Buying A Chameleon – Complete Buying Guide For Beginners

If you’re looking to buying a chameleon, there are many factors to consider. Their health, their breed, and where they came from are some of the things to consider. Picking a sick chameleon could end up costing you time and money. To avoid these problems, you’ll want to know what to look for in a healthy chameleon.

Chameleons are one of the most intriguing creatures in the world. Their beauty and color transformation is what draws a lot of people to them. For that reason, it’s always a dream for pet owners to own one.

However, the requirement for a chameleon is more than most other popular pets.  Chameleons are an exotic pet and they require a lot of maintenance and care which includes feeding, correct environment setting, supplements, and lighting.  If you are still up to the challenge of owning one, read one. This article will go into detail about buying a chameleon.

What Is The Best Kind Of Chameleon To Buy?

Buying Wild-Caught Chameleon

Buying wild-caught chameleon isn’t recommended.  Usually, these kinds of chameleons will carry parasites, diseases, and other pathogens. When they are caught and ready to be shipped, they will be checked for parasites and other pathogens. However, it’s unlikely they will be checked thoroughly and that could be a problem when you own them.

Stress is the biggest factor with wild-caught chameleons. When they are caught, they are very much stressed already. Then the chameleons are put on a plane and shipped to their destination.  While on the plane, most will probably get ill from the stress they have to endure. By the time they reach their destination, most have become so ill that they die. Chameleons are easily stressed, especially the popular veiled chameleons.

These chameleons will also have a hard time adapting to their new environment. They are used to be free and able to roam anywhere they want.  When they are kept in an enclosure, they are confined to an area and they will start to get stressed.

Also, most countries block the import of chameleons. In the U.S., most states ban the sales of wild-caught chameleons. Sadly, the sales of wild-caught chameleons still happen. A person can still get there hands on one if they know where to look.

Besides the U.S., other countries have also banned the sales of wild-caught chameleons. One such species, the veiled chameleons are on the endangered species list and the sale of wild-caught veiled chameleons is banned worldwide.

Buying Captive Bred Chameleon

Buying captive bred chameleon is the better option when buying these exotic lizards. They are born in captivity, which means they are already used to the environment around them.  This will make it easier for them to adjust when you bring them home. The chameleons will be less stressed because of that.

As for feeding, they will not be so picky about food. They will live on a diet of crickets and other insects available.

Captive-bred chameleons won’t carry any diseases so you won’t have to worry about your chameleon getting ill when you take them home. Since the chameleons are not exposed to the outside environment, they are less likely to contract any dangerous diseases.

As you can see, it makes sense to buy captive-bred chameleons. You’re not only getting a healthy and happy pet chameleon, but you will also save a lot of them from enduring stress when they are caught in the wild.

What Chameleon Species To Buy?

Veiled chameleons

veiled chameleonThese chameleons are one of the few species of chameleon that isn’t from Madagascar. Veiled chameleons make their home in the desert of Saudi Arabia and the mountains of Yemen. For that reason, they are also known as the Yemen chameleons.

This species of chameleons are adaptable to a wide range of environment. They can survive in a high-temperature environment and a relatively low humidity environment. This makes them one the hardest species of the chameleon to own.

Veiled chameleons can grow up to nearly 2 feet long. This makes them one of the biggest chameleon species in the world. The female will tend to be smaller than the female, but they are still big when compared to other species of chameleons.

As for their lifespan, veiled chameleons have a lifespan of 6 to 8 years! This makes them one of the longest living chameleon species.

All the reasons above make the veiled chameleons the most popular chameleon species to own in captivity. This chameleon is also recommended for beginners who want to keep a pet chameleon.

Due to their popularity, veiled chameleons are plentiful on the market. At most local pet shops, these chameleon species are what you will find the most.
Also, the cost to buy them will be cheaper than other species of chameleons. So if you’re looking to save money, veiled chameleons should be the choice to get.

Panther chameleon

Panther ChameleonPanther chameleons are native to Madagascar, where the majority of other chameleon species are from. These chameleons are not as adaptable as the veiled chameleon.

Their lifespan is about 5 years at most. However, in captivity, they are known to live past their expected lifespan, especially the males. Females tend to live shorter due to breeding. Female panther chameleons only live for about 2-3 years.

What draws most people to the panther chameleons is their colorfulness. These species of chameleons have a wide color range. Also, they are regarded as one of the fastest chameleon species with the ability to change colors.

Panther chameleons are not that large. Male chameleons can grow up to 20 inches (51 cm) in length. Females are much smaller and grow to an average of 11 inches.

Due to their easy care and their adaptability in captivity, panther chameleons are the second most bred chameleon species. Besides the veiled chameleons, you will find panther chameleons at most local pet stores.

If you’re looking for a colorful chameleon and one that is easy to care for, consider the panther chameleons.

Jackson’s chameleon

Jackson's ChameleonJackson’s chameleons are native to the woodlands and forests of south-central Kenya and northern Tanzania. These chameleons don’t get as big as a veiled chameleon, nor are they as colorful as the Panther chameleons. However, two factors that set them apart from the other two chameleons is that they are the least aggressive and the most approachable.

The male chameleons have a distinctive feature on their heads, which is the three horns. These horns are used to defend their territory and to show off to mates during mating seasons. The female, on the other hand, does not have horns, but instead, they have traces of the rostral horn.

Jackson’s chameleons have one of the longest lifespans out of all the chameleon species. The male chameleons will live for 8 to 10 years, while the females will live only for 4 to 5 years. However, there are cases where the female chameleons can live past 5 years. With the right care and proper feeding, both the male and female Jackson’s chameleons can live beyond their life expectancy.

This is the chameleon you should consider buying if you’re looking for a chameleon that isn’t aggressive and is easily approachable.  However, they don’t like to be handled much, but they tend to be more friendly than the other two chameleon species listed above.

What Is The Best Age To Buy A Chameleon?

The best age to buy the chameleon is more of a personal preference. Younger chameleons are more challenging to care for, while an adult chameleon is easier to care of.  Some people prefer to buy a baby chameleon because they want to have it as a pet for a longer period.  On the other hand, others prefer adult chameleons because they don’t need to train them or worry about the health of the chameleons.

Buying Baby Chameleons

Baby ChameleonIf you’re planning to buy a baby chameleon or referred to as a hatchling, the best age to buy them is when they are about a week old. At this age, the hatchling is usually dull gray or brown color. They can only change of few shades of colors at this age. The ability to morph into more different shades of color starts at around five months of age. The color includes blue-green, green, turquoise and black. However, the colors depend on the species as well. Some species like the panther chameleons have a broader range of color.

A hatchling is also less aggressive and territorial. Buying a chameleon at this age will be more friendly towards the pet owner, even when they are an adult.

Also, you can put two female chameleons in the same cage, even as an adult. If you’re planning to raise two female chameleons in the same cage, buying hatchling is a perfect choice.

On the other hand, male chameleons are not possible because they are aggressive regardless of how they are brought up. You can train them to be less aggressive and friendly, but when they are put together with another male, they will become territorial and very aggressive at each other.

Buying Adult Chameleons

Some people prefer to buy adult chameleon because it’s easier to take care of. Adult chameleons don’t require a lot of attention as hatchling chameleons will. With a hatchling, they require more feeding, more misting, and precise supplements intake. Too many supplements or not enough supplements can lead to health issues when they become an adult. All of these reasons are why someone would prefer an adult instead.

However, with an adult chameleon, you won’t have a lot of time to spend with them due to their short lifespan. Most chameleon species live an average of 6 years. Purchasing a chameleon that is 4 years old would give you approximately 2 years left to have them as a pet.

Should I Buy A Male Or Female Chameleon?

Aggression and Territorialism

In their natural habitat, chameleons are extremely territorial creatures. Any other chameleons or creatures, they can get quite aggressive. As with many other reptiles, male chameleons are usually more aggressive and territorial then female chameleons.

In captivity, male chameleons will be aggressive and territorial, like in their natural habitat. This means they are more likely to hiss or even bite the owner.

On the other hand, female chameleons are the opposite of the male chameleons.  They are calmer and not territorial.  However, during pregnancy, they tend to be a little bit aggressive and territorial, especially at the male chameleons.   During this time, it’s best to leave them alone until they have laid their eggs.


When it comes to appearance, male chameleons will be more colorful than females.  The male exhibits a brighter and more vivid color to attract attention from the females during mating seasons.

Most people buy chameleons not knowing about this and wonder why their chameleon is not that colorful.  So if you’re looking for a chameleon that you can admire all day long, the best choice to choose is the male chameleons.


The lifespan for the female chameleons will usually be shorter than the males.  This is due to the females laying eggs every couple of months.  Every time they lay eggs, it put a lot of stress on their bodies.  In addition, during pregnancy, the female chameleons usually don’t eat much, which causes a dramatic weight loss for them.  All the egg-laying and loss of appetite put a lot of strain on the body.  This is the reason why female chameleons have a shorter lifespan than males.

If you’re looking to keep a chameleon as a pet for a long time, at least to their full life expectancy, the male is the one to choose. Male chameleons usually live 2 to 3 years longer than the female chameleons.


As far as price is a concern, male chameleons tend to be more expensive. The reason for this is because male chameleons live longer and are more colorful than the female chameleons.

If you’re on a budget or don’t want to pay too much for a chameleon, your best option would be a female chameleon.


Most chameleon species, the female chameleons will be smaller than the male chameleons.  Due to their small sizes, their care and maintenance are not that much when compared to the males.

Female chameleons will have lower maintenance than male chameleons will.   Since they consume less food, they won’t require much water.  Less water means you won’t have to mist their enclosure too much.

Female chameleons also require cooler temperature than male chameleons does. For that reason, they don’t need much sunlight and won’t require too much basking lights.  All of this saves electricity which ends up saving you a lot of money on chameleon care.

In addition, if you live in an apartment or a home that doesn’t have much space because female chameleons are smaller in size, they make the right choice to buy.

Checking The Health Of The Chameleon Before Buying

Health is the uttermost important factor when buying a chameleon. A chameleon should be in good health and free of any diseases. Chameleons are one type of reptiles that are easily prone to diseases and illnesses. For this reason, you need to be careful with the health of the chameleons. It’s a good idea to observe the chameleon you’re planning to buy for a couple of minutes.

Chameleon Skin ColorOne of the most important factors to look for in a healthy chameleon is their skin colors. Chameleon in good health will have bright and active skin colors. Observing their colors is important because it helps them camouflage, regulate temperature, and a way for them to communicate with other chameleons. The colors will change in response to their mood, temperature, and their surroundings.  If the chameleon is unable to change their color quickly, that’s a sign that the chameleon may have health issues. It could be an illness, a disease, or some sort of defect. Either way, be very cautious about buying that type of chameleon.

Other things to look out for are their eyes and limbs. Their eyes should be clear and bright. Observe their eyes movement as well. The eyes should move independently of each other. If there is an insect in the cage, observe their eyes as it should move rapidly toward the insect.

The limbs of the chameleon should be straight. They should be able to grip the branches of the tree and plants. As they are moving along the branches, watch to see if it is moving in a smooth motion.  Chameleons are a cautious creature and will usually crawl a couple of inches and stop, and then crawl again. They do this to observe their surroundings to see if there’s any danger ahead.

Common Health Problems Affecting Chameleons

Besides their appearance, other health problems are common with chameleons that you may want to look out for. A chameleon that is suffering from a health problem might not show any sign at the pet store, but may later when you take it home.

One of the common health problems is vitamin deficiencies. The chameleon might be suffering from calcium and vitamin A deficiencies, which is usually the result of a poor diet. This kind of problem is usually found in a pet store, where there may be too many other animals to care for. This is not a big issue as the chameleon will usually recover after good care and quality food.

Another common health problem affecting chameleons is the mouth rot or stomatitis. This infection is usually around the mouth with signs of redness and excess saliva and drooling.  Symptoms usually include loss of appetite and the skin color will usually be dark.

Another common health problem associated with chameleons is a metabolic bone disease. This condition will cause the bones of the chameleons to become spongy and fragile. If left untreated, it can become fatal for them. A sign to look out for is if the chameleon looks lethargic and does not eat, even when their favorite food is present.

The health of the chameleons is very important and you may want to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles first before buying a pet chameleon.

Best Place To Buy Chameleons

Once you have your budget, the chameleon species you want, it’s time to start looking where to buy a chameleon. There are a couple of places that you can start your search. These places include your local pet shop, breeding center, and online pet shop. Each of these places has its advantages and disadvantages. Below are details for each place to find your perfect chameleon.

Local Pet Shop

When looking to buy a chameleon, most people will start at their local pet shop. You have the option of buying at a locally own pet shop or a national chain pet shop. A locally own pet shop might not carry many chameleons as a national chain pet shop will.

The two biggest national chain pet shop that is found in almost every city is Petsmart and Petco. These two places carry a nice selection of chameleons, especially the veiled chameleons and Panther chameleons.

Chameleon Breeder

If you’re looking for the best of the best, a chameleon breeder is probably the best place to buy a chameleon. A chameleon breeder focuses only on raising chameleons. This means the chameleons will be a near-perfect chameleon and have no health issues for you to worry about.

However, buying from a chameleon breeder can be very expensive though. The price for a single chameleon can go for $1,000 or more. The price depends on the species, sex, and age of the chameleon you’re planning to buy. Even the price is on the high end, you’ll be getting a chameleon that is in great to excellent health.

Online Pet Shop

Nowadays, just about everything can be bought online and shipped directly to your home. For chameleons, this is possible too. However, you’ll want to make sure that the pet shop is reputable and can be trusted.

Luckily, I have researched for you already and found a couple that is reputable pet shops to buy chameleons.

If you are in the U.S., the 4 best places to buy chameleons are Petco, PetSmart, Backwater Reptiles, and Underground Reptiles. These are the well-known pet shop that sells healthy chameleons.

Petco – National brand pet store located in all major cities across the U.S.  They carry a decent amount of chameleons and their pricing is competitive.

Petsmart – National brand pet store located in all major cities across the U.S.  They also carry a large selection of chameleons and the price for a chameleon is average.

CBReptile – Independently owned reptile shop that has many different species of chameleons for sale. The great thing about this shop is that they have their own biologist on site. Excellent place to buy chameleons due to the their 7 days health guarantee.

Backwater Reptiles – Independently owned pet shops that are focused on reptilian pets only.  There are over 25 different species of chameleons to choose from.  They have sales going on all the time so it’s a great place to check out if you’re planning to buy a chameleon.

Underground Reptiles – Independently owned pet shops that specialize in reptiles.  This is one of my favorite shops to buy chameleons due to their huge selections of chameleons and excellent customer service.

There are many other online pet shops out there, but the reviews from forums and other sources don’t have positive reviews on them.  I would stay away from them, but it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence before committing yourself to a pet chameleon.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Chameleon?

The cost of buying a chameleon will depend on the chameleon species. In addition, the location where it will be bought, the age, and if it’s captive-bred or wild-caught will also be a factor in the price.

Veiled chameleons and Panther chameleons are more than likely to be captive-bred. Most states in the U.S. have banned wild-caught chameleons. However, there, due to the demand, there are places that still sell wild-caught chameleons.

Species like the veiled chameleons are likely to be cheaper than other species of chameleon. This is due to the chameleons being more common and therefore, it will cost less to breed. The price range for the veiled chameleons varies from $30 to $100.

Panther chameleon, on the other hand, are more expensive because of their popularity and demands. These chameleons are the most colorful chameleon species, which is why the demand for them is high. Such high demands will bring the price to $200 for females and $300 or more for male Panther chameleons.

Jackson’s chameleons usually cost in the range of $50 to $100. Of course, the price will depend on your location and the age of the chameleons.  The older the chameleon is, the more it will cost to buy them.

When choosing a chameleon, remember that male chameleons tend to cost more than female chameleons. Females are less colorful and not that attractive as the males are. In addition, due to the female chameleons laying eggs every couple of months, it put a lot of stress on their bodies. The result is the female is more prone to illness and other diseases.


A healthy pet chameleon will give you enjoyment and amusements for many years. On the other hand, a chameleon with health issues will cost you a lot of money to care for. Not only that, but a sick chameleon will cause stress to themselves and you as well. Hopefully, after reading this, you have a lot of knowledge of what to look for when buying a chameleon.

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