Caring For Chameleons
First of all, buying captive chameleons is the only way to go. No parasites or stress from being caught in jungle and put in captivity. Starting off with captive bred babies of young chameleons is ideal. Cages should be screened for ventilation. No glass or at least screen on 2 sides and top. I like all-screen enclosures because air can pass through and easy to clean. Chameleons are solitary and like to be caged alone. Except when introducing female for breeding. Also they are not a lizard that likes to be handled much. They should be observed rather than held. If you want to a hold lizard often, get a bearded dragon or leopard gecko. Panther chameleons are mostly gentle and tame. Taking out and letting it exercise on hanging plants is OK. Just don't leave it unattended or it will likely wander off.
Small chameleons should be started in small cages 16x16x24 inches or 16x16x30 inches. Large Panthers will need 24x24x48 inches. Females midsize cage, 18x18x36 or larger if possible. Large free roam cages are nice. I spray filtered, lukewarm water twice daily or use a MistKing system, they are an automatic mister that can be set up on a timer. I use a pump sprayer and a drain to catch the water. Some say 3-4 times a day, but I think that is excessive as it may lead to respiratory infections, when cage is too wet. No substrate on bottom of cage, just paper. I use red rosin, construction paper seems to also work well. My outdoor cage in sheds have just plastic and can be washed out easy with bottom door opening. I buy cages from LLL Reptile in Oceanside California. They seem to be most reasonable, work well, and will ship anywhere.
Keeping chameleons indoors requires screen caging, 60+ watt bulb, Reptisun 5.0 UVB bulb, and paper flooring. Also include live plants: ficus benjamina, umbrella plants, pothos plants, hibiscus, dwarf-palm, or other non-toxic plants. Plastic plants are acceptable, but I prefer live plants since some might try to ingest them. Try to get your chameleons outdoors at least one time a week for natural sunshine, the ultimate in bone growth and all around health.
I feed babies every day fruit flies and small crickets with Sticky Tongue Farms Indoor and Outdoors for Calcium and Miner-all accordingly. The indoor has Vitamin D-3, which the chameleons are not getting natural sunlight. The outdoors formula has doesn’t have D-3, since they are getting the natural sunlight, and they don’t need the extra Vitamin D-3. There are other brands of calcium, but I prefer Sticky Tongue Farms. I feed the adults every other day, give them calcium 1 time a week, and give them multivitamins once a week. The babies get around double the amount for calcium as they are developing. I also use Rep-Cal multivitamin with beta carotene, but do not over do the supplements because they can develop problems. Make sure to have at least 3 or more horizontal branches. Dowels work well for perching. Curly willow branches, obtained from a florist can also provide great climbing structures for them. Put one dowel or branch under light (not too close so the lizard doesn't get burnt), and put the others in the middle and lower areas. Also include a ficus tree or umbrella plant, and make sure to wash them with clean water regularly. To keep the cages clean, I use diluted simple green to kill bacteria, flush with clean water, then dry.
Sometimes a chameleon can develop Gout (hyperuricemia). It is when a chameleon receives too much protein and vitamins or minerals. When the chameleon or lizard is no longer able to expel them, urea starts to build up in he bloodstream and accumulate in the joints resulting in sharp uric crystals, which stab the tissue and nerves around them. You will often see inflammation in the affected area usually one or two limbs affected by gout (usually the back legs) when they are in pain and will no longer try to move them. Gout can also be caused by kidney failure and vice versa. Things to do to avoid gout, is to avoid feeding your feeders (Crickets, Roaches Etc.) Dog food, Cat Food, Fish flakes, and even Commercial Cricket Chow. Stick with Fruits and Vegetables and remember that it takes about 2 days to clean out a crickets digestive system, so whatever you feed them you have a ~12h window for your pet to absorb the nutrients. The more natural the better to ensure a long healthy lifespan for your pet not only Chameleons. For additional information look up Gout in Chameleons on the internet.
For additional information, please contact your local pet store or check online for chameleon books. Enjoy you new pet!