Panther Chameleon Humidity and Drinking Requirements

male furcifer pardalis panther chameleon redDespite living in high humidity environments in the wild, captive Panther Chameleons don’t require such high levels of humidity, providing they are able to drink daily. Humidities as low as 40-50% are sufficiently high for successful shedding, and reduce the risk of skin infections associated with higher levels of humidity. Most Panther Chameleon keepers regulate humidity by manually misting enclosures with a plant mister or similar spray bottle. When misted, the humidity in the enclosure should reach around 90%, before dropping to ambient levels of between 40-60%. An alternative to manually misting enclosures is to install an electric misting system. Electric misting systems are commercially available and are useful in that they automate humidity regulation, although humidity levels within an enclosure should always be checked using a hygrometer. Live plants growing in soil (covered with pebbles too large for a chameleon to ingest) also help maintain humidity levels within an enclosure.

In addition to their humidity requirements, Panther Chameleons also need water to drink. Panther Chameleons don’t usually recognize standing water (in a dish or container) as a source of drinking water, as in the wild they drink dew and rain drops on foliage. As a result, clean drinking water should be provided to Panther Chameleons by misting enclosure walls, vines, and foliage. Tap water conditioners specially designed for reptiles are available to make tap water safer for Panther Chameleons to drink. Water droplets formed by misting should dry approximately 15 minutes after misting and should remain dry until the next misting. Ensuring the enclosure dries out properly helps to prevent fungal infections.

Many Panther Chameleon keepers make drip cups (by poking a hole in the bottom of a container) or use commercially available drip systems to provide clean drinking water to their animals. Drippers work by allowing water to steadily drip in to an overflow dish at the bottom of the enclosure. This dish should either be covered in wire mesh, or should be situated beneath a wire mesh enclosure floor to prevent the chameleon falling in and drowning. The dish should be emptied daily to prevent flooding the enclosure, and should also be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Some chameleons will drink directly from a dripper but most drink the drips accumulating on foliage and branches.  Due to the shy nature of many Panther Chameleons, some individuals may not be comfortable drinking in front of an observer. For this reason it is best practice to ensure that any dripper used dripper used is allowed to drip for an extended period of time (at least 1 hour but preferably longer) in order to give the animal sufficient opportunity to drink. This is especially important in hot areas where dehydration can become an issue.

Although still often used by chameleon keepers, waterfalls are not appropriate sources of drinking water for Panther Chameleons. Although commercially available waterfalls can help maintain humidity, and the movement of water in waterfalls can stimulate chameleons to drink, unfiltered water in a warm moist enclosure will quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus (unless cleaned daily). Panther Chameleons also have a habit of defecating in waterfalls, exacerbating the health risk. For these reasons it is best to use misting and drippers rather than waterfalls.