Chameleon: Keeping and Care

Eyes that move independently, a tongue that pops out in a flash, and skin that changes color. You immediately know who is meant: the chameleon. Everyone knows them from TV or the zoo, as an experienced terrarium keeper, you can also keep the fascinating reptiles at home.

General information about the chameleon

The chameleon belongs to the iguanas family and is native to Africa. There are 160 known species today, including sizes from just a few millimeters to giants up to 70 cm in size. All species have the ability to move their eyes independently. Most can also carry out the typical color changes.

However, it is a misconception that the chameleon always adapts to the color environment. The color changes are intended much more for communication and to express their well-being. They also depend on external factors such as solar radiation, temperature, and humidity. Some species like the panther chameleon are true to color artists, others like the stubby-tailed chameleon do not change their skin color at all.

In general, all chameleons are sensitive and sensitive animals. They tolerate stress very poorly, and diseases often cause premature death in captive animals.

The attitude

Like other reptiles, the chameleon is mostly kept in the terrarium. This should be at least 1 m in height, width, and depth. If, for example, the depth of 1 m cannot be achieved, this should be compensated by increasing the height and width. There is also a formula with which you can calculate the minimum dimensions – individually tailored to your chameleon.

The length of the head and torso (not counting the tail) is multiplied by 4 (for length), 2.5 (for depth), and another 4 (for height). That gives a good starting value. When keeping in pairs, another 20% must be taken into account so that there is enough space.

Wooden terrariums or glass terrariums covered with cork on the inside are best suited for keeping them. Why cork? If the male chameleon sees himself in the window all day, he is exposed to permanent stress because he considers his reflection to be a rival.

Depending on the species, the chameleon has a great need for fresh air. Sufficient air circulation through wide ventilation surfaces on the side and ceiling can be used to quench this. To maintain the humidity, you can install a sprinkler system or regularly spray the terrarium and chameleon. By the way, a great alternative in summer is to keep the animals in a net terrarium in the garden or on the balcony. As long as the temperatures stay above 15 ° C, you can even enjoy the fresh air outside at night. Terrarium owners report bright colors and absolute satisfaction after such a “summer vacation”.

Since the chameleon comes from the rainforest and spends a large part of its day climbing, it naturally also needs plants in the terrarium. The arrangement of these is not that easy. On the one hand, the chameleon needs dense foliage to hide and cool down, on the other hand, it also loves free sunbathing and viewing spots to warm up and rest. There are hardly any limits to your creativity in implementing these claims.

Lighting is also an important point, as chameleons like to be warm. Around 300 W of HQI lamps, UV lamps and neon tubes should be used. The exact combination depends on the type of chameleon. Local heating points should be up to 35 ° C, with a distance of at least 25 cm from the lamp. In addition, a lamp protection basket ensures that the animal does not burn itself on the hot pear.

When it comes to the substrate, your personal taste is very important. In general, normal soil with a few leaves is best for laying out. You can buy soil, but you can also get it yourself from your own garden or the nearby forest. Then there are two options.

  • You pack everything carefully in the oven at 60 ° C, so that all living things that are still hidden in the natural material perish. Then you fill the soil in the terrarium.
  • However, there are also terrarium keepers who don’t do just that. They are happy when springtails, woodlice, or thawworms (of course in a reasonable number) inhabit the substrate: These clean the soil, loosen the soil, and prevent rotting material. Nevertheless, as a keeper, you should regularly remove excrement and dead leaves and renew the substrate once a year.


Of course, preferences also depend on the type of chameleon and individual tastes. In principle, it is not necessary to feed every day. Regular feeding breaks enable regular digestion and prevent overfeeding. The natural diet consists of insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms. But you can also feed flies, cockroaches, or woodlice (maybe your chameleon will catch one of your “earth woodlice”).

Large animals even eat smaller chicks or mammals – but this is not absolutely necessary for feeding. Supplementary foods such as fruit, leaves, and lettuce only convince some types and are sometimes really popular. Because the animals live in captivity and never eat as well-balanced as they do in nature, food additives should be used to ensure an optimal supply of all essential nutrients.

Chameleons also prefer running water; one bowl will not be enough for them. So either you install a fountain or spray the leaves with water every morning. In nature, too, these little animals lick the morning dew from the leaves and thus supply themselves with fresh water.

Keeping several animals

Of course, a large terrarium is a prerequisite for a stress-free coexistence. However, there is no guarantee that even with enough space, disputes will not arise; some animals just don’t like each other. In principle, dense planting is advisable so that there are enough hiding spots. If you want to keep two animals (no longer), you should take a pair. Two males would fight brutal territorial fights that could not end well.

Although the females are sexually mature from six months, mating should not be allowed or carried out before the first year of life. That would drastically reduce the life expectancy of the female. By the way, it is not advisable to keep a female alone permanently. At some point, the animal begins to lay unfertilized eggs, which in many cases leads to fatal egg problems. This means that the eggs are not laid, but remain in the body and slowly rot there.

In general, you shouldn’t bring chameleons home as a beginner. Because of their sensitivity, they are demanding in terms of their living conditions and react strongly to any mistakes. Before you buy, you should also inform yourself well and take the right precautions so that the pangolin is well for a long time.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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