All the Thing You Need to Know Before Buying a Chameleon

Everyone who has ever seen a chameleon and who has seen how beautiful it is, and the amazing colors it can change to always dream of owning one as a pet. And chameleon owners also admit that it is one of the most beautiful and colorful pets you can ever own.

However, as amazing as chameleons, they aren’t the best pets for everyone. The natural habits of chameleons make them tricky to care for. Chameleons are arboreal, meaning they live exclusively in trees. They need cages with ample foliage for climbing and privacy, and the enclosure must be quite large.

Also, unlike other species of reptiles, chameleons tend to easily get stressed and fall sick, beginner herpetologists are generally not advised to get chameleon pets. However, for those who are up to the challenge, beginner and expert pet owners alike, chameleons make fascinating pets for those who can take up the challenge of caring for them. If you decide to have a chameleon, this article is for you. I’m going to tell you all the thing you need to know before buying a chameleon.

What is the best kind of Chameleon to buy?

If you are searching for a chameleon you want to buy, it is best to find a captive bred one. While generally captive bred chameleons tend to have duller colors and a more limited color range, than wild caught ones according to research (which makes them unattractive to those who love to see the full extent of the coloring in their chameleons).

Wild caught specimens are usually extremely stressed, carry a heavy parasite load, and have difficulty acclimating to captive conditions. Depending on location they may even be illegal, as there are now several laws and regulations guiding the capturing and shipping them. Not only will physical condition be a deterrent to people who want a wild chameleon, the cost of capturing the chameleon and shipping it is likely to make it significantly more expensive than the pet store bred chameleon in any case.

The capture and shipping of chameleons (which fortunately is being more tightly regulated) results in the deaths of many animals. Many more die in transit than make it to the pet store. Thus getting a wild caught chameleon especially in a place that is not the chameleon’s natural habitat can be difficult.

The store bought chameleon, on the other hand, is already used to being handled and living in a cage. Thus it can easily adapt to the environment of your home. Even though all chameleons regardless of whether they are wild caught or store bought are still territorial, aggressive and love isolation, store bought chameleons are far less aggressive and are more likely to let their owners know when they are stressed or sick. This makes them easier to care for especially for the beginner chameleon owner.

What is the best chameleon species to buy?  

Almost all of the several species of chameleons that exist can be made into a pet. However, these are three of the most popular species that you will like find in a pet store.


Veiled chameleons:

These chameleons originated from the deserts and mountains of Yemen and Saudi Arabia are the hardest and are the most adaptable of all chameleons, and can survive in high temperatures and relatively lower humidity (than other species). At nearly 2 feet long, they are one of the biggest of chameleon species. They are also the most long lived of all the chameleon species.

All these reasons mean they are the most popular chameleon species in captivity. It also means that this species is most likely to be recommended to the amateur herpetology enthusiast. Because they are the most adaptable, they are the cheapest. If you are looking to save money yet you want a beautiful chameleon, then you should buy the veiled chameleon.

See more: 35 Cool Facts About the Veiled Chameleon

Buying veiled chameleon here.

Panther chameleon:

These chameleons are originated from Madagascar in Southern Africa. The Panther Chameleon is not as hard, strong and adaptable as the veiled chameleon, it is also smaller and not quite as long-lived, however, it is a more colorful chameleon as it has a wider color range. With its smaller size, it will likely take less space in your house.

See more: 37 Cool Facts about the Panther Chameleon

Buying Panther chameleon here.

Jackson’s chameleon:

These chameleons originate from the forests of Kenya in East Africa. They are not as adaptable or as big as the veiled chameleons neither are they as colorful as the Panther chameleon, but they are the least aggressive and the most approachable of the three species of chameleon. This is why a lot of chameleon owners prefer them.

See more: 31 Amazing Facts About Jackson Chameleons

Away! by Florence Ivy, on Flickr
Away!” (CC BY-ND 2.0

Buying Jackson’s chameleon here.


With the above, it is easy to see that one species of chameleon doesn’t necessarily make a better pet than another; Chameleon vets recommend the species to buy, based on your tastes and the conditions that you are going to rear the chameleon in. However, for the new chameleon owner who may not have the budget for the more expensive chameleon, it is best to buy a veiled chameleon.


What is the best age to buy your chameleon?

A baby chameleon is called a hatchling. Chameleons are hatched from eggs except in some species where they are birthed alive. Young chameleons are usually a dull gray/brown color and can only change shades a bit. At around five months of age, the adult color and the ability to change colors develop, and a range of colors including green, blue-green, turquoise and black can be seen.

As with any other criteria for buying chameleons, the age of the chameleon is also a matter of taste and interest.  Some people prefer to buy a hatchling chameleon because

Hatchling chameleons are obviously younger than adult chameleons and thus are less aggressive and territorial. A chameleon that has known a pet owner since it was a hatchling will be more friendly to the pet owner, even as an adult.

Furthermore, since the hatchling is less territorial, you can put two of them in a cage, thus you can train your chameleon to be less aggressive towards other chameleons especially if they are female (Note that a chameleon, especially if male, will always be aggressive regardless of how it was brought up). This can be especially useful when it is mating season.

See more: Can You Put Two Chameleons Together?

It goes without saying that the younger a pet is why you buy it, the longer you can have it for. Therefore if you want a pet you can spend a long time with, then you should get a hatchling instead.

See more: 7 Things You Need to Know About Baby Chameleons

chameleons eggs

On the other hand, some pet owners prefer adult chameleons because:

Hatchling chameleons are less colorful and thus until they are around 4 to 6 months your friends and family will not be able to admire them so much.

Hatchling chameleons require more feeding, more misting and more attention to their medical care than adults. Many people are unable to cope with the challenge and thus prefer adult chameleons as pets instead.

Whatever age of chameleon you decide to buy, make sure you consult an expert on chameleon care to guide you through the whole process.

How to determine whether to buy a male or female chameleon?

Color and beauty

In most species of chameleons, females are less colorful than males. A lot of owners who do not know this become disappointed when they discover than their chameleon is not as beautiful as they feel it should be.

If you are looking for a chameleon that you, your friends, and visitors can admire all day long because of its color and beauty, the best gender of a chameleon for you is a male chameleon.


Care and Health Issues

As with all female reptiles, female veiled chameleons lay eggs from where their hatchlings chameleons come from. Female chameleons lay eggs even when they do not have a male to mate with. Of course, if the eggs are not fertilized, they won’t hatch, however, the chameleons will still lay them regardless. Female chameleons start laying eggs from when they are around six months old, and they continue to do so every few months for the rest of their lives.

Male chameleons don’t lay eggs and that means less stress/ trips to the vet in that regard. Therefore female chameleons are much more difficult to care for more than male chameleons and are more likely to succumb to illness or stress than males.

See more: Complete Guide for Chameleon Pregnancy Care


Aggression and territorialism

Chameleons are extremely territorial creatures in their natural habitats and they can be quite aggressive to intruders into their habitats. As it is with other reptiles, male chameleons tend to be more aggressive and territorial than female chameleons.

That means male chameleons are more likely to hiss at, or bite their owners (or anyone or anything they see as an intruder) or just respond aggressively than female chameleons.


Since a female chameleon is only two-thirds of the male’s mass, she only requires about two-thirds of its food and water needs. Female chameleons also require a cooler temperature than male chameleon does. The female chameleon also doesn’t need as much sunlight, drinking space or basking space like the male chameleon does.

With the female chameleon, you don’t have to feed so much or mist so much as you would for the male. Therefore if you live in an apartment where you don’t have much space to spare and you want a pet chameleon that won’t mind being reared indoors, then the female chameleon is the pet you should go for.

Male and Female chameleons
Photo Credit: WikiHow


The female chameleon is less expensive than the male chameleon because of the fact that it is smaller, shorter-lived and less colorful than the male. Thus if you don’t have much of a budget and you cannot afford the more expensive male chameleon, you can go for the cheaper female chameleon instead.

See more: Pros and Cons of Own Female or Male Chameleons


How to know a healthy chameleon?

Once you’ve found the kind of captive bred chameleon that you want to buy, you should observe it. The chameleon should be bright and active, able to change colors. This is important because changing colors provide camouflage, temperature regulation, and a means of communicating with other chameleons. Colors change in response to excitement, stress, temperature, lighting conditions, the presence of another chameleon, and other influences. Thus, if a chameleon is unable to change color rapidly, it might be suffering from some sort of illness or disease or might be suffering from a sort of defect. Either way, you should be cautious about buying such a chameleon.

Another telltale sign that you should observe in a chameleon is whether it is stressed. Generally, a dark brown to black chameleon is stressed, with the brighter colors reflecting a happier mood. It is not advisable to buy a stressed chameleon because stress can cause sickness in your chameleon and it is the major cause of death among chameleons.

Your chameleon must also have a well-fleshed body. The chameleon not having a fleshy body might be a sign that it hasn’t been well fed or that it might be suffering from a wasting disease.


There are also some other Common Health Problems that chameleons suffer from that you must watch out for before buying your chameleon from the store  

If the chameleon is suffering from calcium and vitamin A deficiencies, usually this is as a result of a poor diet. Many pet chameleons usually recover after good care and medical attention. A lot do not. The chameleon may also be suffering from mouth rot or stomatitis. The symptom of this is an infection around the mouth that shows redness and excess saliva or drooling.

If the chameleon looks lethargic and does not have an appetite, it might be a symptom of a common ailment among chameleons which is known as metabolic bone disease. This condition causes a chameleon’s bones to become spongy, and it can be fatal if not treated appropriately.

Thus if you are going to buy a pet chameleon, it’s best to take along or at least consult a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles.

See more: 9 Common Chameleon Diseases You Need To Know

Where are the best shops to buy pet chameleons?

If you are in the US then you can get chameleons at cbreptile. cbreptile ( has various local stores and great deals on chameleons and other reptiles.

Another pet shop which offers great deals on chameleons is PetSmart. PetSmart ( offers great deals on veiled chameleons.

Backwater Reptiles ( also offers great deals on Panther chameleons, with prices starting from $180 to about $300. They also have great deals on Jackson chameleons from about $50 and on veiled chameleons from about $50.

Underground Reptiles ( offers good deals on veiled chameleons starting from $60 and Panther chameleons starting from $250. You can even get the rare Parson’s chameleon at around $700 dollars.


How much does it cost to care for a chameleon?

As a chameleon owner, you would spend a basic cost of about $250 to prepare for the welcome of your chameleon and about $950 to $1,000 per year for its maintenance. This includes about $300 for veterinary contingency visit which may or may not be used. There are different aspects to think about when trying to analyze the cost of caring for a chameleon.

Veiled chameleons and panther chameleons are most likely to be captive bred. For example, veiled chameleons which are the best choice for beginners cost about $59.99 on Petco.  This price could vary from $30 to $100 depending on your location or the age of the chameleon. Other chameleons such as the panther chameleon are more expensive. This is because veiled chameleons are more common and therefore cost less to breed. They are also less common than Panther Chameleons.

The panther chameleon could cost as high as $189.99 and a Sambava panther chameleon could retail for as high as $299.99.

The Jackson’s chameleon costs about $50 to $100. 


Male chameleons tend to cost more than female chameleons because they are less colorful and also because all the stress of laying eggs strain their bodies and thus cause them to fall sick more often. Thus many owners avoid them.

Setting up a premade all-purpose chameleon tank, which will be complete with the vivarium itself, the deep heat projector, the plant dripper, the UV lighting, and everything else your chameleon needs will cost you around 769 pounds. This is excluding the price of the chameleon itself. If you are lucky enough you may be able to get a second-hand setup between 300 and 400 pounds.

Amazon also offers great deals on chameleon Vivarium with prices ranging from $97 to about $200. However, the deals are on vivarium alone and no other items are added in.

If you are a DIY enthusiast and you have a bit of time, you can make a chameleon cage yourself.  What you require is a space of at least 2 feet wide by 2 feet long, by 4 feet tall, which is big enough to contain a male veiled chameleon (it is the biggest of the species).

See more: Best Terrarium size for a Veiled Chameleon

You can plant a few trees or shrubs that the chameleon can bask in inside the space (consult with your vet on the best kind of trees that chameleons prefer).  Get a homemade shower or hose to be used as a dripping system and ensure that the enclosure gets enough sunlight or any other source of UV light. Chameleons also like average temperatures of 86F/30C.

See more detail: The Average Cost For A Chameleon Owner



Taking care of a chameleon is not an easy task.

It can be an extremely costly and time-consuming venture. This is why the beginner chameleon owner may find it somewhat hard. There might be a few losses and failures along the way, but if you do not give up, you will be able to enjoy taking care of these exotic creatures and your friends and family will be able to admire these lovely creatures and their amazing colors.

Thanks for reading.


Where to buy a chameleon- Good places to purchase your pet chameleon- article retrieved from
Types of pet chameleons- retrieved from
Male vs female chameleon- which is right for you? Article retrieved from
Underground Reptiles
Backwater Reptiles