Second in popularity as a choice of pet chameleon is the panther chameleon. They’re almost as easy to care for as the most popular choice, veiled chameleons, but they’re more colorful than their veiled ancestors and therefore more expensive. They’re also not as widely available but this is changing.
Before getting a panther chameleon you need to know how to set up their cage well. If you do this well from the beginning it will save you lots of time, money and worry as the leading cause of illness in all pet chameleons is poor and incorrectly setup cage conditions
If you follow this guide on how to set up for your panther chameleon properly you’ll be good to go.
Panther Chameleon Cage
Before you think of anything else you need to get the actual cage correct first to house your panther chameleon in. There’s a couple of things you need to consider
- Size – Panther chameleon cages are big so you need to make room for one. The ideal size is 24x24x48 inches. Any smaller than this and your chameleon will not be happy. Height is most important because panther chameleons spend their entire lives in the forests of Madagascar and hardly any time on the floor. Some people think a smaller cage is required for a baby panther chameleon, and there’s some logic to this as it will be easier to find in the cage but this isn’t really necessary.
- Glass v Screen – This is largely down to preference. There is an argument that says screen is best for ventilation but glass is best for keeping heat and humidity in. Panther chameleons need slightly higher humidity than veiled chameleons but they will still be absolutely fine in a screen cage
I recommend this hybrid cage from amazon. Its front is made out of glass to allow for more effective viewing of your panther chameleon with screen sides to provide better airflow.
You can also build your own cage if you feel crafty enough. Personally I’m terrible at DIY so I will leave this to others but just be aware of materials used before carrying out any work because wooded cages can become warped and rotten and glass can be difficult and expensive to use.
Where to put a panther chameleon cage?
Panther chameleons are not overly keen on people and other animals meaning they can get stressed easily. Where you place the cage can have a big effect on how much stress they feel in the long run.
To avoid too much stress I suggest putting the cage in a room in your home that is less busy.
If it’s just you and one other place in an apartment then it doesn’t matter where you place it as your panther chameleon will be ok with one or two people around.
If, however, your family is large with lots of other pets and kids busy in lots of rooms then it’s best to put the cage in a quieter room in the house to avoid stress.
You can put them in a room with lots of activity of course but it is definitely better for your panther chameleon’s health if things are a little quieter.
Wherever you put your panther chameleon though you need to make sure it has the ability to be above head height. This is because panther chameleons are often hunted by birds from above and the ability to be higher up will make them calmer. That and they do live high up in trees so this elevated position is more natural for them.
Panther Chameleon Cage Lighting
Lighting a really important part of setting up a panther chameleon’s cage. So important in fact I’ve written a more general article about chameleon lighting here.
In a nutshell, panther chameleons need two types of light, both of which need to mimic the sun but in different ways and for different reasons.
Panther Chameleon UVB Light
In the wild, panther chameleons will use sunlight for heat and to absorb calcium into their bones
UVB rays from the sun are used by panther chameleons to convert vitamin D into vitamin D3, critical for the absorption of calcium
This needs to be recreated in captivity otherwise your panther chameleon’s bones will begin to become brittle and deteriorate. This is called metabolic bone disease and is a leading cause of death in captive chameleons but it’s easy to prevent with the correct setup.
When shopping for bulbs you will see 10.0 and 5.0. panther chameleons need the 5.0 one because anything higher will be too much for them. Although vitamin D3 overdose is rare it can happen and be problematic for panther chameleon health. This lighting kit from Amazon that comes with the bulb you need will provide all your panther chameleon needs.
Panther Chameleon Basking Light
As panther chameleons are cold blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature in the same way we do and therefore need the sun for heat.
Panther chameleons will move in and out of direct sunlight and shaded areas in order to regulate their temperature so a temperature gradient will need to be created inside the panther chameleon’s cage.
A basking lamp like this one placed on top of a screen enclosure along with the 50w mini bulbs that fit it will provide a tightly focused basking spot for your panther chameleon. 50w will reach the temperature a panther chameleon needs, which is around 90 degrees.
Providing Water For Your Panther Chameleon
My detailed article about giving chameleons water and how to do it, here but in short panther chameleons need a good amount of water both for hydration and humidity.
Like other chameleon species, panther chameleons are not the easiest of pets to provide water for in captivity. With most pets, you just provide a bowl of water for them to drink from or a water bottle attached to the side of their cage but a panther chameleon will recognize neither of these things and won’t drink from them.
This is because panther chameleons do not drink standing water. Instead, panther chameleons drink by licking water droplets that form on leaves in the morning dew or during a rainstorm.
Like the light from the sun, you need to recreate this in captivity or else your chameleon will become seriously ill through dehydration. There are a few suitable ways to do this depending on your budget.
Hand Misting Your Panther Chameleon
This is a simple method of filling up a plastic spray bottle, I recommend one with a pressure pump like this one as it will save your hands and wrists from aching, fill it up, pump and away you go with spraying. So you simply fill up the water, pump to increase pressure and spray the cage until everything’s nice and wet and your panther chameleon has started drinking.
This gets old pretty quickly though because you have to mist the enclosure at least twice a day and you have to do it until your chameleon recognizes water is present, starts drinking the water and not just until everything is wet. Even then you may have to move away for your panther chameleon to drink as many of them are shy drinkers… Yes it’s really a thing!
Dripper System For Your Panther Chameleon
This method involves placing a water dripper on top of the enclosure and leaving it to drip at a slow to moderate speed onto leaf your chameleon hangs out under.
Drippers like this one are commercially available which will enable you to have more control over the speed of the drops. If you don’t fancy splashing any cash out you can simply recreate the effect by poking a small hole in the bottom of a plastic cup, filling it with water and leaving it on top of the cage to drip. This can vary in success though as many times the water comes out way too fast and can end up making a mess.
Panther Chameleon Misting System
For so many reasons this option is my favorite method of providing water for a panther chameleon. I’ve written an article about why misters are so great here but in summary, they’re the quickest and easiest way to provide water for your panther chameleon. Not only that they provide peace of mind, something you can’t put a price on because wondering whether your pet is getting enough to drink is a big worry, particularly in the early days and when you don’t see them drink at all.
While they’re not prohibitively expensive they’re not exactly cheap either. The amount of time and worry they save in the long run though is well worth the outlay.
Drainage for your panther chameleon cage
As panther chameleons require a lot of water you’re going to need some sort of drainage system in place to deal with all the excess. This is especially true if the bottom of your cage is made of wood as wood can rot from too much water on it and will eventually warp your cage floor.
Most commercially bought cages like the one I mentioned earlier will have a piece of PVC at the bottom. Just drill a few small holes in the middle, not so big that insects can escape, and this will be enough to allow the water to drain out into a tray underneath. This one from Amazon has the correct dimensions for the cage size a panther chameleon needs.
Just place a bucket under the drainage hole in the front to collect the water and you’ll be all set.
Panther Chameleon Monitoring Equipment
The best way to keep a panther chameleon healthy is to keep an eye on the temperature in the cage, the humidity levels and to make sure the lights turn on and off at exactly the right time every day.
Temperature checks will need to happen each day and in two different places, the basking spot and the general temperature of the rest of the cage. The most effective way is with a temperature gun like this one. They’re very simple to use, very accurate and won’t disturb your panther chameleon. You can even check the temperature of the chameleon itself by pointing at it with the sensor and they won’t be bothered at all.
A hygrometer will be needed to measure the levels of humidity in the cage. Digital ones are better as they’re more accurate and this particular one has lots of decent reviews.
This final bit of monitoring equipment is essential but often gets overlooked when discussing panther chameleon cage equipment. As it’s virtually impossible to be in the same place at the same time every day you’re going to need timers to turn each light on and off at the same time every day. You can make life so much easier for yourself by picking up a power strip designed for reptile enclosures. These have timers built in to them.
Panther Chameleon Furniture
Now you’ve gotta furnish your panther chameleon’s crib with some furniture. I don’t mean sofas and armchairs but furniture fit for a chameleon king. This involves plants, vines, and flooring.
Panther Chameleon Substrate
Flooring, also known as substrate, is a bone of contention between chameleon keepers about whether or not chameleons need it or not. I’ve talked about this and what options are available in my article here. In my opinion, I think paper towels are more than enough for substrate at the bottom of the cage, anything more just overcomplicates things although the other options do look better of course.
Panther chameleon plants
Having a panther chameleon means you’re going to have to learn about how to be a gardener.
I am absolutely terrible at plant care and have spent so much money replacing plants I’ve killed over the years. Because of this, it’s tempting to just put plastic plants in the cage but there are a few reasons I don’t recommend that.
- Panther chameleons eat plants – Sometimes but sometimes is enough to not want to have fake plastic trees in your chameleon’s cage. I’m sure you don’t need too much elaboration on all the things that could go wrong should your chameleon decide to eat a plastic plant.
- Live plants help with humidity – This means they produce lots of moisture which keeps the air humid. The fact live plants breathe out oxygen too means your chameleon will have lots of fresh air to breathe in and will prevent it getting too stuffy inside the enclosure.
- Plastic plants look bad – This is just down to personal taste but look at it this way. Panther chameleons are beautiful colorful lizards that live in beautiful colorful rain forests on Madagascar, so why wouldn’t you want to do your best and try to recreate that look in your panther chameleon’s cage? A well planted chameleon enclosure looks incredible and it will make your pet feel more comfortable with lots of places to hide should they need to.
You need to be careful when buying plants for your panther chameleon though as many of them are unsuitable and are dangerous because they’re either toxic to eat or can damage eyes and skin when your chameleon comes into contact with it. Luckily for you, I’ve provided a detailed list of what types of plants are beautiful and suitable here.
Setting up your panther chameleon’s cage correctly from the beginning, even before you bring your pet home, is the best way you can give them a good shot at living a long, healthy and happy life.
The cage doesn’t have to be overly elaborate but trying to make your cage look as much like a Madagascan rain forest as much as possible will not only look incredible but will really help your panther chameleon feel comfortable in their new home.