In order to adequately care for captive Panther chameleons it is vitally important to meet their needs in terms of environmental temperature and light.
Panther Chameleon Lighting Requirements
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are emitted by the sun. UV rays of different frequencies/wavelengths are known by different names (UVA, UVB, and UVC). UVA is visible light and is required by Panther Chameleons to regulate behavior and activity. UVA stimulates the parietal eye (photo-receptive scale on the top of the head) in Panther Chameleons, prompting the release of hormones by the hypothalamus, as well as the regulation of various biological functions linked to growth, feeding, follicle production, and breeding behavior. Being diurnal (active during the day, asleep at night) animals, Panther chameleons require approximately 12 hours of daylight (UVA) per day, as well as a 12 hour dark period (nighttime) during which they sleep.
In addition to UVA, Panther Chameleons also require UVB. UVB facilitates the formation of vitamin D3 in Panther Chameleons, which in turn helps to regulate the calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. For this reason it is vital that all Panther Chameleons are exposed to appropriate levels of UVB in order to survive and grow. A lack of UVB can lead to major health problems such as stunted growth, rickets, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), and low egg hatching success if breeding.
Panther Chameleons housed in outdoor enclosures receive appropriate levels of UVB from unfiltered sunlight. Panther Chameleon keepers housing their animals in indoor enclosures cannot rely on sunlight to provide appropriate levels of UVB, even if the enclosure is sited next to a window. This is because glass filters out 98% of UVB. It will therefore be necessary to provide Panther Chameleons kept in indoor enclosures with a commercially available linear or compact fluorescent (CFL) UVB bulb. Commercially available UVB bulbs are available in different percentages of UVB. The most commonly available are 2.0, 5.0, and 10.0, the numbers relating to the percentage of UVB emitted by the bulb (2%, 5%, and 10%). The Reptisun 5.0 is considered to be the best UVB bulb for chameleons, providing appropriate levels of UVB. The Reptiglo 5.0 is also considered sufficient for Panther Chameleons. 2.0 bulbs (designed for forest floor animals) don’t emit enough UVB and are unsuitable for Panther Chameleons, while using 10.0 bulbs (designed for desert animals) can cause health problems associated with overexposure to UVB (e.g. burns and eye problems). In order to receive appropriate amounts of UVB, a Panther Chameleon will need to be able to access areas of the enclosure within 12 inches (30cm) of the UVB bulb for 10-12 hours of each day. UVB bulbs need to be replaced approximately every 6 months as they stop emitting adequate levels of UVB around this time. Its really important to change UVB bulbs every 6 months as tests with a UVB meter have consistently shown that UVB levels become dangerously low after 6-9 months (on average) of usage (although they will still be emitting UVA, so will appear to be working).
Panther Chameleon Temperature Requirements
Panther chameleons are poikilothermic which means that their internal temperature varies considerably with ambient environmental temperature. For an indoor Panther chameleon enclosure the ideal background temperature range is between 18°C (64.4°F) and 30°C (86°F). For the majority of indoor Panther chameleon enclosures the best way to achieve optimum temperatures is by providing a basking hot spot at the top of the enclosure. This creates a temperature gradient within the enclosure, allowing the Panther chameleon to move to warmer or cooler areas as desired. The temperature of the basking spot (e.g. branch below the bulb) should be maintained at approximately 32-35°C (90-95°F).
The ambient temperature of the room that the enclosure is sited in, as well as the distance of the basking spot from the bulb itself, dictates the wattage of incandescent bulb required. It is often necessary to experiment with a few different wattage bulbs until the optimum basking spot temperature is achieved (begin with a 60watt bulb and adjust wattage as required). It is also important to ensure that the bulb is sited in such a way that it cannot burn the resident chameleon. This is commonly achieved by siting the bulb (and reflector hood) above the screen top of the chameleon enclosure. Siting all heating and lighting fixtures above the enclosure also prevents the electrical equipment from becoming wet when misting the enclosure.
Incandescent basking spot bulbs should be fitted to a thermostat, which will maintain the desired temperature of the basking spot. Temperature levels should also be checked manually using thermometers placed in different locations within the enclosure. A timer is also essential for automating the switching on/off of heat lamps and UVA/UVB bulbs, thereby regulating the day/night cycle (12 hours daylight per day, 12 hours night time darkness) in a Panther chameleon enclosure.
Heating a Panther Chameleon Enclosure At Night
In the wild, chameleons experience a night time temperature drop. It is therefore unnecessary to heat Panther chameleon enclosures at night, unless nighttime enclosure temperatures are falling to 17°C (approx 63°F) or below. Panther chameleons are diurnal and have a parietal eye (photo-receptive scale on the top of the head). The parietal eye detects light (when the other 2 eyes are closed) and stimulates activity. Light during the night can therefore disturb the diurnal rhythms of chameleons. It is therefore important to use a night time heat source that does not emit any light, as this will disrupt the normal sleeping patterns of Panther Chameleons. Ceramic heating elements are a good solution. They come in a range of wattage’s to suit different night time room temperatures, and can be used with thermostats and timers to automate the control of environmental conditions