Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis) Care
The Carpet Chameleon is a species of chameleon endemic to Madagascar. It was described in 1831 by John Edward Gray.
They are one of the most colorful of all chameleon species!
Even if some people won’t agree, Carpet Chameleon care is not more challenging than other species’ care. Carpet Chameleons aren’t any more delicate than the ubiquitous Panther Chameleon, as long as they are captive bred.
As it has been our current advice with other chameleon species, always go for captive-bred over wild-caught. Captive-bred individuals are healthier, and have a more reasonable life expectancy.
Imported wild-caught specimens usually carry a heavy parasite load, and are usually extremely stressed.
As follows we will provide you with some insight on what it’s like to care for a Carpet Chameleon and what kind of work they require.
They have two different major subspecies: Furcifer lateralis major and F. l. lateralis. However, some believe that there are at least 3 subspecies (see Semantics Scholar).
For simplicity’s sake, we will discuss the species as a whole except where there are points that are important to differentiate.
Quick Reference Section
- Family: Chamaeleonidae
- Scientific Name: Furcifer lateralis
- Other Common Names: White-lined Chameleon and Jewel Chameleon
- Length: 17-25 cm
- Weight: At maturity males weigh 200-220 grams. While females weigh 140-160 grams
- Habits: Diurnal
- Diet: Omnivorous
- Lifespan: The Carpet Chameleon has a lifespan in the wild of one to two years. Even in the best circumstances, these chameleons rarely live longer than three years
- Behavior & Temperament: Handling is stressful to them, so as with other chameleons, they are pets better suited to being watched than handled
- Shedding: It occurs approximately once a month. No ad is necessary, humidity and misting are sufficient for shedding
- Conservation Status: Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. CITES Listing: Appendix II (04/02/1977)
- Curious Facts: According to the book Chameleons by R.D. Bartlett, the common name stems from the patterns and colors gravid females display, which might remind people of an Oriental carpet
What Does A Carpet Chameleon Look Like
The females are more brilliantly colored than males, and many owners prefer them for this reason.
The males are largely green and females have a wider range of colors, including bands of white, yellow, and orange. Females show an eye pattern. When the female is gravid the jeweled effect is most pronounced.
Like many chameleons, the colors are at their best when either displaying to a mate or rival.
Environment and mood play their part and a basking Carpet Chameleon can exhibit combinations of deep reds, blues, or black.
Carpet Chameleon Reproduction
A female carpet chameleon will be ready to lay her eggs 14 to 35 days after breeding.
Females usually produce 15 to 20 eggs per clutch with a high to perfect hatch rate every six to eight weeks from the time of sexual maturity until they die.
Eggs can take 6 to 10 months to hatch.
Females are notorious for scattering their eggs instead of burying them.
Carpet Chameleon Habitat
Like other chameleons, Carpet Chameleons are arboreal. Meaning they live exclusively in trees. Therefore they need vertical enclosures.
The more room you provide for your Carpet Chameleon the better. A longer enclosure will also allow you to provide a warm end and a cooler end for your chameleon’s well-being.
- Carpet Chameleons are territorial, it is mandatory to house males alone.
- It is possible to keep pairs in a large cage for a short time but not advisable as not all pairs are compatible. So watch them carefully at the outset.
- Neonates can be housed alone or in groups for a month and then separated into smaller groups as long as aggression or competition for food is not an issue.
- Avoid placing the enclosure in drafty or noisy areas of your house. This is a stress trigger.
Best known pet enclosure suppliers offer enclosure kits specially designed for Chameleons. For example, there is the Zoo Med Reptibreeze Chameleon Kit.
Other options are the Zoo Med Reptibreeze Open Air Screen Cage and the Zoo Med ReptiBreeze LED Deluxe Open Air Aluminum Screen Habitat.
Video On Bioactive Terrariums For Carpet Chameleons
Carpet Chameleons do not need any specific substrate. But, flat newspaper, paper towel, coconut fiber, potting soil with no added chemicals, or perlite work well.
A newspaper is an inexpensive, easy to clean, and very safe substrate to use. However, it doesn’t look “nice” and of course it should be replaced once a day.
A good looking alternative to the newspaper is a paper towel substrate. Paper towels hold moisture well and help stabilize the humidity of your terrarium.
If you choose coconut fiber, you can check the Zoo Med Eco Earth.
If a particulate or natural substrate is used, avoid the following: beddings with small particles (sand, kitty litter, etc.), cedar, gravel, corn cob bedding, and beddings that would hold excess moisture.
Moisture trapped in bedding can promote bacterial and fungal growth.
Plants & Branches
Carpet Chameleons are arboreal. Therefore, they need climbing facilities – branches and plants (live or fake) to climb on.
Plants also play a critical role in providing a sense of security, so be sure to provide your chameleon with one or two “areas of refuge”. Create a dense area of non-toxic plants on one side for hiding and on the other side create a more open exposed area of branches for basking.
Some safe live plants commonly used are weeping fig-trees, umbrella trees, and Pothos.
You may choose to simply collect wood from a forest. However, this is not 100% safe unless you make sure you remove any harmful microorganisms.
To do so, first, scrub the wood with a 5% diluted bleach mixture. After the scrub is complete, preheat your oven to 300°F and bake the wood for 30 minutes. This should sterilize the wood and make it completely safe for your chameleon.
Coming from various parts of Madagascar, Carpet Chameleons are not restricted to one habitat or ecosystem. This means they are fairly tolerant of temperature ranges but the following are optimum: daytime between 25°C and 30°C, dropping at night by 5°C to 10°C.
Do not let the temperature fall below 12°C or rise above 32°C as even if the Carpet Chameleons may survive, they could become stressed.
It is key to set up an environment that provides a gradient of temperatures. Temperatures in different parts of the cage can be easily monitored by placing thermometers in a few places.
Provide a ceramic heater for a basking area all day and night.
Another good heat sources that can be used outside your chameleon’s enclosure (placed 12-24 inches from the cage walls) are 50-75 watt incandescent bulbs.
Ceramic elements and incandescent bulbs can be used 24 hours per day, without affecting the chameleons’ daily light rhythms.
However, heat rocks or other heating elements under the cage or at the bottom of the cage are not recommended because they can cause burns in your chameleon.
You must provide your Carpet Chameleon with 12 hours of UVB rays. This spectrum (290-320 nm) can be provided by special light bulbs or natural unfiltered sunlight.
Remember to replace these bulbs every six months or based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Without this spectrum, chameleons are unable to properly utilize calcium inside their body, regardless of how much they ingest and might get a condition called metabolic bone disease, or secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism.
Carpet Chameleons need a high humidity level. Thus, it’s best to aim for between 60 and 85 percent.
Managing excess water is an important health issue. Therefore, you should avoid stagnant water pooling on the cage floor.
Chameleons rarely drink from a water bowl, but they will drink water from droplets sitting on objects (usually leaves) in their surroundings. Therefore, misting serves as a water source.
Misting can be done by hand or with commercially-made foggers. A reptile fogger will make water vapor to condense on the cage walls and furnishings, raising the humidity and providing water droplets for drinking.
Misting the animal itself is controversial, as it seems to stress some individuals.
Check out our best reptile fogger guide for more.
Cleanliness in the cage is vital in preventing bacterial and mold growth. Clean your chameleon’s enclosure at least three times per week. Once a month, remove the chameleon and plant to give the enclosure a thorough cleaning using a reptile-safe disinfectant.
Carpet Chameleons are mostly insectivores.
In the wild, they prey on insects, centipedes, isopods, millipedes, spiders, small lizards, small birds, and snails. But in captivity, they are fed mostly with crickets (check out our diy cricket farm guide) and some other insects such as mealworms (mealworm farm guide), super worms, waxworms (waxworm farm guide) (all in limited quantities), roaches, silkworms, flies, fruit flies (for young chameleons), and grasshoppers.
Wild-caught insects should only be fed if you are certain they have not been exposed to pesticides, and always avoid fireflies.
Besides insects, they can be fed commercial “gut-loading” food in addition to dark leafy greens (collards, kale, dandelion leaves, mustard greens), oats, broccoli, alfalfa hay, and other fruits and vegetables.
Adding calcium supplement powder to the crickets’ diet is also recommended (i.e.: Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3).
Be careful how you use supplements with Carpet Chameleons. They are especially sensitive to excess amounts of synthetic vitamin A.
Vitamins given improperly might cause too little or too much of the vitamins to be ingested. Too little creates vitamin deficiencies. Too much spur vitamin toxicity, which can lead to gout, edema, or even death.
Gut loading crickers and feeder insects is the best way to transfer vitamins to your chameleons. It ensures the insects are rich in vitamins and free from toxins.
Chameleons can be fed either by hand or by placing all its food items into a bowl. Adults should be fed once per day, while juveniles require feedings several times per day.
If you are feeding a breeding female Carpet Chameleon, you will want to make some adjustments in their diet.
Provisions To Ensure A Healthy Breeding Period
- Undernourished females will not produce healthy offspring.
- Overnourished females can be too fat to release the eggs and can even die from this happening.
- Supplementing breeding females with calcium, vitamins, and minerals every other feeding will keep them healthy.
Chameleons frequently become ill for many reasons in captivity, but mostly they become ill because of captivity.
As previously mentioned, captive-born chameleons are recommended over wild-caught chameleons, who tend to have more health problems.
However, all chameleons are susceptible to get sick from a variety of sources: stress-related diseases, parasites, kidney failure, metabolic bone disease, and respiratory infections are the most common.
A pet chameleon should visit the veterinarian every six to 12 months for a checkup and should have regular fecal and blood tests to check for parasites and other diseases.
Stress is a very common reason for poor health in Carpet Chameleons. Chronic stress depresses the immune system and increases susceptibility to disease, usually culminating in death if the stress is not relieved. Captive-born chameleons are as susceptible to captivity-related stress as wild-caught chameleons.
Avoid common sources of stress like placing more than one chameleon together. Also, avoid exposing your chameleon to excessive handling, noises, excessive movement outside of the enclosure, inappropriate temperatures, or changes in the environment.
2. Bacterial, Fungal, and Viral Infections
Chameleons are susceptible to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. You can prevent these infections by keeping the enclosure clean, removing uneaten prey items daily, and keeping your chameleon from coming into contact with another chameleon.
- Chameleons are sensitive to many chemicals and toxins in the environment and should be kept away from household cleaners, aerosols, etc.
- As with any reptile, you should wash your hands after handling it or items within its enclosure as there are diseases that can be transferred from reptiles from humans in this manner (Salmonella infection is one example).
Chameleons can harbor gastrointestinal parasites. Parasites can be contracted through food, especially if hygiene is poor or if wild insects are fed.
Wild-caught chameleons usually harbor parasites, even when retailers label them as parasite-free.
Veterinary testing and treatment can eliminate parasites. Pet Chameleons should have yearly fecal tests by a veterinarian to check for them.
4. Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections are common among pet chameleons, and the cause is typically environmental. Signs include a gaped mouth, excessive mucus, popping or wheezing sounds, and inflammation and bubbling around the mouth and nose.
To prevent infections, proper enclosure temperature and air quality should be maintained.
Other problems that can occur in chameleons include egg-binding, organ failure (especially kidney and liver), cancer, and bone fractures due to insufficient vitamin D, calcium, or UVB radiation.
Kidney failure is a common cause of death in pet chameleons. It is often caused by long-term dehydration or by certain veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics. Appropriate enclosure humidity and an effective water drip system should keep your chameleon hydrated.
Metabolic bone disease is probably the top cause of pet chameleon growth defects and deaths. As previously indicated, you can prevent metabolic bone disease with at least 12 hours of UV-B light daily.
Last but not least, a chameleon’s tongue is not sticky. It’s hollow and composed of three main elements: accelerator muscles, retractor muscles and the sticky tip, which is more like a toilet plunger.
The tip hits prey hard and creates suction around it before the chameleon retracts it. Because of this suction, the tip can get stuck on a feeder dish. Irreversible damage can result.
Sometimes the tongue no longer retracts, and it atrophies or even causes death if the chameleon cannot be taught to be hand-fed. Source: https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/carpet-chameleon-care-tips/
Price & Availability
In Canada, it is available for sale at All Reptiles.
Video On Carpet Chameleon
Carpet Chameleons are great looking creatures, that have a noticeable demand in the pet trade, even if some believe that they are more difficult to keep than other chameleons because of their delicate nature.
But the truth is that Carpet Chameleons are not more challenging than other popular species on the pet trade, at least, when bought from reputed breeders. Captive-bred Carpet chameleons sourced from quality breeders are fairly hardy.
With a proper enclosure and consistent care, Carpet Chameleons should enjoy a happy life.