How Big Do Chameleons Get? A Guide To Their Growth

  • By: Dave

Like you may be now I was once in the early stages of thinking about getting a chameleon for a pet and, like you, I wondered just how big a chameleon would get? Would it reach the size of other reptiles? Or would it be the size of a more regular household pet like a rabbit?

Chameleons are 4 inches long when they hatch and grow between 15 and 20 inches long nose to tail for adult male chameleons. Adult females are shorter at around 10 to 18 inches.

How big are baby chameleons?

Maybe that should be how small are baby chameleons? Either way, baby chameleons are adorably tiny and cute. When they hatch they are around 4 inches long from tip of the nose to the tip of the tail and there are no differences in size between a male and a female at this stage of their lives. These sizes apply to baby veiled chameleons, Jackson chameleons and panther chameleons. In what seems like a blink of an eye though they get big because they really do grow up very fast.

Some chameleon breeders will try and sell a baby chameleon right after they have hatched but I wouldn’t buy one when they’re this small no matter how tempting it may be. Instead, I would wait until they are a few inches bigger and around three or four months old. This gives them a chance to grow and feed properly in order to better prepare them for the stress of being moved to a new environment.

How big do adult chameleons get?

  • Veiled Chameleons do grow to a large size and are in fact one of the larger known species of chameleon. There are size differences between the sexes too as adult male veiled chameleons are around 20 inches long from nose to tail and adult females are a little shorter at around 18 inches long.
  • Panther Chameleons also grow to a large size but not quite as large as the veiled chameleon. Like the veiled chameleon, there are size differences between the sexes with male panther chameleons growing to a maximum size of 18 inches and females no longer than 14 inches.
  • Jackson Chameleons are the smallest of the 3 most common species kept as pets. Again there are differences between the sexes with males growing up to around 15 inches long and females average to a length of around 10 inches.

Although there is not that much difference in length between male and female adult chameleons there is a noticeable difference in size appearance between the two. Adult males will appear a lot larger than females because they are generally broader. The casque on top of a veiled chameleon’s head also grows much bigger than a female’s casque. Female Jackson chameleons also tend to have fewer and shorter horns than their male counterparts, with some females having no horns at all but this depends on the subspecies of Jackson chameleon also.

How long does it take for a chameleon to get big?

Chameleons grow extremely quickly. When they’re babies they can grow what seems like an inch a week and in reality, it’s not far off that! You’ll notice that baby chameleons have absolutely ravenous appetites and continue with an appetite of that size for about a year. You’ll have to feed them often to keep up with their growing demands. My article on how much to feed a chameleon has more info on this here.

By the time they’re a year old chameleons are more or less the full size they’re going to be. Another six months and they’ll be at the full sizes mentioned above. Again, the timing as to when they’re fully grown will be species-dependent but expect most chameleons to be their fully grown size by 18 months old.

How big should a large chameleon’s cage be?

Some keepers argue that chameleons should have different size cages according to their current stage of life, so a baby in a baby-sized cage, juvenile in a slightly bigger cage and so on. I can see the logic in the sense it’s easier to find a tiny chameleon in a small cage but apart from that, I don’t think it’s necessary.

A large pet chameleon should really be housed in the largest cage available which is generally 24x24x48. Any smaller than that and they will not be as comfortable which may lead to stress and stress is a big cause of illness in chameleons. This cage on Amazon is the perfect size for any of the chameleons mentioned in this article, no matter what stage of life they’re at.

Read more about the type of cage a chameleon needs and what is required for a full setup in my article here.

Does food make a chameleon bigger?

Genetics and the type of species a chameleon is will play a large role in determining how big a chameleon gets but the amount of food a chameleon eats will play a role too.

Chameleons are insectivores, meaning they feed largely on insects but they also have been known to eat small birds and rodents. They will also eat fruits, vegetables, and general foliage now and then to supplement their diets to provide extra nutrition. While insects and rodents, of course, contain fats and protein they are otherwise not that nutritious. What’s important is what these animals have themselves been eating that provides nutrients to chameleons. These will contribute to making a chameleon big in the wild.

In captivity, however, chameleons have a lot fewer options of food to feed on. In the wild, there’s an almost limitless variety of food but the practicalities of providing food in captivity mean only certain types of insects are available and these are dependent on factors like what insects are easy to breed and take care of.

Large pet food stores feed their insects with cheap filler food to just keep them alive and are less concerned with overly nutritious food. Not all breeders are like this, of course, there are some very good online live food suppliers but feeder insects bought at big chain pet stores are likely going to just be fed on foods to bulk them up. This means it’s ill-advised to feed them to your chameleon as soon as you’ve purchased them. Instead, you need to gut load them first.

Gut loading is when you feed the insects nutritious food before feeding them to your chameleon. This means feeding them with leafy greens and other vegetables to get the nutrients into your chameleon. By feeding the insects to your chameleon before they’ve had a chance to fully digest the gut load, your chameleon will get all the nutrients from the contents of the gut load as well as the feeder insect itself.

Feeding a chameleon a nutritious diet can certainly help make them big but many keepers have a tendency to overfeed as they mistake a chameleon’s metabolism as being similar to our and one that needs to be fed every day.

Check out my article about what chameleons eat for more info on this.

Should a big chameleon worry me?

Chameleons are kind of mysterious and exotic looking at first glance so having concerns about a large looking lizard you don’t know much about is reasonable. You don’t know if they’ll bite you or hurt you in some other way. Chameleons, particularly veiled chameleons, can be aggressive but this is more a defense mechanism than attack.

A chameleon’s defensive posturing can appear very intimidating if you’re not prepared for it. Chameleons, like most pets, can bite you but I really wouldn’t let this possibility put you off because you have more chance of being bitten by a dog or a rabbit than a chameleon and these pets are much more commonly kept than chameleons. Have a read of my article about a chameleon’s defense postures and how to avoid being bitten and you should come away feeling less worried.

In short, no you shouldn’t worry about a large chameleon causing you or your family harm. Pay attention to the information in my article I linked to above and you’ll be absolutely fine.

Conclusion

Yes, chameleons can grow to a pretty large size but I wouldn’t let this put you off buying one. Personally, I think having a big sized chameleon is pretty cool and something to embrace.

Their size does mean they require a large cage but not one so large that it won’t sit nicely in the corner of the room without being too imposing. In fact, it will look beautiful if you set it up with lots of beautiful plants.

Related Articles

All these articles are on this website and are related to the topic covered in this article.

Are Chameleons Good Pets?

How Much Is A Pet Chameleon?

Chameleon Safe Plant List

What Do Chameleons Eat?

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