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The 3 Best Pet Chameleons For Beginners




When thinking about getting a pet chameleon, the most exciting question you’ll find yourself asking is what type chameleon shall I get? There are over 180 different species to choose from! Very few of them are suitable for keeping as pets, though, and fewer still are suitable for beginners.

The best chameleon species a beginner should consider are Veiled, Jackson’s and Panther chameleons. This is because these species are the easiest to keep, the most forgiving of any mistakes a beginner may make, and are the most widely available for purchase.

This article will talk more about each species and why they’re good for first time chameleon keepers. We’ll start with the highly colorful panther chameleon.

1. Panther Chameleon

Panther chameleons are found in the wild in Madagascar. They are called panther chameleons due to the markings on their bodies being similar to a panther big cat.

They display astonishingly bright and vibrant colors and, even more remarkably, they are colored depending on what locale of Madagascar they are from.

Panther chameleons from Nosy Be and Ambanja are bright electric blue, whereas those from Ambilobe and Sambava are redder in appearance.

They are a great choice of pet for beginners because they are quite hardy and easy to look after. All of their needs can be provided by using equipment widely available in pet stores and online. The chameleons themselves are also easily purchased from pet stores and private breeders.

Panther chameleons need temperatures of around 90°F for basking 80°F for ambient, and they require UVB light for nutrient absorption.

You can read more about what they need and how to set up their cage in my panther chameleon cage setup guide.

As panther chameleons are so vibrantly colored and so suitable for pets, they’re not the cheapest chameleon to buy. A baby will cost between$250 and $450 depending on its locale.

If you can afford it they’re the best choice of chameleon for a pet in my opinion, for a beginner or experienced keeper alike.

2. Veiled Chameleon

Veiled chameleons have a special place in my heart as I was the proud keeper of one for 10 years and is the reason I decided to make this website. They’re only second choice as they’re not as colorful as panther chameleons, and color is a primary reason why people choose a chameleon for a pet.

Veiled chameleons are, contrary to popular belief, found in forested areas of Yemen and not in dry deserted areas. They’re also found in Hawaii as an invasive species caused by escaped pets and are therefore illegal in the state.

Like most chameleons, Veileds are fiercely territorial and can produce quite an intimidating display if they feel threatened, but this rarely turns into a bite and is usually just that, a display. They really do show impressive coloration when angry, though!

Like the panther chameleon, they’re great for beginners because they’re hardy and can tolerate many of the mishaps in knowledge of care a beginner will inevitably have. In fact, I’d argue they are the easiest and hardiest chameleon to have as a pet, and this largely explains their popularity.

Veiled chameleons require similar conditions to a panther chameleon, and they are widely available from chain pet stores like PetSmart, private breeders and reptile fairs. They’re also very cheap to buy, costing only around $30 for a baby.

Read more about general veiled chameleon care and how to set up their cage in my veiled chameleon cage setup guide here.

3. Jackson’s Chameleon

Jackson’s chameleons are a mountain species found in the east of Africa, mainly in Kenya and Tanzania. They were also introduced into the USA in Florida, California and, like the veiled chameleon, are an invasive species in Hawaii where it is illegal to transport them between the islands or to commercially export them to mainland America.

They are called Jackson’s chameleons after the British ornithologist, Frederik Jackson, who was governor of Kenya in the 19th century.

Whilst still beautiful, Jackson’s chameleons display less vibrant colors than the two other chameleons on this list, but what they lack in vibrancy they make up for in accessories because Jackson chameleons have a very cool looking horn on the front of its head. So owning one is a bit like owning a small yet colorful dinosaur and is the closest you’ll ever get to having a pet dinosaur!

Like veiled and panther chameleons they need a UVB and a heat lamp but due to their natural habitat being at altitude they require things to be a little cooler of around 88°F for basking and 80°F for ambient being the optimum temperature ranges.

They’re not quite as readily available as the other two species, but still easy enough to find online and at reptile fairs. They sell for only slightly more than veiled chameleons.

Read more about Jackson chameleons and their cage setup requirements in my Jackson’s chameleon cage setup guide.

About the author

Beginner’s Course

Thinking about getting a chameleon? Or maybe you just want to brush up on the basics? Then click here to check out my free beginner’s course. It gives you a good overview of everything you need to get started.

One response to “The 3 Best Pet Chameleons For Beginners”

  1. draven avatar

    thanks, very helpful