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Jackson's Chameleon - Chamaeleo Jacksonii

As with other chameleons, Jackson's Chameleon is not an easy reptile to keep and should not be a first pet. They are best kept alone which means they are not communal animals. They are climbers - so the enclosure you provide them should be vertically oriented with branches and tree limbs for them to climb on. Jackson chameleons give birth to live young. Gestation period for the Jackson chameleon is about six to nine months. The Jackson chameleon will produce anywhere from ten to fifty babies at one time.


Average Size -  9 to 13 inches long

Life Span - Jackson's Chameleon will live 5+ years with proper care

Diet - The young should be fed pinhead crickets and fruit flies. Adults - provide a variety of live insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, mealworms, and waxworms; Remember to "gut load" crickets a day before offering to your pet. This can be done by feeding with any of the commercial insect foods available at pet shops. You should also dust crickets or other insects about twice each week with a calcium and vitamin supplement. Feed some greens every few days - lettuce (avoid iceberg since it has little nutritional value), collard greens etc.

Feeding  - Feed adults every other day; juveniles daily.

Housing - Appropriate size for an adult would be about 30 gallon "high" tank or an enclosure approximately 24" long - 18" wide and 24" high to accommodate normal activity. One adult Jackson's chameleon should be kept in the tank/enclosure.

Habitat - A dense area of non-toxic plants or artifical plants for hiding and a more open, exposed area of branches for basking. The cage furnishings should consist of a Ficus tree, fake plants and a couple tall pieces of drift wood. Ideal humidity is between 50% to 75%.

Temperature - Temperature gradient of 80 degrees F. for the warm end and 65 degrees F. for the cool end.  Use an incandescent light bulb or ceramic heater for the basking area. Avoid heat rocks since they may burn your pet.

Substrate - For a substrate you can either use reptile and small mammal bedding (not cedar) or a potting soil sand mixture. Since Jackson's chameleons are arboreal, you can also use astroturf, paper towels etc. You should  change the substrate regularly. We had a female veiled and she used to lay eggs even though they were not fertile. Female jacksons actually give live birth, (8 to 30 live young are born after a five to six month gestation period., so having a bowl filled with sand like I suggested for veiled chameleons is not necessary.

Water - Chameleons are not likely to drink directly from a bowl rather they will get their moisture from non-toxic plants, plastic plants, off the glass of an aquarium and in collecting pools for drinking. You can use drip system with chlorine-free water or mist regularly. You can create your own water drip system by placing a plastic container on the top of the enclosure with a pinhole in the bottom of the container (although this can be a hit or miss project).

Lighting - Provide full spectrum fluorescent light for 10 to 12 hours a day; incandescent bulb is needed for basking area if not using a ceramic heater basking spot of about 80 - 85 degrees F and this can be achieved with a clamp lamp using a sixty watt bulb. Also, if the habitat is positioned in a window that has full sunlight – YOU MUST PROVIDE A SAFE SHADE SPOT THAT MAINTAINS A TEMPERATURE IN THE HIGH 70’S TO LOW 80’S.

Chameleons should be housed separately; do not house different species of reptiles together

Normal Behavior and Interaction  All chameleons have eyes that can see in two directions at once. The males have three horns on their head, one on their nose and two above there eyes. They look like miniature triceratops. The female, on the other hand, usually has no horns at all although there are some individuals with one horn on the nose. Most chameleons become very stressed when handled; only handle when necessary

Recommended Supplies:

  • Habitat with secure lid
  • Thermometer
  • Humidity gauge
  • Mist bottle/drip system
  • Book about chameleons
  • Full spectrum light
  • Incandescent basking light or ceramic heater
  • Basking branches and non-toxic plants
  • Vitamin/mineral supplement

Habitat Maintenance Remove feces from habitat daily; mist frequently to maintain humidity. Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week: set chameleon aside in a secure habitat; scrub the habitat with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all smell of bleach; add clean substrate

Grooming and Hygiene Always wash your hands before and after touching your chameleon or habitat contents to help and Hygiene prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases. Chameleons regularly shed their skin; mist regularly to ensure proper humidity for shedding

Signs of a Healthy Pet:

  • Consistent behavior
  • Healthy skin
  • Clear eyes 
  • Eats regularly 
  • Clear nose and vent 
  • Body and tail are rounded and full
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:

  • Bumps
  • Sores or abrasions on skin
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Lethargic 
  • Swelling
  • Labored breathing 
  • Paralysis of limbs or tail 
  • Abnormal feces

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.  

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:29 EST
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