Four-horned Chameleon

Four-horned Chameleons are quite difficult to care for due to their very specific humidity and temperature needs. This is why we don’t recommend beginner or intermediate keepers to attempt to care for them.

You must be ready to be attentive to all your chameleon’s needs, which means you want to do proper research before even considering getting one. This species in particular will need a lot more care than the average chameleon.

We don’t recommend letting a child care for a chameleon alone, as they are not child-friendly pets; their needs are not simple. An adult should be the one caring for this kind of pet and if a child is going to handle it, they should be supervised by an adult.

A lot of people find chameleons interesting due to their ability to change color, but not many people understand the concept or know why or how they can do so.

It’s a common misconception that they try to blend in with their surroundings in order to hide from predators, but that is actually not the case. In reality, chameleons will change their color to regulate their body temperature or communicate.

To maintain a favorable body temperature, chameleons will grow darker in color to absorb more heat in cold temperatures and will turn paler to reflect the sun’s heat in hotter temperatures. This is called thermoregulation.

They might be changing color to woo a possible mate, males might do it to signal at other males to stay away, and females might use their color change to show interest in mating.

So how do chameleons change color?

Under most chameleon’s transparent outer layer of skin sits two laters of specialized cells. The layer beneath the outermost layer contains chromatophores and the layer below that are guanophores, the second cell layer.

Chromatophores contain yellow and red pigments, whereas guanophores have a colorless crystalline matter we call ‘guanine’. Guanophores reflect the blue of incident light meaning that if the upper layer of chromatophores is yellow in color, the reflected light will be green.

They also have a layer of dark melanin-containing cells called melanophores located even deeper below the two layers of cells we just explained. These will influence the color and lightness of the reflected light.

Four-horned Chameleon Facts

  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Scientific Name: Trioceros quadricornis
  • Alternate Name(s): Eisentraut’s Chameleon; “Quads”
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Size: 10 to 15 inches
  • Weight: anywhere from 2 to 5.5 ounces
  • Diet: Carnivorous
  • Lifespan: 5 to 7 years

They like cool weather and can die if they are kept in hot conditions.

Four-horned Chameleon Appearance

Four-horned Chameleon - Chamaeleo quadricornis reaching away from its branch
Four-horned Chameleon – Chamaeleo quadricornis reaching away from its branch

Four-horned Chameleons are typically a vibrant green that can range from darker or lighter tones throughout their bodies.

They will typically have a ridge throughout the middle of their back across their length as well as their tail with white and darker blotches to each of their sides. The blotches can range from a brown, to almost a dark orange, or copper with some black blotches along their ridge as well.

Their tails are prehensile, meaning they have the ability to grip branches and twigs.

Now to the main event, as you can see from their name, they have anywhere from two to six horns at the front of their face, right at their snout. Males will sometimes have more than their female counterparts, but most of the time, there will be four.

The horns will typically be grey-brown and their chins will also have some spikes that continue on down toward their chest.

Four-horned Chameleon Location and Natural Habitat

Four-horned Chameleons are native to Cameroon, which is a coastal country in Central Africa. These chameleons are typically found and collected from the Mount Manengouba and Mount Lefo regions of the area.

They have also been spotted in southeastern Nigeria.

This species likes cool weather and the rainforest it is native to gets about 100 to 400 inches of rain per year. This alone will most definitely make caring for them in captivity a bit of a hassle.

Four-horned Chameleon Diet

Four-horned Chameleons love to eat various insects but enjoy snails, beetles, spiders, and flies in the wild.

Many reptiles possess the Jacobsen’s organ, which is right under their noses and gives them the ability to detect chemical particles. In chameleons, however, this organ is a lot more reduced in its ability to smell. This leaves them to use their other senses when catching their prey.

Since chameleons do not hear very well, they will use air vibrations and low-pitched noises to figure out where their prey is.

When prey is in sight, they catch it by first focusing their eyes on their target, then shooting their sticky tongue out of their mouth to grab it.

Four-horned Chameleon Lifespan

While this species typically live for 5 to 7 years in the wild, they usually only live from 3 to 5 years in captivity. However, it can variate depending on how well they are cared for.

Due to their specific needs and requirements, it is not uncommon for them to die sooner in captivity than they would have out in the wild.

Four-horned Chameleon Breeding Habits

The Jacobson’s organ, which we just mentioned in the last section, is also used for communicating readiness for mating between the same species through the release of chemical messages.

If you are attempting to mate your chameleons, it is important that you remove the male as soon as copulation is completed because the female is highly likely to attack the male right after mating.

Four-horned Chameleons typically have a clutch size of around 10 to 13 eggs per clutch about two or four times per year.

Incubation periods are typically 4 to 5 months for this species, and you want to incubate the eggs at temperatures around 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Predators of the Four-horned Chameleon

Common predators of chameleons in these areas mostly include birds, snakes, as well as other mammals.

Four-horned Chameleon Legality

Most chameleons are illegal to take from the wild, especially those classified as a Prohibited Dealing animal under the Biosecurity Act 2015, specifically listing Veiled Chameleons, Panther Chameleons, Jackson’s chameleons, and other common chameleon species.

However, most are allowed to be kept as pets, bred, and sold in all states except Maine as long as you have a permit, also known as CITES papers.

Where to Buy Four-horned Chameleons

It is important that you find captive-bred chameleons because most wild-caught chameleons will, unfortunately, carry parasites and may also have stress-related illnesses. We recommend that you avoid getting a wild-caught chameleon.

It is crucial that you are doing your research and finding a reputable breeder or pet shop. Take your time to watch its movements and actions before going through with the deal to make sure that it is a healthy chameleon. 

Indicators of an unhealthy chameleon you might want to keep an eye out for are if it is refusing food, has excess mucus around its mouth or nasal passages, or cloudy eyes. These could be signs of infection or just an overall unhealthy lizard.

You should also check for signs of dehydration by making sure their skin looks full and firm without any wrinkles or hanging excess skin.

You should also pay attention to their skin and color. If you see many dry patches, it could be an indicator that the breeder or shop is not taking care of them well or that the chameleon is sick.

We hope that before you purchase your chameleon that you are mentally and financially prepared to take care of all their needs.

A chameleon may be priced anywhere from $30 to $300 depending on the shop you’re buying from, age, and its species.

A typical price range for Four-horned Chameleons should be around $250 to $300 for the chameleon itself, not including all the things you will need to feed or care for your pet.

You can find them online at these reputable links here:

Four-horned Chameleon Care Sheet

Southern four-horned chameleon (Trioceros quadricornis quadricornis)
Southern four-horned chameleon (Trioceros quadricornis quadricornis)

Enclosure

To house your Four-horned, you want to give them a full-screen enclosure or quad terrarium with lots of lush vegetation and a minimum size of 3 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. Again, this is the minimum so as always, the bigger the better.

Some owners might also want to consider looking into glass enclosures to help keep humidity in. This is all up to you and your needs as well as what is available or more feasible to you.

It is important that you try to stimulate their natural conditions, meaning you will need something that will help create the feeling of a humid rainforest with lots of bushes and trees.

Cleaning

In order to keep your pet chameleon healthy, you should put the effort into daily cleaning and upkeep to maintain a fresh environment.

There is something call spot cleaning, which you should be doing daily like cleaning out any fecal matter, leftover food, and such.

Here is a good video that you can use as an example:

Any substrates or other decorations should be changed or cleaned on a weekly basis and you should do a full deep cleaning once or twice a year. A full cleaning consists of emptying out their whole enclosure and disinfecting it completely.

Substrate

While most owners will simply use newspaper or reptile carpet, which is totally suitable and a lot easier to clean, you generally will not need to get a substrate for your pet chameleon.

However, if you prefer the look of a natural or particulate substrate, be sure to avoid using those with small particles such as sand or cat litter. Avoid gravel, cedar, corn cob bedding, and any other beddings that might hold too much excess moisture, causing rot.

You should not need a floor substrate to plant any of their climbing plants. Those can be kept in a pot at the bottom of their tank.

Temperature 

You need to keep your Four-Horned Chameleon cool, at a temperature of about 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can live in temperatures as low as 30 degrees, but only in the winter and if the humidity is above 50%.

Failing to keep your Four-horned in the correct temperature range can lead to many health issues, stress, and even causing death.

You should definitely install thermometers in your pet’s habitat since they are sensitive and have specific needs you need to monitor.

Humidity

You want to keep your humidity at an average of 80 to 90% at all times, not letting it drop below 50%. 

Install a hygrometer to monitor their numbers and make sure they are getting the hydration they need.

They require higher humidity, which can be troublesome to maintain with a mesh cage, but since these pets also need decent ventilation, this is where foggers, drippers, and automatic misting systems can be installed to achieve these humidity levels.

For this species, you might want to consider a cool mist humidifier that also has an automatic shut-off to give them the humidity and coolness they need simultaneously.

Lighting 

Just like any other chameleon, Four-horned Chameleons need full-spectrum UVB lighting. Even though they enjoy cooler weather, they will still need a basking spot and heat lamps.

Depending on the temperature in the room they’re in, the enclosure size, and the type of enclosure, you should figure out which heat lights and what wattages will allow you to achieve the temperatures you need.

Let’s talk about the importance of UVB lighting, shall we?

These special rays are crucial for your chameleon’s health since it will technically act as a substitute for natural sunlight. UVB will help increase your chameleon’s metabolism, activity, appetite, and will also synthesize Vitamin D3, a crucial vitamin needed for proper calcium absorption.

Without UVB lighting, you run the risk of your chameleon developing Metabolic Bone Disease, which will stunt their growth, causing them to suffer from weakened bones.

Be sure to keep their UVB lamp unfiltered and at least 12 inches away from the highest point in their cage to prevent thermal burns.

For Four-horned chameleons, look into a low wattage dome spot lightbulb that is connected to a dimming thermostat and reptile-specific fluorescent lights.

Accessories

Live plants are highly recommended to give your chameleon plenty of foliage to climb and hide behind. They like branches and sticks so provide them with various sizes.

While you can use fake vines and branches, it is recommended that you mix in some real plants as well. This is because it will mimic their natural habitat, allow them to sip water from the leaves, and also will produce more oxygen for them.

Be sure to keep check of their plants and the pots their in in case your pet is eating the potting soil. This might be a sign that they are not getting the nutrition they need, meaning owners need to make adjustments in gut-loading or supplementation.

Feeding

Four-horned Chameleons seem to really love snails and flies. If you can gut-load and get your hands on some, they will love it.

In general, they like a variety of live insects such as mealworms, waxworms, locusts, crickets, beetles, spiders, and other commercial bugs.

You can offer up to 6 insects per meal and feed these guys about twice a week, tweaking mealtimes for your individual chameleon. Most of the time, about 5 to 6 prey items about twice a week should be just fine.

They aren’t the biggest eaters and can gain weight if you feed them too much. They can go quite a while without food, but it is important to keep them hydrated at all times.

Be sure to gut-load and dust them with calcium powder before feeding them to your pet to supplement these much-needed vitamins.

You should remove any uneaten prey after about 10 minutes because leaving them in the enclosure can cause them to bite your chameleon, which can lead to bites susceptible to infection.

Water

While feeding them is important, it is actually more important that you hydrate your Four-horned properly. Hydration is more important than food for this species.

Chameleons don’t drink from water bowls but prefer to lick droplets from leaves, other foliage, and even the sides of their cage.

Whether you decide to go with a drip system or the manual spraying method, make sure you get the leaves really good. You will want to spray their cage around 3 times a day for at least 2 minutes at a time.

You should keep an eye out for signs of dehydration.

Some tell-tale signs that your chameleon might be dehydrated are if their feces are dry, their urate is orange or yellow, their skin seems to be folding, their eyes look sunken, they are acting lethargic, and are showing signs of a loss of appetite.

If you are not keen on keeping up with the daily spritzing, you might want to look into setting up a drip system since this species will need a constant water source.

Temperament

These beauties are known to be quite mellow, chill species. Some might seem a little shy and might hide, but it will depend on the individual.

Handling

Most chameleons are typically easily stressed, meaning that handling is generally not recommended.

While they will tolerate being handled for short periods of time, we do not recommend you take them out of their environment or mess with them.

This species will seem chill, but they are quite bashful and might get a little stressed out from being handled.

Handle if you must but try not to mess with them too often.

Four-horned Chameleon FAQ

Head of a Four-horned Chameleon - Chamaeleo quadricornis on white
Head of a Four-horned Chameleon – Chamaeleo quadricornis on white

Where can you find Four-Horned Chameleons?

Four-horned Chameleons are native to Cameroon, which is a coastal country in Central Africa. These chameleons are typically found and collected from the Mount Manengouba and Mount Lefo regions of the area.

They have also been spotted in southeastern Nigeria.

How big do Four-horned Chameleons get?

A typical Four-horned Chameleon will grow up to about 10 to 15 inches in size. They usually weigh anywhere from 2 to 5.5 ounces, depending on the individual and females will be smaller than their male counterparts.

Conclusion

Caring for these awesome-looking chameleons is no easy task. They will need to be spoiled with long showers in the morning and you will be required to check their temperatures, humidity, and water intake often.

We hope that you learned a lot about the amazing Four-horned Chameleon, or that our article has helped you in some way.

Let us know in the comment section down below if you have one and let us in on your individual experience with your Quad.

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