler than the panther and veiled chameleons’ natural habitats. This means slightly cooler temperatures should be provided for this species in captivity.
A Jackson chameleon needs temperatures of:
- Basking Spot – 85°F – 88°F
- Ambient – 75°F – 82°F
As the Jackson chameleon requires cooler temperatures I would make the basing spot at between 82° and 85° for babies.
What temperature do chameleons need at night?
The species of chameleon mentioned here don’t really need any different temperatures at night. Their habitats all will have a natural temperature drop at night time, yemen chameleon in particular can tolerate a light frost in the mornings as a result of night time drop.
Unless the place you live at night gets particularly cold there’s no need to worry but if you are concerned you can buy a ceramic heater bulb like this one to keep night time temperatures up.
I’ve written a more extensive article about chameleon sleeping patterns and night time care requirements here.
How to maintain the optimum temperature for my chameleon?
The way to do this is by getting the correct set up in place before you get your chameleon. Temperature provision is largely down to the basking and making sure the correct bulb is in place.
My more in-depth article about lighting for chameleons in general covers what you need to know about basking lamps, but in a nutshell you need one like this with their accompanying 50watt mini halogen bulbs to be fitted inside it. It needs to be placed on top of the cage in the corner above a high up perch.
Play with the distance between the perch and the light bulb itself to get the correct temperatures. Between 6 and 8 inches away from the bulb should be a good spot.
I would also consider a screen enclosure or a hybrid glass and screen one like this one as screen allows for more effective airflow and prevents things from overheating like a glass enclosure might.
You will of course need to check the temperatures regularly to make sure they are correct. This needs to be done directly under the basking spot light and the rest of the cage using a temperature gun like this one is the best good option.
You can read more about what a chameleon cage needs here.
What if my chameleon’s temperatures are wrong?
The guidelines given here will be enough to provide the correct temperatures but temperatures do fluctuate because of the environment your chameleon is housed in. There might be a heat wave where you live, a cold snap or the heating is too hot or not hot enough.
Aside from using the temperature gun to measure the temperatures your chameleon itself will give you signs they’re too hot or cold.
A chameleon that is too cold will be dark a lot of the time in order to absorb more heat. This can be related to other reasons also but if you see your chameleon is black a lot of the time check the temperature, as that may be a cause.
On the other hand, a chameleon that is too hot will sit with its mouth open and show bright coloration in an attempt to cool off. There are again other reasons for this, like stress for example, but if you see this happen, particularly if they are sitting directly under their basking light and doing it you might want to check the temperatures and make some adjustments.
Don’t panic too much if the temperatures are a few degrees out here and there as that won’t bother your chameleon too much. It’s when they’re consistently wrong over time problems begin to start. Too hot can cause burns and dehydration and too cold can affect food digestion and nutrient absorption.
To wrap up
So you can see it’s not too difficult to get your chameleon’s cage temperature correct from the start and to maintain it with the right equipment in place. As I said, don’t worry too much about minor fluctuations as these won’t bother your chameleon but make sure you adjust and make allowances for frequent fluctuations and don’t let incorrect temperatures last too long. Implement what you’ve read in this guide and your chameleon be fine.