Meller’s Chameleon

To care for your Meller’s Chameleon, you must be ready to be attentive to its needs, which means you want to do proper research before even considering getting one. 

They have difficult alternating temperatures and humidity levels that need to be carefully watched and taken care of. They will need a longer shower in the morning than most other chameleons.

Due to their large size, you will also need to have the appropriate amount of space.

We don’t recommend letting children 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.

Meller’s Chameleon Facts

Mellers Chameleon (Trioceros melleri) on branch with black background
Meller’s Chameleon (Trioceros melleri) on branch with black background
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Scientific Name: Trioceros melleri
  • Alternate Name(s): Giant One-horned Chameleon
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Size: around 2 to 2.5 feet
  • Weight: 14 to 21 ounces 
  • Diet: Carnivorous
  • Lifespan: 2 to12 years depending on upbringing

Quick Facts About Meller’s Chameleons

  • They are sometimes known as the Giant One-horned Chameleon
  • This species is mainland Africa’s largest species of chameleon.

Meller’s Chameleon Appearance

They are sometimes known as the Giant One-horned Chameleon due to the tiny horn that protrudes from their face, making it look like they have a small snout.

This species usually sports beautiful leaf or dark green stripes alternating with a light green that can sometimes look like lime or pale green. They will also typically have black or dark brown spots all along their bodies of different sizes as well.

They blend in quite nicely with the colors of the treetops in their natural habitat.

Meller’s Chameleon Location and Natural Habitat

Meller's Chameleon (Trioceros melleri) on branches

Meller’s Chameleons are native to Mozambique, a nation in South Africa, Malawi, a country in East Africa, and Tanzania, also in East Africa.

They inhabit the treetops of the areas savanna, woodland, as well as mountainous regions.

They live in areas with warm, moderate, temperate upland climates that have march rains and the occasional downpour.

Meller’s Chameleon Diet

Meller’s Chameleons are carnivorous, consuming insects, spiders, worms, caterpillars, and other lizards that are smaller than them.

Chameleons cannot hear too well, so they use air vibrations and low-pitched noises to figure out where their prey is.

Most 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.

When prey is in sight, they catch it by first focusing their eyes on their target, then shooting their sticky, 20-inch long tongue out of their mouth to grab it.

Meller’s Chameleon Lifespan

These chameleons can live up to 12 years in the wild and can also live that long in captivity when put under proper care.

Meller’s 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.

Meller’s Chameleons typically has a clutch size of around 80 eggs annually. After laying them, females become inclined to bury them as deep under the soil as they can, which is usually around 12 inches deep.

If your female Meller’s does this, be sure to help her pack the soil down carefully, but firmly, after she lays them.

Incubation periods are typically 5 to 6 months for this species, and you want to incubate the eggs at temperatures of a constant 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Predators of the Meller’s Chameleon

Common predators of these chameleons mostly include birds, snakes, as well as other mammals such as monkeys.

Meller’s 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 Meller’s 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 Meller’s Chameleons should be around $150 to $500 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:

Meller’s Chameleon Care Sheet

Meller's Chameleon on a branch - Trioceros melleri - isolated on
Meller’s Chameleon on a branch – Trioceros melleri – isolated on

Enclosure

Since these guys are so large, they cannot be kept in your typical chameleon-sized enclosure. The minimum recommended amount of space should be around 5 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and at least 3 feet deep.

They are arboreal and will want to climb trees, meaning they will require more height than width.

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 

These chameleons like an ambient temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a night drop of around 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

For their basking point, you want to make sure it reaches about 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity

Humidity is one of the main reasons we recommend this species for experienced keepers only.

They will need humidity levels to alternate from 20% to 80% through the day and night in order to create the humid-dry conditions they thrive in in the wild.

Too much humidity will cause this species to get bacterial or fungal infections and too little will cause difficulty in shedding, which can be both be dangerous for their health.

You will need to give them a morning mist of about 20 minutes to give them a good, long drink. This will keep them hydrated and healthy.

If the day is more humid than normal, you will not need to provide them with the additional misting. You need to allow their environment to dry out between waterings.

Installing a hygrometer is best since they have such specific humidity needs. Make sure their habitat stays around 70% at humid times and around 20% to 40% during dry-out spells between watering.

If the humidity goes any higher than 70%, you can turn on the AC to dehumidify the room. If it goes below, give them a little mist.

Lighting 

Just like any other chameleon, Meller’s Chameleons need full-spectrum UVB lighting.

Your heat lights will be responsible for keeping your pet’s enclosure at appropriate temperatures and your basking light will give your chameleon the UVB rays they need for good health.

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 chameleons, look into Compact Fluorescent Lamps.

Zoo Med’s ReptiSun® 5.0 is highly recommended amongst the chameleon keepers community.

Accessories

Live plants are highly recommended to give your chameleon plenty of foliage to climb and hide behind.

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, allowing them to sip water from the leaves.

For Meller’s Chameleons, you can get them some Ficus trees. Just make sure you get ones that are suitable for their size and enclosure.

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

These large lizards will need prey of suitable size or that are equal in size to the length of your pet’s mouth.

You can feed your Meller’s moths, butterflies, crickets, hissing cockroaches, waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, giant mealworms, dubia roaches, mantids, earthworms, and walking stick bugs. Adults may also eat bird hatchlings, smaller lizards, and tree frogs.

You want to offer about 1 or 2 large prey items once or twice daily or every other day depending on your individual lizard’s appetite. You shouldn’t feed them more than 4 large bugs a day.

 It is important that you gut-load and dust their food with calcium powder before feeding them to your pet to supplement these much-needed vitamins.

Be sure to 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

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

Meller’s are known to be notoriously thirsty and can literally drink all the time. They are also known to be slow drinkers, meaning you will have your work cut out for you.

You should be giving them long showers of about 15 to 20 minutes long a few times a day.

They will need a constant water source so installing a drip system would be a great idea.

You can tell that your chameleon might be dehydrated 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.

Temperament

These gentle giants are pretty docile in captivity. While they are easily stressed, they will not act aggressively toward their keepers.

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 not show any signs of stress from handling, but they will feel it on the inside so let them chill and be merry in their habitat.

Meller’s Chameleon FAQ

Meller's Chameleon (Trioceros melleri) on branch with foliage around
Meller’s Chameleon (Trioceros melleri) on branch with foliage around

Are Meller’s Chameleons endangered?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Meller’s Chameleons are considered a species of Least Concern as of 2014. Their only real, major threat is the pet trade.

How big do Meller’s Chameleons get?

Meller’s Chameleons are called “Giant One-horned Chameleons” for a reason, and that is due to their magnificent size. They can reach lengths of 2 feet and a half, weighing in at 21 ounces plus.

Conclusion

These bright green, beautiful, peaceful giants are awesome to look at and are entertaining to watch. They are gentle, majestic, and have amazing patterns that you could stare at for hours!

We hope you learned more about how to care for these magnificent creatures correctly.

Again, if you are hoping to keep one, we recommend that you have some experience since they are not beginner-friendly pets.

Leave a comment down below about your experience or thoughts about the elegant Meller’s Chameleon.

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