Oustalet’s Chameleon

Oustalet’s Chameleon care will require you to consider their large size and environmental needs. This species in particular will require a lot of space and food.

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. 

They are not simple creatures to care for and have many requirements that will require quite a bit of your attention.

We don’t recommend letting a child care for a chameleon, as they are not child-friendly pets with all of their needs. 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.

Many 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 do it 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.

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.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Facts

Oustalet's Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)
Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Scientific Name: Furcifer oustaleti
  • Alternate Name(s): Malagasy Giant Chameleon 
  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Size: Males: up to 27 inches; Females: 12 inches
  • Weight: 14 to 17 ounces
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Lifespan: 5 to 8 years

Quick Facts About Oustalet’s Chameleons

  • Oustalet’s Chameleons are can use their tail and feet to grasp branches while climbing.
  • They are the second heaviest chameleon on Earth, possibly the longest, making them one of the world’s largest species.
  • They were only recently discovered to be omnivores rather than carnivorous, as was previously assumed. They were found consuming indigenous shrubs in their native locations.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Appearance

Oustalet’s Chameleons are typically tan in color with brown or black stripes along their body. Some may be greener or bluer in color while others may even be red or blood orange, depending on the individual.

Females will typically be smaller than their male counterparts and might be various shades of green with white spots along their sides.

Their heads might also change colors at times, depending on their moods or the time of season.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Location and Natural Habitat

Oustalet’s Chameleons are native to Madagascar but have also been found in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.

They can occur in various habitats, but prefer to roam dry, moist habitats in both high and low elevations. They can also be found in many protected national parks throughout Madagascar and are actually quite abundant.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Diet

This chameleon species likes to dine mainly on insects and smaller mammals, which is what made people think they were exclusively carnivorous, but it turns out they will also consume some native shrubs.

They have also been seen to eat some fruits here and there.

Typical Oustalet’s Chameleons will consume large cockroaches, mice, small birds, and even other lizards.

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

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.

Oustalet’s are quite sedentary, moving very slowly or hardly at all. While they are extremely slow, this helps them conserve energy and makes them very good hiders for long periods of time.

They have a long tongue that is almost twice their size and has a suction cup at the end of it. When they see the unsuspecting prey, they will shoot out their sticky tongue, snatching their prey in no time.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Lifespan

Chameleons will typically live longer in captivity than in the wild, but only when put under proper care. Oustatlet’s Chameleons have a lifespan of about 5 to 8 years in captivity with proper care.

As we mentioned, caring for them can be quite difficult, so there is no sure answer on how long they will live.

Oustalet’s Chameleon Breeding Habits

The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustalet) on branch on white background
The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustalet) on branch on white background

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.

This species will typically reach maturity within 6 to 12 months of its life. Males may change color to a blue hue during courtship.

Oustalet’s Chameleons typically has a clutch size of around 30 to 40 eggs per clutch about three or four times per year. 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 Oustalet does this, be sure to help her pack the soil down carefully, but firmly, after she lays them.

Incubation periods are typically 9 to 12 months for this species, and you want to incubate the eggs at temperatures around 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Separate the hatchlings into individual enclosures a week or two after they hatch, if possible.

Predators of the Oustalet’s Chameleon

Common predators of chameleons in these areas mostly include birds, snakes, as well as other mammals, such as monkeys from time to time.

Oustalet’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 Oustalet’s Chameleons

The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) with yellow flowers
The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) with yellow flowers

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 include if they are refusing food, have excess mucus around their mouth or nasal passages, or cloudy eyes. These could be signs of infection or just an overall unhealthy lizard.

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 Oustalet’s Chameleons should be around $70 to $200 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:

Oustalet’s Chameleon Care Sheet

Oustalet's Chameleon - Furcifer oustaleti, Kirindi forest, Madagascar
Oustalet’s Chameleon – Furcifer oustaleti, Kirindi forest, Madagascar

Enclosure

Since Oustalet’s Chameleons are one of the world’s largest chameleons, meaning they will need a large enclosure to give them the space to thrive.

A single adult Oustalaet will need a screened enclosure that measures at least 4 feet in height, 3 feet in width, as well as 3 feet in depth.

This is the minimum amount of space you should provide them with but as always, the bigger the better.

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, which can cause 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 

Endemic Malagasy giant chameleon or Oustalets's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)
Endemic Malagasy giant chameleon or Oustalets’s chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)

Oustalet’s Chameleons thrive in hotter, more humid climates of Northern Madagascar. You want to replicate the temperatures of their natural habitat as best as you can.

Install good thermometers that can help you measure and make sure their temperatures are at the optimal range for their comfort.

Their overall cage temperatures should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Their basking spot can be somewhere around 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

At night, you should make sure to leave them at an ambient temperature of around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure not to let their tank go anywhere below 70 degrees.

Humidity

You want to keep your Oustalet’s Chameleon’s enclosure humidity at 70% at all times. 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 they also need proper ventilation, this is where foggers, drippers, and automatic misting systems can be installed to achieve these humidity levels.

Lighting 

Just like any other chameleon, Oustalet’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.

We suggest you keep this on for 12 hours a day then off again for 12 hours at night to keep your pet on a natural routine.

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.

Accessories

Malagasy Giant Chameleon Oustalets's Chameleon (Furcifer oustalet)
Malagasy Giant Chameleon Oustalets’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustalet)

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, allow them to sip water from the leaves, and also will produce more oxygen for them.

Some Oustalet-friendly plants include broadleaf evergreen bush, Yucca, Ficus Benjamina, Parlor Palm, Rubber Plant, Dragon Tree, Areca Palm, Corn Plant, Schefflera Trees, and most Ficus trees.

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

They are known to be a bit picky about some feeders and might refuse, but you will have to try to give them a variety and find out which best suits your individual Oustalet.

They typically feed on large insects like crickets, dubia roaches, or mealworms. If yours is being extra picky, try giving it a waxworm.

You should offer your chameleon about 3 to 5 larger bugs every other day for adults and daily while they are juveniles.

 It is important that you gut-load and dust them 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.

Check out this beautiful female Oustalet to get an idea of how long their tongues are:

Water

Chameleons don’t drink from water bowls and 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 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.

If you are not keen on keeping up with the daily spritzing, you might want to look into setting up a drip system.

Temperament

The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) being held in hand
The Oustalets or Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) being held in hand

This species is generally solitary and will only show aggression toward other chameleons. They show aggressive behavior through rapid color changes and confrontational stances.

They are quite territorial but are mostly docile, sedentary creatures.

They can get used to their owners with lots of time and patience.

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.

You can let them use you as a branch if you are thinking about hand-feeding or trying to bond with them, but this shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence.

Let them chill and hang on their own so they can live a happy, stress-free life.

Oustalet’s Chameleon FAQ

Oustalet's Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), Ramena, Antsiranana
Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), Ramena, Antsiranana

Do Oustalet’s Chameleons change color?

Yes! Oustalet’s Chameleons will typically showcase a green-blue hue that can change, depending on their mood or the season. Males may turn more of a blue when they are looking to mate, and females may vary in different shades of green. This species also has a head that may alter in color, possibly showing shades of red.

How big do Oustalet’s Chameleons get?

Males can grow up to 27 inches, whereas their female counterparts will be a lot smaller, coming in at around 12 inches on average. These hefty, arboreal chameleons can weigh anywhere between 14 to 17 ounces.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an interesting, large chameleon and have space, Oustalet’s Chameleons can be a great choice for you!

We hope that you learned how to properly care for this rare creature or learned something interesting about a chameleon you might have not known much about otherwise.

Leave us a comment down below about your experiences with this species or any questions you might have about this giant Malagasy beauty.

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