Carpet Chameleon Care Guide
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 because of their bright colors!
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.
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As it has been our current advice with other chameleon species, always go for captive-bred over wild-caught. This is because 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.
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 three subspecies.
For simplicity’s sake, we will discuss the species as a whole except where there are important points to differentiate.
Quick Reference Section
- Family: Chamaeleonidae
- Scientific Name: Furcifer lateralis
- Other Common Names: White-lined Chameleon and Jeweled 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. 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 male’s coloration is largely green, and females have a wider range of colors, including white, yellow, and orange bands. Female chameleons show an eye pattern. When the female is gravid (carrying eggs or young), the jeweled effect is more pronounced.
Like many chameleons, the colors are at their best when displaying to a mate or a rival. However, environment and mood play a part in their coloration as well. For example, a basking Carpet Chameleon can exhibit combinations of deep reds, blues, or black colors.
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 and larger enclosure or chameleon cage also allows 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 chameleon 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 enclosures and kits specially designed for chameleons. For example:
- Exo Terra Screen Terrarium, Large
- Zoo Med Reptibreeze Open Air Screen Cage
- 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 works 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, consider using 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 (about 77°F) and 30°C (about 86° F), dropping at night by five °C to 10°C (50°F).
Do not let the temperature fall below 12°C (53°F) or rise above 32°C (89°F). Even if the Carpet Chameleons survive, they can 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 source that can be used outside your chameleon’s cage (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 cannot 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
Cleanliness in the chameleon 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 plants to thoroughly clean the enclosure using a reptile-safe disinfectant.
To disinfect your chameleon cage, clean the walls and floor of the cage with a simple solution of warm water and soap, making sure to completely rinse away the soap when done. If there are harder to clean spots in the enclosure, you can use a putty knife or scraper to remove them.
A toothbrush is ideal for getting into the tight corners of the enclosure and other hard-to-reach areas. Doing all this ensures a much more effective and thorough cleaning.
Carpet Chameleons are mostly insectivores.
They prey on insects, centipedes, isopods, millipedes, spiders, small lizards, small birds, and snails in the wild. 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 to your chameleon 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 crickets and other feeder insects are the best way to transfer essential 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 their 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 chameleon, you will want to adjust their diet.
Provisions To Ensure A Healthy Breeding Period
- Undernourished females will not produce healthy offspring
- Over nourished 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
Carpet Chameleon Health Concerns
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 various 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. Diseases 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 UVB light daily.
Last but not least, a chameleon’s tongue is not sticky. Instead, 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.
Price & Availability
If you are on the hunt for your own Carpet Chameleon, you can expect to pay between $150 and $500.
In Canada, it is available for sale at All Reptiles.
Video On Carpet Chameleon
Carpet Chameleons are great-looking creatures with 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.
Carpet Chameleon FAQ
What is the best way to handle a Carpet Chameleon?
Carpet Chameleons are considered reasonably tolerant but like with other chameleon species, you want to limit the amount of time you handle them. Very little handling is preferred. So, if you are looking for a lizard that likes to play and be snuggled, then this isn’t the right one for you.
What basking temperatures do Carpet Chameleons need?
A good basking temperature to aim for when it comes to your Carpet Chameleon is between 90 and 95-degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the top part of the chameleon cage or enclosure should be kept at temperatures between 80 and 85°F and 70 to 75°F toward the bottom and in the shaded areas of the enclosure.
Do Carpet Chameleons get lonely?
Carpet Chameleons are considered territorial and are more solitary lizards. However, because of this, they do not tend to get lonely.
Do Carpet Chameleons get along with other pets?
As long as it is not two males, you can find that some Carpet Chameleons can get along and coexist with each other. However, despite gender, there is always the chance that this goes the other way.
In general, they do not get along well with others in their species and other animals. If you have other animals, you need to make sure your chameleon is comfortable in its enclosure and can live alongside the other animals you have.
Can Carpet Chameleons live together in groups?
Male Carpet Chameleons can prove to be aggressive and are territorial and solitary animals. This means they can cause harm when placed together to live in groups. If you have a pair, it is best to separate them. If you can’t, then you must keep a close eye on them.
Can you bathe a chameleon?
A chameleon doesn’t absorb water through its skin at all. So, bathing your chameleon will not help hydrate them and can instead lead to increased stress. Some people still shower their chameleons but do not immerse them in water. However, the best thing you can do to keep your chameleon clean is keeping their enclosure clean and disinfected.
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