Hopefully, you’ve been considering and researching for a while before making the decision that you want to buy a chameleon as a pet but you’re not sure where to get one. There are really ten main options where to buy one from. These are:
- Reptile Fair
- Big Chain Pet Store
- Private Chameleon Breeder
- Private Seller
- Online Pet Store
- Forums and Classified Listings
- Specialist Chameleon Website
- Rescue Center
- Specialist Reptile Pet Store
- Flea Markets
In my opinion, the best place to buy a chameleon is a private breeder but this can depend on many different variables because there are good and bad breeders, good and bad pet stores, good and bad reptile fairs and knowledgable and ignorant people selling chameleons in general. I’ll go through the options below in more detail starting with my preferred option.
1. Buying A Chameleon From A Private Breeder
This is my preferred choice and is what I chose when I bought my veiled chameleon. I was able chat with the breeder back n forth for a good few weeks before I decided to buy one and I traveled a couple of hours to get him.
Buying from a breeder meant I got to meet the breeder in person, see his chameleon set up, get advice and actually see some mistakes he’d made with chameleon care and get advice from him on how to avoid making the same mistakes. Not only that you can get to see what chameleons he has on offer, hold one or two, check them for health issues and so on.
Breeding chameleons is not a simple task that anyone can undertake. It requires a level of skill, knowledge, and patience so you can get the added weight of that behind any advice you may receive. This won’t be advice just on keeping chameleons but on what equipment is best for them and so on. All of the advice I give on this website has its foundations in what I learned from my veiled chameleon breeder.
Just make sure you do your homework on the person first. If possible ask other people who bought a chameleon from the perspective breeder, ask if the chameleon was healthy, whether they gave good advice and so on. It’s difficult to get your money back from an unscrupulous breeder if they sold you a sick chameleon without your knowledge.
2. Buying a chameleon from a chain pet store
When I got my chameleon pet stores didn’t really sell them. You could, of course, got to specialist pet stores that sold reptiles and other exotic pets but even there chameleons weren’t as widely available as other reptiles like snakes.
All this has changed now as chameleons have grown more in popularity as a choice of pet. They are available in lots of mom n pop pet stores and right up to chain pet stores like Petco and Petsmart, both of which offer chameleons for sale.
Buying a chameleon from a chain pet store is fine but I would exercise caution. If they do not have a specialist reptile advisor then I would think twice before taking their advice on how to care for them. There is lots of advice from people who have first-hand experience of caring for chameleons available online, like this website for example!
So go armed with knowledge about what’s required to care for them and, more importantly, what equipment is best because chain pet stores are in the business of making money. This means they’re going to sell you what stock they have and a lot of the time it will be things you don’t actually need, like an elaborate substrate for example, or an unnecessary cage accessory like a waterfall.
As most chain pet stores have robust refund policies and customer services, buying from here has the added bonus of protection against being sold a chameleon that is unhealthy or, worse, actually suffering from illness that requires money spent on vet bills straight away.
3. Buying a chameleon at a reptile fair
Reptile fairs will have pet shops, breeders and online stores with a stand selling all manner of chameleon species and ages. They will also have sellers selling all manner of chameleons in different stages of health too.
You will surely find a great deal of knowledgable people at a reptile fair but the downsides are you don’t know how the chameleons have been housed and cared for prior to the event.
Again, making money is the aim of the game and you can never be sure that you’ll know what you’re buying. Chameleons are, as you know, beautiful and you may see a particularly beautifully colored one but you might not know anything about the species and its care requirements.
You might buy, say, a Parson’s chameleon and they’re not as easy to care for than a veiled is for example. Furthermore, you might end up buying one that was wild caught and not only is that illegal to do in most cases it’s also likely they’ll have parasites or other health problems.
I don’t want to put anyone off reptile fair as they’re great places to visit but if you can take someone knowledgable, ask lots of questions to the seller, inspect the chameleon properly before buying and make sure you get the contact details of the seller so you can ask follow up questions later.
Many specialist chameleon breeders at reptile fairs will have websites too which will make it easier to contact post sale if you have any questions. Be wary of a seller that doesn’t at least have verifiable contact details before buying as any difficulties you have after you’ve bought the chameleon will be impossible to rectify with the seller if you’re unable to contact them.
4. Buying a Chameleon from a specialist reptile pet store
As I mentioned in number 2 on this list, buying chameleons from pet stores, even specialist reptile pet stores, were difficult when I first got my veiled chameleon but this is no longer the case.
Similar advantages and disadvantages apply here as to chain pet stores but a specialist reptile pet store will have the advantage that it’s highly likely to be staffed by people knowledgable of keeping chameleons as pets. A good specialist store like LLL Reptile will have staff specifically designated for each reptile they stock so they’ll be able to answer any questions you have.
In my experience, I’ve also found specialist reptile stores don’t try and sell you extra junk that you don’t need in your setup as much as a chain store might. This is not to say it won’t happen but due to their specialist nature, it is less likely.
5. Buying a Chameleon from a private seller
I’m sure there are plenty of decent selling chameleons privately for a whole host of reasons but, in all honesty, this would be the last place I would choose to buy one.
It could be that someone’s moving house and has no room for the chameleon in their new place, they no longer have time for it or they very quickly realized that looking after a chameleon is more difficult than they thought it would be and they want to sell it.
There’s a good chance private sellers fall into the latter category and that’s why it’s my least preferred option. They could be selling because the chameleon is sick and they can’t afford the vet bills. You can quite easily avoid this situation and find a seller who just wants the chameleon to go to a good home for other reasons.
A good way to tell if a seller has good reasons for selling or just wants to get rid of a poorly cared for and sick chameleon is by paying attention to their actions. A seller with good intentions will help you check the chameleon’s condition thoroughly. Make sure the chameleon is displaying bright colors, is active, feeding well and its eyes aren’t sunken showing signs of dehydration.
I recommend not buying anything above juvenile ages from a private seller. If possible you should buy a baby chameleon. It’s not always easy to tell how old a chameleon is so the seller could say they’re three years old when in reality they’re five. Most captive chameleons live for only five or six years on average so buying one too old means you most likely won’t have it for long before it dies.
A scrupulous private seller will also likely have a good setup you can check and happily answer any questions you have. Someone with bad intentions will likely not be very helpful and avoid any questions.
If possible take someone with you who is knowledgable and, of course, read all you can about what it’s like caring for a chameleon and what it needs in its enclosure on this website before going this route but, as I said, it’s my least preferred option.
6. Buying a chameleon from a Specialist Website
This is a more recent way of buying a chameleon and increasingly popular. My first reaction to it was skeptical as to me it seemed pretty difficult to ship a chameleon in the mail without causing harm to it, but many people have reported great success buying chameleons this way and there are some great businesses operating in this field.
I confess I don’t know a great deal about it but judging by this video it works very well. I’d have thought the chameleon would have trouble breathing in this sort of container but apparently not. Although this wouldn’t be my choice of method of buying a chameleon because I’d like to see what I’m getting first, Kammerflage Kreations is a well recognized company that does a good job at shipping them.
As I said it wouldn’t be my first choice purely because I’d like to see the chameleon I’m buying in person. It would definitely be my second preference though because buying from websites like this means you get the skills, knowledge, and expertise you can only get from an experienced chameleon breeder but the added convenience of having your new pet shipped directly to your door.
7. Buying a chameleon from an online pet store
For me, this is less preferable to buying from a chain pet store as all the same caveats apply but you don’t get to see the chameleon beforehand or ask any questions.
This is not to say you can’t ask questions by email beforehand but you don’t get to see the condition the chameleons are kept in, how healthy the chameleon is and so on.
If you’re going to buy a chameleon online though I would recommend just going with places like Kammerflage Kreations or FL Chams because it’s still buying online only from people who are specifically breeding chameleons for the specific purpose of selling them online. This gives them an extra edge over online pet stores that sell a variety of reptiles.
8. Buying a chameleon from forums and classified listings
This presents a mixed bag of sellers from private individuals, private breeders, specialist chameleon breeders with larger setups and small local pet shops advertising. I’ve seen all these sellers advertising on places like gumtree, craigslist and reptile related message forums. You won’t see them advertised on Facebook though as they have banned the sale of live animals.
I actually bought my chameleon from a private breeder advertised through a reptile forum and this enabled me to chat back n forth with them over the course of several weeks before I decided to drive a couple of hours to get him. This worked out well for me and I would do it again and use the same approach as mentioned in number 1 on this list.
I wouldn’t buy from people on craigslist or gumtree though for the reasons I gave in number 5. It’s still in the category of buying from a private seller just advertised online instead. There are just too many things that can go wrong and it’s not worth the risk.
Breeders who sell online like the ones mentioned in number 6 often sponsor chameleon related forums, list their pets for sale and make general posts on chameleon related topics. You can, therefore, interact with them and ask questions in the context of an online discussion rather than just email.
Other people will have bought from them too and will provide feedback on which sellers were worth contacting. Having these discussions and receiving feedback from other forum members were what allowed me to make an informed decision about where I bought my chameleon from.
9. Adopting a chameleon from a rescue center
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that many animals, not just chameleons, need rescuing from neglectful situations or from people who put them up for adoption as they are unable to look after them
I include this one as it’s a legitimate option but it’s one that requires extreme caution before choosing to go this route. In fact if you’re a first time chameleon owner I would strongly advise against it.
That said though plenty of people get dogs for the first time from rescue centers so there’s no reason why a first time chameleon owner can’t either but do your research, thoroughly first. You should do this regardless of where you get your chameleon from.
The main advantage of this way is you will save money. You could even get yourself a beautiful panther chameleon or maybe something even more exotic for a greatly reduced price or even for free. A donation to the center will surely be welcomed though and adoption fees may also apply.
The other advantage is you will get a fantastic wealth of knowledge from vets who work with chameleons and who specialize in their care and research. They are likely to be more experienced with chameleon care than private breeders are so for that reason alone it’s worth looking into.
Have a look in your local area for reptile rescue centers or check out Chameo, a chameleon rescue center for more information on adoptions.
10. Buying a chameleon from a flea market
Just don’t is my advice on this one. It’s rare, or at least should be, to see animals for sale at flea markets and rarer still to see chameleons for sale. It’s also possibly illegal as some states have outlawed the sale of animals at flea markets and swap meets.
Again, just don’t. Just don’t bother for all the reasons I mentioned not to for private sellers. It’s virtually guaranteed that someone selling chameleons at a flea market doesn’t care a hoot about the animal’s welfare and will most likely sell you a sick one that’s been badly cared for.
You may be tempted to buy one just to rescue it but I advise against it. If you buy one another one will take its place and the cycle will continue. Just stick to buying crockery and antiques instead. Flea markets are no place to buy a pet, especially a chameleon.
How much does it cost to buy a chameleon?
I’ve written a much more extensive article on this question here but baby chameleons are anywhere between $30 and $150 depending on species and adults form $75 to $300, again this depends on the species.
You also have the cost of a setup which can cost anywhere up to around $1000 then there are the annual maintenance costs of around the same price, not to mention how much time you spend caring for them as well.
Are chameleons good pets to buy?
I’ve dealt with this question in a two-part blog post that starts here and it gives you both sides of the argument. Broadly speaking I would say they are but it depends on your personality, what you want out of a pet and whether you’re willing to treat a chameleon the way it wants to be treated and not how you want to treat it.
I would certainly say that chameleons are not as difficult to care for as some people make out. Yes, they’re harder than your average pet but with the right knowledge and the correct set up in place before you get one they’re really not too difficult.
So as you can see there are several places you can buy a chameleon from and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. I prefer private breeders but you may think differently.
Essentially it doesn’t matter where, except flea markets that is, as long as you can get a good idea of how that chameleon has been cared for prior to your purchase, whether it has any health problems and whether the person you intend to buy from happily assists you and answers any questions you have.
Have a look round this website for more info on how to care for chameleons and good luck with your new pet should you go ahead and get one.