Jackson’s Chameleons are stunning lizards originating from southern Africa. They are very unique, and are more of look don’t touch type pets. Even though they can be a little challenging to own, the Jackson’s chameleon makes a great pet.
The Jackson’s Chameleon is known for the three long horns protruding from the face of males. They are used to challenge other males for females and to protect themselves. These chameleons reach a length of around 10 inches and are a greenish-brown color.
It is possible for adult chameleons to be trained, but when they are young Jackson’s chameleons tend to be very jumpy, and excessive handling will cause a lot of unnecessary stress. In general, they are more of a look, don’t touch pet.
Chameleons are insectivores, meaning their diet primarily consists of insects such as crickets. When feeding crickets, the crickets should be no longer than the width of the chameleon’s head. Adult Jackson’s chameleons only need to be fed every other, or every three days. Younger chameleons require fruit flies once or twice daily. All insects fed should be dusted with calcium supplements designed for reptiles to get require nutrients that are normally offered in the wild. Gut load your crickets well because what goes into the cricket is what goes into the chameleon.
Since Jackson’s chameleons will rarely ever touch the ground, cage height is important. Chameleons need mesh enclosures for sufficient airflow, preventing bacteria growth and climbing surface. Glass tanks will cause upper respiratory infections and are much more expensive. A minimum sized enclosure for a fully grown chameleon is 18”x18”x36”, but 18”x18”x48” is preferred for this species. Hatchlings and younger chameleons can live comfortably in an 18”x18”x24”. These chameleons are very independent and live best alone. Never house two males together because they will fight and harm themselves.
Five sides of the enclosure are mesh, and chameleons will rarely come to the ground so substrate is not an important part of the enclosure. A water absorbent substrate like paper towels will work the best, and newspaper or butcher paper can be used. There is little reason to have loose substrates.
All the shelter a Jackson’s chameleon will need consists of foliage. It is important to fill the enclosure with branches and fake vines to climb on and hide among. Make the enclosure feel like the canopy of a rainforest, and feel free to get creative as long as everything is sturdy and safe.
Provide a basking spot of 80F in the cage because chameleons require outside heat to function. This is best achieved through a light bulb, and make sure that there is no way for your chameleon to touch or get burnt by the bulb. The rest of the cage can stay at room temperature.
Jackson’s chameleons require UVB lighting to receive enough vitamin D, so an extra light is necessary. A UVB bulb should be a minimum of 8 inches away from your chameleon and running 12 hours a day. Independent UVB and heat bulbs are preferred because they are healthier for your chameleon.
Being from the rainforest, Jackson’s chameleons need a lot of humidity. They will never drink water from a dish, only off of leaves and branches from mist. The best way to keep your chameleon hydrated is using a drip system or automatic misting system. A drip system can be going constantly since the cage is mesh, and a misting system can spray the cage every 4 hours. Hydration is important for these animals, and takes a little extra work to achieve.
Replace the substrates every week or when soiled, and clean the entire cage including the foliage every three months.
Before breeding, make sure that you have a male and a female that are both over a year old and fully grown to prevent injuries. When you are ready to introduce the female and the male, put them in an 18”x18”x48” enclosure for about a week. After a week you can be fairly certain they have mated and can be separated. A female will lay live young, and can take up to 9 months to be ready to lay her hatchlings. She will lay three sets of young, and in each set there can be anywhere from 10-20 hatchlings. Each set of hatchlings will occur about 3 months apart.
Hatchling Jackson’s chameleons may start eating the day they are born and should be offered fruit flies multiple times a day. A misting system needs to be in place every 3-4 hours because young chameleons dehydrate very easily. The care for hatchlings is very similar to the care of adults, but everything is downsized.
Jackson’s Chameleons can be found high up in the canopies of forests in Kenya and Tanzania and other countries in East Africa. These color changing lizards will rarely be found on the ground and are a challenging pet to keep. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
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Marty - July 15, 2017
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