Everyone knows the chameleon’s amazing ability to change color, but not all chameleons show beautiful colors. Some desert species are pretty drab looking, and the more tiny species don’t really change color much, if at all.
What makes a chameleon colorful to a person is really quite subjective, but below is a list of what I believe to be the most colorful of all the chameleons. Some of these can be kept as pets, especially the panther chameleons, but the more exotic looking ones are expensive and more difficult to care for.
1. Kynsa Dwarf Chameleon
This is first on the list because it’s my absolute favorite looking chameleon. Not only does it have absolutely beautiful colors, it also has incredibly interesting looking patterns on its skin.
Part of the dwarf chameleon species, they are found only in the Afromontane forest area around Kynsa in South Africa. They are possible to have as pets, but are difficult to obtain and expensive.
2. Cape Dwarf Chameleon
Sticking with the South African Dwarf chameleon family, we have the Cape Dwarf Chameleon. It is found largely around forested areas near to Cape Town.
Like the Kynsa Dwarf chameleon, they have beautiful striking colors but not quite the same patterning. Dwarf chameleons are only around 15 centimeters in length, from nose to tail, hence their name, and they are under threat due to deforestation and increasing urbanization in South Africa.
3. Ambilobe Panther Chameleon
A list of most colorful chameleons without panther chameleons in is like a desert without sand. The above image should explain why it’s essential to include them.
There are several subspecies of panther chameleon, but the Ambilobe is the most colorful, and they are only found in the Ambilobe area of Madagascar. Due to their vibrant colors and relative hardiness, they are a popular choice of pet for chameleon keepers. They can grow to around 20 centimeters nose to tail, with the females being slightly smaller.
4. Nosy Be Panther Chameleon
Sitting alongside its relative is the Nosy Be Panther Chameleon. Like the Ambilobe it is only found in Madagascar and only in the Nosy Be region. As you can see, they are an extremely striking almost neon blue color that changes to different hues depending on their mood.
Nosy Be Panther Chameleons are also a popular choice of pet but a little less so than its more varied colored ancestor. It, too, grows to around 20 centimeters in length, with the females being slightly smaller.
5. Labord’s Chameleon
As if chameleons weren’t strange and captivating enough, along comes the Labord’s chameleon to make them even weirder! What’s strange about the Labord’s chameleon is they have the unfortunate accolade of being the shortest living tetrapod in the world.
The Labord’s Chameleon live for only a year, 7 months of which it spends as an egg. The entire species population all hatch, as adults, in November and all die in April after laying a clutch of eggs. More extraordinary still is that at certain points the year, the entire global population of Labord’s chameleons lives in egg form.
They are named after the French explorer Jean Laborde who recorded them in Madagascar. It goes without saying they are not suitable pets and shouldn’t be kept as such, but you can’t deny their beautiful colors.
6. Carpet Chameleon
I love the fact that this species has been named a carpet chameleon. That’s obviously not the scientific name for it, but it’s very apt!
The image above is a particularly colorful example, as a lot of the time carpet chameleons show darker colors to absorb more heat. Darker or not, they all have similar sort of patterns to those you might find on a Persian rug.
Again, these are found only in Madagascar and are the most common species seen there. They grow to a similar but smaller size as panther chameleons and like virtually all chameleon species the males are more brightly colored than the females.
They can be kept as pets, but have a shorter lifespan than the more commonly kept panther and veiled chameleons.
7. Jeweled Chameleon
It should be pretty obvious why this chameleon is called the jeweled chameleon! Again, it is found in Madagascar but in the more central regions, living in mainly mountain grass and isolated trees instead of more forested areas. It can grow to a similar size as the cape dwarf chameleon of around 15 centimeters.
These can be kept as pets but are not widely done so, and they are on the vulnerable species list due to land being cleared and burned for agricultural space.
8. Minor Chameleon
It’s a good thing I didn’t order this list from most colorful to least because the more I add chameleons the more I want to reorder it! Perhaps the beautiful minor chameleon should be nearer the top.
Quite why it’s called the minor chameleon I’m not sure because as you can see its colors are anything but. Also found in Madagascar, they are one of the few species of chameleon where the female has brighter colors than the male.
They are well suited to keeping in captivity, but not easily obtained as they are banned from being exported by Madagascan authorities, and they are not widely bred in captivity. They are also on the endangered list due to their habitat, sadly, being destroyed by mining and logging.
9. Parson’s Chameleon
While certainly not the most colorful of species it’s certainly the largest measuring at a huge 68 centimeters long from nose to tail! It lives on yep, you guessed it, Madagascar in eastern and northern forested areas of it. It is named after the British physician, James Parsons.
I’ve included it on this list as I think it has beautiful shadings of blues and yellows that change to greens and purple patches.
They are kept as pets in captivity, but I wouldn’t recommend them for a first time chameleon due to their size and care requirements.
10. Verrucosus Chameleon
Rounding off the list is the Verrucosus chameleon. While certainly not the most vibrant of colorful chameleons, I find its distribution of colors on its body the most striking and you can’t help but notice the deep ocean like blues mixing into lush greens.
Of course it lives on Madagascar, both on the Western side and in drier parts of the south. It’s more commonly known as the warty chameleon, and it grows to a pretty hefty 56 centimeters from nose to tail. They can be kept as pets but are not very commonly done so, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend keeping them if you’re new to chameleon keeping.