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Male or Female? How to Sex Baby Panther Chameleons

I'm surprised I haven't written this guide earlier, but better now than never! 

One of the most common concerns new panther chameleon owners have is how to sex them. How do you know that the male you just paid more money for is actually a male? Well, the answer is relatively easy, you just have to get used to knowing what you're looking for. And the best way to help is to show lots of photos. Panther chameleons can be sexed right out of the egg. However, for the purpose of this blog I will show examples of panthers that are over a month old, so we can see what a baby that you just bought from a reptile show might look like, both in size, colors, and sexability. 

Also, to quell some fears, please see this blog entry on how males mature differently: Two Panthers Growing Up - Photo Progression. Because not all males grow up the same way and "late bloomers" certainly exist. And for further reading see this other blog entry, Comparing Males and Females, which explains any differences in care, personality, and physiology. 

PANTHERS AT 1.5 MONTHS OF AGE

Male baby panther chameleon. 
Female baby panther chameleon.
This is going to be tough at first, and I want to show two tough babies for that reason. Look at the two babies. If you look closely, you will notice that on the male you can almost see a straight line from the stomach down and along the tail. This is because the base of the tail is thicker, to accommodate the male's sex organs as he matures. Where as in a female there is an indentation right after the vent/cloaca, because the tail base is much narrower. The tail is thus thinner, so it looks like much more gentle taper from the base to the tip. At this age do not focus on color (or lack there of), because it might be misleading. 

PANTHERS AT 3-3.5 MONTHS OF AGE

A male panther chameleon, very developed at his age. 
The above male is a very obvious one. But it will show you all the anatomy you are looking for when looking at a slightly older baby. You want to look out for the hemipenal bulge, which at this point should be more obvious, and the rostral process (the nasal ridge), which will grow outwards as he matures. This male also has a lot of color already for his age, which is a little unusual, so a lack of color is not indicative of an automatic female. Some males will be tan until 6 months of age. 

A male panther chameleon, not as developed and much less obvious.
This second male is much less obvious. His colors are still bland, his rostral process is still underdeveloped, and the bulge is tiny but you can still see it if you look closely. This could be a tricky one, but after you see enough young males it will become easier to spot males like these.
A female panther chameleon. 
This female is pretty for a female, which shows how females can show certain colors here and there (like blue in the face) and confuse you. So do not reply on color to sex a panther unless it is extremely obvious. But her rostral process is non-existent, which is normal for females, and her tail is a thin, subtle taper down to the tip.  
Another male panther chameleon. This one is more average, neither very
developed nor very underdeveloped. 
And one more male to show you a more normal-looking male individual (I'm sorry that the photo is not great, this was pre-DSLR camera!). He does have a small rostral process and a bulge that is easy to see.

JUVENILE TO ADULT PANTHER CHAMELEONS

Adult Nosy Be panther chameleon male. 
This is the same panther as the last example of a young male, but full grown. By 6-8 months the colors should be nice and saturated, the bulge should be fairly large, and the rostral process will also be much larger. At this point they are sexually mature, so it should be very obvious that you have a male.
Adult panther chameleon female. 
This is an adult female, who looks very different to the male above. She will have a very tiny rostral process and no bulge. The tail will still be very narrow. Additionally, the colors will be very indicative by 5-7 months as well. Females remain shades of pink, peach, tan, brown, and black with orange. Sometimes they can have points of blue, purple, or green, but generally speaking they are not as colorful as males. They will also be much smaller in size, only about half as large.

Hope that helps!


DIY & Other Money-Saving Tips

I've always said that by knowing a few tricks you could end up saving a lot of money, money that can be better put towards other things instead of spending it on overpriced merchandise at a pet store. Below are my best tips and suggestions on how to save a little money while still taking great care of your pet reptile (because this is still an expensive hobby!)

This is supplemental to this blog entry: Average Cost of Owning A Chameleon
And for things I cannot live without, regardless of money: My Favorite Reptile Products


#1. LOOK INTO ORDERING ONLINE

Always check places like Amazon.com, Ebay.com, or even your local classifieds (like Craigslist.com) for supplies before going to your local pet store. Often reptile supplies like cages and supplies will cost much less, even after shipping, than at a pet store. And people often sell gently used supplies for very little that you can disinfectant and use. Definitely disinfectant things like used cages and cage decor, so your pets don't pick up parasites or other undesirables.

#2. MANY SUPPLIES CAN BE PURCHASED AT A HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE

Things like light fixtures, normal heat bulbs (not UVB bulbs), and other supplies can be found at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, and even cheaper places like Walmart. A fixture does not have to be reptile-specific, and you can buy an 18" fluorescent bulb fixture from one of these places for $10, instead of spending at least $30 at a pet store for a "special" fixture. It's a lie, they don't do anything that a Walmart fixture can't do. And heat bulbs (not UVB bulbs) meant just to provide a basking spot can also be purchased from here, just find the wattage you need to provide the basking spot you need. Halogen bulbs will last a lot longer but you can also buy a multi pack of normal incandescent bulbs for $6 and replace as needed. Still way cheaper than paying $7-20 for a single "reptile specific" incandescent basking bulb at a pet store. Additionally, unless your home gets very cold (under 60°F on average) you do not need a red night-time bulb, especially not for chameleons. Most reptiles do well with a night-time drop in temperature and will not be harmed if their tank drops into the 70's or lower, and some reptiles can see the red light and will not be able to sleep. It's just another ploy to get you to spend money (like all the lights below).
Some examples of common pet store bulbs that you do NOT have to buy. Unless it is a UVB bulb, you do not need to spend more money on a reptile specific bulb. Also, they will trick you by saying they output UVA, which is not as important as UVB and a normal incandescent will also produce it. Also, stay away from bulbs with strange colors, they are unnatural. 
#3. LOOK INTO DIY PROJECTS

Instead of spending lots of money on certain projects, see if you can make them at home. For example, a water dripper at a pet store will retail for $10 or more, when you can make it at home for the price of a 1 gallon container of water or milk. Or any container that you can make tiny holes into with a needle. For my outdoor cages I use washed gallon jugs with several tiny needle holes on one side and a single air hole on the opposite side. A gallon will drip (depending on the number of holes and their size) for a long while, if not hours, and it costs about $3. Additionally, if you are a handy person you can look into building your own cages, either out of wood or PVC pipe and save money that way. As long as the chameleon's needs are met there is no reason you could not make your own cage if you are capable of doing so. You might be able to build a cage for half of what it costs to build a flimsy screen cage or a small glass terrarium. If you want to make an enclosed cage, acrylic plastic will be much cheaper than glass but look just as good.



#4. ORDER INSECTS IN BULK

Seriously, this will save you so much money! You might pay as much as 14-20 cents for a single cricket at a pet store (so a hundred crickets may cost you $14-20!) where as you can buy a bulk amount of crickets for much less. Typically, you can order 1,000 crickets for about $14 (much better, right?) and even with shipping you end up saving. Going to reptile shows will also get you a better deal, as you can save shipping and carry home as many boxes of crickets as you want. And a thousand crickets will last you a while, especially if you don't have very many reptiles. The only thing you need is a big plastic container to keep them in, provide fresh food and water, and you may have food for a month. You can save a lot of money every month by buying bugs in bulk. Also, look into ordering bugs you can breed at home, such as superworms and roaches. This will also save you a lot of money! 

Read more about how to keep insects in your home properly here: Keeping Insects - Chameleon Food


#5. USE BRANCHES FROM OUTSIDE AND PLANTS FROM A SMALL NURSERY

This scares some people, but instead of spending lots of money on an expensive log at the pet store or yards of flimsy fake vines, cut branches from a tree. Stay away from sappy trees but live branches from most trees make excellent, FREE cage decor that are going to hold up very well to humidity and heat, provide stable, study perches, and feel much more natural. And they look SO much better in your cages. If using something from outside scares you, you can always disinfect them in the oven or by soaking them in a hot bath with some bleach, rinse, and let dry outside.

These are live branches, cut from a tree outside. They still look phenomenal in my cages a
year later, no mold, decay, or bugs. Great and better looking alternative to those expensive fake vines. 
Also, I find that plants from a small private nursery are better and cheaper than plants from Home Depot or Lowe's. They are usually bigger, in better health, and cost a little less so your wallet will thank you and you'll be happier with the quality of plants you are getting.



More to come!

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