A few things to look for when selecting a chameleon include:
EYES - not sunken in, and alert looking,
always scanning their environment for food or predators
MOUTH - clean, free from sores, and well
TEETH - uniform in color, if not this could be a
sign of old age or illness
TAIL - no visible vertebrae this is a sign of possible
dehydration , tail should be well shaped and without skin deep
GRASP - should be strong
LIMBS - not swollen and should be
moving freely without discomfort
SKIN - any elongated lumps
beneath the skin (possible filarial worms); any visible cuts
bruises, or broken skin; the skin should look well hydrated,
not dry or withered large black or gray areas can be fungal
FEET - free from injury, all claws
clean and free of damage
BREATHING - should not be fast or
deep. the mouth should not be open all the time, heavy
breathing and constant gaping are signs of possible
There are several places to find chameleons. Local pet
stores that carry reptiles are probably the most convenient, but
that convenience comes with a price. If you have read "My
Story" you know what I went through with a pet store. Most
pet stores know very little about proper care for these unusual
animals. In what I always thought of as a good pet store, I
recently saw 2 juvenile veileds housed in a medium sized all
screen enclosure with two smaller lizards. I watched them crowd
the small area provided for basking and shortly after, I
witnessed one veiled take a tongue shot at one of these smaller
lizards. Chameleons from pet stores are like a box of
chocolates... You never know what you're going to get. Is it
wild caught or captive born? How old is it? What has it been
through to get where it is?
If you choose to get one from this source, make sure you
check it thoroughly for signs of poor health, and ask the people
in charge of the reptiles how to care for it. If they don't tell
you to give it plenty of moving water via misting systems or by
manually spraying, they probably are not taking good care of it.
I've also seen six to eight week old babies expected to eat full
Local breeders are a good source... if you can find
one. They will generally have good knowledge of the animal and
can give advice on care. Check the papers in your area. There
may also be some listings online for your area.
Another similar source is at reptile/breeder shows.
Depending on where you live there are usually a few a year that
are worth checking out. You can make some good contacts and
learn a lot about the animal you select as well as others. Many
breeders have websites which is another great source. If
you go this route, you should try to find one as close to you as
possible to minimize shipping time. Be prepared to receive
delivery also. You don't want to leave an animal in a shipping
box any longer than absolutely necessary. You should try to find
out about the breeder's reputation. There are many well known
and respected breeders with websites.
If you have never seen a
healthy chameleon, then you may find it difficult to
identify a sick one. They do move very slowly and
sometimes they will back step or stutter walk, but they
should NEVER sleep during daytime and they should LOOK
ALERT. Try to look at many specimens from different
sources to get an idea what is NORMAL for one. Select CAPTIVE BORN from a reputable breeder whenever
possible. They have fewer problems with parasites, have
less trouble acclimating, and you know their exact age.
For a printable
caresheet click on the
by your species choice.
For more specific husbandry information click on the
These are the most popular and readily
available species that make good FIRST chameleons:
Furcifer pardalis or
Panther Furcipher pardalis
These are very popular
because of their brilliant color patterns. There are many variations of
this species, which are distinguishable by color patterns and
subtle differences in head shapes of the males.
Chamaeleo trioceros jacksonii
Jackson'sChameleo trioceros jacksonii
There are three subspecies of this three horned chameleon:merumontanus,
jacksonii and xantholophus. All are very similar to each
other but have enough distinct differences to consider them subspecies.
Chamaeleo calyptratus Veiled or
Veileds are probably the hardiest and most common species found in
pet stores. Males go through a "mean" puberty and can give a nasty bite.
Despite this, they are still a great first cham choice.
These are not the ONLY species that are good starter
chams, only a few of the more popular.
Panthers and Jackson's are more "tame" than veileds and
fairly hardy. The veiled is probably the hardiest and most forgiving of
beginner mistakes, but has a temperament change at puberty that makes
them much more "HANDS OFF" than the others. That could be a good thing
since they are all hands off any way. Veileds just let you know quicker
that it bothers them. With a reasonable amount (by cham standards) of
time and effort, veilds are easy when compared to other chameleons.