Choosing the Species of Your First Chameleon

If you ask around most people will suggest that you start off with a veiled chameleon as your top choice, or a panther as a close second. The benefits veileds have over other species is that they are easily available as captive bred, are hardy, and are very affordable (anywhere from $20-60 for a 2-3 month old baby). Panthers are also hardy but require more humidity, and usually sell for $200 and up for a baby the same age, so they are considerably more expensive.

Othello, my Jackson's chameleon male.
But not everyone likes or wants to start off with the same species as everyone else. I think it's not necessary to scare capable new keepers away from other less popular species, especially since there are many others that are not any more complicated to keep. It's your pet, you should be able to choose the one you like the most. I just urge any new keepers to be realistic with themselves about what it is they can provide for a new pet like a chameleon, and ask if they can and are willing to meet the needs of their species of choice. Buy books, search online, ask breeders and get an idea of what this species requires, and see if you can meet those requirements.

When I began I did not like the look of male veileds and I did not have $250 to pay for a panther, so I wanted something else. I found Jackson's chameleons and thought they were perfect. They sold for under $100, were a pretty green, and had three horns like a Triceratops. I was completely sold! But people from forums told me to stick to a veiled, that I wasn't going to be able to handle this "difficult" species as a beginner. I bought one anyway and he did absolutely great. I understood that they needed everything a little cooler (so between the AC and his lower wattage basking bulb, I was fine), needed fewer supplements, and that they loved lots of water (nothing I couldn't provide with a water pump.) He did great for years until I gave him to a new home due to space concerns. I thought he was a very sweet individual and he made a fantastic first chameleon.

So when considering which species of chameleon to start off with, do lots of research and get lots of opinions. And then decide for yourself which is going to be the best match for what you want and for what you can provide.

*TIP: Choose ONLY captive bred chameleons over wild caught chameleons. They will be less likely to carry parasites, have problems acclimating to your home, and be overall more healthy.

A few good species to look into when choosing (in my opinion):
- Veiled chameleons
- Panther chameleons
- Jackson's chameleons
- Carpet chameleons
- Senegal chameleons
- Flapneck chameleons

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