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Part of caring for your baby panther chameleon means planning for the future. If he's a boy, he'll grow to 12 to 18 inches long. If he's a she, she'll reach 10 to 14 inches. You can expect a healthy panther chameleon to live five to seven years.
Room to Grow and Not Much More
When it comes to a baby panther chameleon, more isn't necessarily better. If his space is too large, he may lose track of his food or have a difficult time catching his prey. While he's still a baby, keep your new pet in a screened cage ranging from 16 by 16 by 29 inches to 18 by 18 by 36 inches. If your baby's a boy, it's best to use the larger cage, as males grow quickly and enjoy roaming. He'll reach sexual maturity by the time he's 6 months old, though he won't be fully grown until he's a year old. You'll want to move him to a bigger space, depending on his size, sometime between 6 and 12 months old.
Let There Be Light
In their natural habitat, panther chameleons enjoy basking in the sun, no matter how old they are. As a baby, yours will need a basking area, close to the top of his cage, with a temperature between 85 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and an ambient temperature in the lower portion of his habitat around 75 degrees. A 75-watt bulb will provide sufficient heat for your basking baby. He'll also need additional lighting to provide shortwave ultraviolet B light, vital for his proper growth and bone development. Your pet store or online resource should be able to provide you with an appropriate UVB lighting setup. When the weather is nice outside -- sunny and between 70 and 90 degrees -- he'll enjoy the benefits of natural sunlight in his cage.
Eating and Drinking
Panther chameleons won't drink from a dish, so he'll need his habitat misted regularly, three times a day. He drinks water drops from tree branches, and misting his habitat provides him water to drink and helps maintain the ideal humidity level between 60 percent and 80 percent. Running a drip system a couple of days a week supplements his daily misting, allowing him to drink as he pleases and watering the live plants in his habitat. As a baby, he'll eat the same diet as an adult: live insects including crickets, mealworms, silkworms, waxworms and superworms. He'll hunt and eat what he pleases in his cage, but you should pull out any dead insects at the end of each day. Though wild insects offer a change of pace for him, don't feed anything from outside unless you're sure it's pesticide-free. Vitamin and mineral powders are available commercially for dusting your baby chameleon's prey.
Plants are important to your chameleon's living space. They give him something to climb, help control the humidity and provide him cover when he feels like getting away from it all. Live plants such as ficus, pothos, hibiscus and schefflera are ideal choices for his home. Vines such as sumba are welcome, as are sandblasted bamboo roots, grapewood branches and manzanita branches. When your baby moves up to his new habitat -- which should be at least 24 by 24 by 48 inches -- he can take his plants with him. No matter what cage he's in, he won't need substrate, which can harbor bacteria. If you want to line his cage, paper towels do the job nicely, as they're easy to replace.
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