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Chameleon Husbandry: Temperature




A chameleons’ natural habitat will reach high temperatures for most of the day and throughout most months of the year. This means that in captivity, you need to provide these temperatures for your chameleon to survive.

Pet chameleons need a temperature gradient in their cage between a basking spot and the rest of the cage. The basking spot should be around 95° with the ambient temperature being around 75°. This differs slightly depending on species.

Temperatures are maintained by using a heat lamp fitted with a 100 watt bulb and should be monitored frequently with thermometers.

Veiled Chameleon Temperatures

Veiled chameleons live in forested areas of the Yemen and are increasingly found in Hawaii as a result of escaped pets breeding. Temperatures in the Yemen are often in the 90s, so this needs to be reflected in captivity.

A veiled chameleon needs temperatures of:

  • Basking Spot – 90°F – 95°F
  • Ambient – 75°F – 85°F

Baby veiled chameleons need the basking temperature to be around 85°F, as they are more likely to get too hot because they have not properly learned how to regulate their temperature at this age.

Panther Chameleon Temperatures

Panther chameleons live in the rain forests of Madagascar, where it is hot and humid all year round. This means they need temperatures more or less the same as veiled chameleons but slightly higher.

A panther chameleon needs temperatures of:

  • Basking Spot – 90°F – 95°F
  • Ambient – 75°F – 82°F

Baby panther chameleons need the basking temperature to be at roughly the same as baby veiled chameleons for the same reasons.

Jackson’s Chameleon Temperatures

Jackson’s chameleons live in forested areas in the mountains of East Africa. Temperatures in these areas are quite a bit cooler than the panther and veiled chameleons’ natural habitats. This means slightly cooler temperatures should be provided for this species in captivity.

A Jackson chameleon needs temperatures of:

  • Basking Spot – 85°F – 90°F
  • Ambient – 75°F – 85°F

As the Jackson chameleon requires cooler temperatures, I would make the basing spot at between 82° and 85° for babies.

Night Time Temperatures

The species of chameleon mentioned here don’t really need any different temperatures at night. Their habitats all will have a natural temperature drop at nighttime, veiled chameleons in particular can tolerate a light frost in the mornings.

Unless the place you live gets particularly cold at night, there’s no need to worry, but if you are concerned, you can buy a ceramic heater bulb to keep nighttime temperatures up.

Maintaining Correct Temperatures

The way to do this is by getting the correct set-up in place before you get your chameleon. Temperature provision is largely in the hands of the basking lamp and making sure the correct bulb is in place.

My more in-depth article about lighting for chameleons in general covers what you need to know about basking lamps, but in a nutshell, you need a heat lamp with a 100 watt bulb or equivalent to be fitted inside it. It needs to be placed on top of the cage in the corner above a high up perch.

Play with the distance between the perch and the light bulb itself to get the correct temperatures. Between 10 and 12 inches away from the bulb should be a good spot.

You will of course need to check the temperatures regularly to make sure they are correct. This needs to be done directly under the basking spotlight and the rest of the cage using a temperature gun.

Consequences Of Incorrect Temperatures

The guidelines given here will be enough to provide the correct temperatures, but temperatures do fluctuate because of the environment your chameleon is housed in. There might be a heat wave where you live, a cold snap, or the heating is too hot or not hot enough.

Aside from using the temperature gun to measure the temperatures, your chameleon itself will give you signs they’re too hot or cold.

A chameleon that is too cold will be dark a lot of the time in order to absorb more heat. This can be related to other reasons also, but if you see your chameleon is black a lot of the time, check the temperature, as that may be a cause.

On the other hand, a chameleon that is too hot will sit with its mouth open and show bright coloration in an attempt to cool off.

There are again other reasons for this, like stress for example, but if you see this happen, particularly if they are sitting directly under their basking light, you might want to check the temperatures and make some adjustments.

Don’t panic too much if the temperatures are a few degrees out here and there, as that won’t bother your chameleon too much. It’s when they’re consistently wrong over time, problems begin to start. Too hot can cause burns and dehydration, and too cold can affect food digestion and nutrient deficiency.

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