Beyond the basics. Extended care sheet (Commonly asked questions)

Beyond the basics. Extended care sheet (Commonly asked questions)

Beyond the Basics Common Topics & our opinons

In these sections we will be talking about our opinions and the most common topics we see in the chameleon community. These are our personal opinions and experiences we have had over the years of raising panther chameleons. We have raised and successfully kept panther chameleons since 2009. We are not experts. But we do know a thing or two. We don’t ever just say yes or no to a question. We will give you the reasons as to why we say yes/no. We have years of experience keeping these amazing exotic animals. And we want you to be just as successful with your panther.

Feeder Amount

Baby, Juvenile and subadult panthers should be offered as many feeders as they can eat daily until the reach adulthood. Around 15 months old. We do not believe in restricting feeders for growing animals. You can taper down on the feeders once your panther is an adult. You can feed 4-6 feeders every other day or even every couple of days. We judge our animals weight on their looks. Can you see ribs? That’s not good. The fat pads on the top of the head are a good indication of your panthers weight, hydration and health. We like to see a nice full head. That’s not bulged out or sunk in. If anything ever does happen with your panthers health. If they are a nice healthy weight. That will give you a little longer to correct any negative health issues. Because they can go longer without food if they have a nice reserve. Everyone always asks us how Chandler never looks stressed out at shows. We are a firm believer in a healthy well fed panther can cope with “stress” much easier than an underfed, unhealthy animal. We always make sure to feed our panthers very well before and after shows. Offering silk and hornworms the day before and after shows. This keeps up their hydration and the benefits of the silkworms is always a plus.

Only eating worms (refuses crickets)

Panthers will protest the other feeders. When given the option between worms and crickets etc. They do seem to prefer worms. Few things you can do. 1st you can totally stop offering food at all for 2-3 days. Not even crickets. Basically force him to be hungry. Then offer crickets only. Till they eat them. Or you can cave with the worms. But you have to be on major point with your gutload for superworms. It’s possible but not recommended to live solely on supers. I recommend taking all feeders away for 2-3 days. Then see if he will eat crickets. If not…then we will tell you how to be successful in a worm only diet. But truthfully they are spoiled to them now. It’s okay it happens. We just have to see if we can fix it before they get too spoiled.

Zip ties

We use zip ties in our enclosures to attach vines, foliage etc… When using zip ties. When you cut the tails off after cinching down the tie. You will need to use a lighter to burn the cut tail smooth. We have had customers panthers get cut by the sharp tails of the zip ties. If you use a lighter to burn it smooth. This will prevent any accidental cuts or injuries.

 Chameleons mouth is open while basking or near basking areas.

Your panthers basking spot should be between 80’-85’ degrees F. If your panther opens their mouth while in the basking spot this is normal behavior. They are Thermal Regulating. As long as this behavior is NOT accompanied by wheezing or popping sounds. (That would mean they could have a upper respiratory infection and will need a complete enclosure and lifestyle overhaul. Along with a possible vet visit.) Think of a crocodile laying on the beach with their mouth open. They are thermal regulating their body temperature. A lot of reptiles do this behavior. And it is completely normal. But it’s also a good time to double check your panthers enclosure temperatures. Basking spots and ambient temperatures.

Getting ready for lights out before lights out

Your panther will learn his day/night schedule fairly quickly. Their lights need to be on for 12 hours and off completely for 12 hours. We like to set our light schedule for 9:00am to 9:00pm. That way we can have time with them in the evenings after the work day. But you can set your schedule however you see fit for your lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what times you choose. As long as it’s a 12 hour cycle. You may notice them getting ready for bed before the lights go off. Sometimes up to a couple of hours or so before. This is completely normal behavior. They are just getting settled in. Almost like a chill time before bed. Like winding down for the night. As long as they are not sleeping during the main part of the day. There is nothing to be concerned about. Sometimes they have a active day roaming their territory. And maybe they just need a little more rest that day. Also if they can see any light before their lights come on for the day. This will wake them up early. They have a “3rd eye” for sensing light. So if they are in a room where you get ready for work for example at 6:00am. And their lights aren’t sent to come on till 9:00am. They will wake up when they sense the lights on in the room. Even though it’s not their lights. We keep ours in a separate bedroom of our home. That no one “lives” in. So they don’t get any light until their lights come on. We even have 3 layers of sun blocking curtains in their room. So that helps eliminate the sun waking them up too. Which if your panther is in a room with a lot of sunlight. They will wake up to the sun too. Which is okay. Just be prepared for them to be sleeping or trying to sleep after it gets dark out. 12 hours on and 12 hours off is not a exact science to their awake/asleep habits. It’s just a good schedule to go off of. In captivity we basically create the best season of their natural habitat in Madagascar. We like to create the best part of their climate. Not the hardest part of their climate).

NO night time heat needed

Unless your house gets into the 40’s at night. There is no reason for your panther to have a night heat source. They need to be able to cool down at night when they sleep. It allows their body to fully shut down at night while they sleep. They can handle in the low 50’s at night. Do not add supplemental night heat. It’s also best to keep your panthers cage away from a/c vents and window drafts. This will also help maintain the proper temperatures they require.

Panther always wants out of enclosure

When they first come to their new homes. They will go through an adjustment period. They are exploring their new environment. Everything is NEW. Enclosure, ambient temperatures, your family life and schedule, new feeders, new people looking in on them. Remember your panther was raised by us (Amanda & Lee and our adult daughter Sydney). We are all they know. We were the first people they saw when they were born. We have fed them daily until they came to live with you. We raise them in our home with us. Not in a offsite facility or building. So even you are new to your panther. Give them time to settle in. They will want to explore every inch of their new home. Just make sure to keep an eye on their enclosure temperatures. Their ambient temperature and basking temperatures. Also make sure they are eating and drinking along with a nice poo. If you are ever concerned about your panther. We will always begin with troubleshooting questions. Which will include Basking temperatures? Ambient temperatures? Eating/drinking/pooping? Hydration schedule? Foliage? Pictures of their cage is always a good idea to send us. Light schedule And then sometimes when all this is within the parameters of an ideal setup. We just suggest to give them time to settle in. And then sometimes they are just more social than you expected. We have been told our panthers can be more social than usual. Which we don’t really know why. Other than possibly the way we raise them in our homes. And are constantly monitoring them and make sure everyone is happy. So they are just “used” to human interaction. We do tend to reward any babies after we take pictures or have them out of their enclosures. So maybe that’s it. But honestly since they cannot talk. We don’t really know. We say let them settle in. And then enjoy your social panther. As we know they are one of the most social of all the chameleon species.

Bonding with your panther

Panthers hearts are in their stomachs. They will recognize who feeds them. You can use feeding time as a great bonding experience. But when you first bring home your new panther. We recommend sitting near their enclosure while on your phone or something that will keep you from moving around a lot. This way your panther can get used to your presence. Just let them settle into their new cage, schedule, life in your home. Then after the first few days you can try to offer all the good snacks by hand. We recommend hand feeding silkworms, hornworms or superworms. But only after they have had their “staple” meal for the day. Crickets, dubias etc. Then offer the worm by hand. We don’t want them to become spoiled to worms. That’s why we only offer worms by hand after their normal meal of the day. This also insures they will at least attempt to hand feed. As we only offer the superworms or hornworms as a hand feed option. And don’t free feed those worms. Kind of a take it from my hand or don’t get it option. Silkworms on the other hand I will allow to be in their feeder cups. As those are EXTREMELY healthy for them. But I will still attempt to give those by hand every time first. Just to see if they will take it from me.

Eye debris (closing ONE eye only NOT both)

Sometimes they can get something in their eye. Just like us. Could be dirt, dust, shed. If you use any room sprays, perfumes, hairspray, candles or even smoke in the room your panther occupies. These can cause eye irritations. Just like for us. If possible try to limit any of these things in the same room as your panther. If an eye irritation occurs this is one thing we can recommend you try first. Along with removing or stopping any of the above possible irritants near your panther. A lukewarm shower. You would turn your shower on a lukewarm temperature. Then angle the shower head to point at the wall. Then put them in the shower where they can stand in the indirect mist of the shower sprayer. Not directly under it like you would shower. This will allow them to rinse their eyes out. You can do this 1-2 times a day for 15-20 minutes or so at a time. This will give them time to clean out their eye. They will roll it around and may even bulge it out. To try to clear the eye of anything foreign. Sometimes you can help them clean their eye with a wet q-tip. Some will allow this, some will not. That’s why we typically suggest the shower option. So they can do it themselves. This is NOT a means of hydration. This is for cleaning out their eye. Also DO NOT try to clean out their eyes by spraying them in the face with the mister or shower. They will move their eyes around with the indirect mist from the showering.

Vacations

Chameleons can be left alone for an extended period of time if your setup is automated. Lights and a auto misting system on timers are the requirement to make this possible. If your chameleon is trained to a cup feeding method. You can place a large piece of carrot or sweet potato in the cup. Then add several feeders to it the day you leave. The feeders will stay fed and so will your chameleon. It’s also okay for chameleons to go without food for a little while. A week long trip is okay for your chameleon to go without food. But the feeder cup method helps with this. Always feed well for the few days leading up to your trip. Then when you get home you can do the same. Feed a little extra before and after your trip.

Gutloading

We are FIRM believers that a great gut load makes for a healthier panther. In our honest opinion their feeders take more time and care than the panthers do. We pride ourselves in how much variety we offer in our gutloads. Any feeder you use is an empty "pill pocket". Just waiting to be filled with healthy, nutritious foods. Panthers are a true “you are what you eat animal”. The healthier the feeder is. The healthier your panther will be. We use a dry & a"wet" gutload for all our feeders. Recommended gutloads are Leafy greens (mustard, turnip) Sweet potatoes, Mangos, Oranges, Apples, Cilantro,Bee pollen, Spaghetti squash, Papaya, Butternut Squash, Carrots. make sure to wash all produce before feeding the bugs. We use and sell our dry Feeder Fuel, for the dry gut load portion of the feeders diet. WASH ALL PRODUCE BEFORE FEEDING TO INSECTS

Bioactive vs bare or paper towel bottom

We don’t recommend bioactive. At least not until you know how to care for the chameleon really well. There is a lot more that goes into that type of set up then you might know. Then there is no way you can prevent them from accidentally eating dirt. Or eating the cleaning crew. Which isn’t bad except for their “gut load” is poop. (Isopods, “cleaning crew”). Bugs are like empty "pill pockets" for chameleons. Whatever they eat. Your chameleon eats. Which the cleaner crew eats poop. And the chameleon will eat them if they see them moving around. Those types of setups are not recommended for beginners of chameleons. There is a lot to it. And usually people are worrying about the setup so much that the chameleons needs are not met. Because the environment takes so much work. It can be done. And it is done successfully. We just don’t recommend it for a new keeper. Focus on the animal for a year or so. Then if you’re comfortable taking care of the animal you can begin the process of a bioactive enclosure. A true bioactive enclosure will take time to “season”. So you can even have it up and running while your chameleon is in another easier to maintain environment while you are getting the bioactive enclosure running. do not use reptile carpet for the bottom of the cage for any reason. it can not be cleaned well enough.

Live plants

If you choose to add live plants to your chameleon’s enclosure there are a few things you need to know. When you get a plant. Make sure to wash it really well. And change the soil to an organic soil. Put large rocks over the top of the dirt. So that they can’t accidentally ingest any dirt. This can be fatal. Also be prepared for the possibility of bacteria growth to happen inside the dirt. And gnats sometimes live in the roots of plants. You will need to be prepared for this as well. That’s another reason to cover the dirt with rocks large enough they cannot eat by accident. If you decide to add some live plants in pots. We recommend golden pothos and umbrella plants. 

Vines

We highly recommend you have at least one vine in your Panthers enclosure. We have personally noticed our animals seem to prefer walking around on their vines. Over the other walking options in their enclosures. All our panthers have at least 1 vine in the enclosure. Some have 2. We are not a fan of the mossy vines. As they can possibly grow bacteria. It’s completely up to you if you want to use it. But just be aware that it could cause problems. We use the jungle vines by exo terra. They are still flexible. They just don’t have the moss stuff on them. And can be positioned in several different ways in the enclosure. We like to give some options for moving up and down within the enclosure.

Facebook Groups

It’s come to our attention that a lot of Facebook groups have sprung up lately that have some “radical” opinions. They say they are offering help and advice. When really they are shaming people for their care choices. And giving terrible advice. When admins of the group are openly saying they didn’t know chameleon ownership was even a thing 2 years ago. Please, please don’t take their “advice” as law. You can’t stand on the shoulders of the keepers who have true life experience with these animals and bend their knowledge to fit your agenda or your opinion. There is more than one way to cook a egg. There is more than one way to successfully raise a panther chameleon through its full life cycle. In our opinion…someone should not be giving advice on how to properly care for these animals when they haven’t even cared for these animals for their entire life cycle. We have generational experience raising panthers. From bringing in wild caught animals. Testing their fecals and treating their parasites. To getting them strong and healthy for breeding. To raising the females to their best age and size to carry a clutch. Incubating eggs for 6-9-12 months at a time. Having a 100% hatch rate. Then successfully caring for the hatchlings to a minimum of 3 months old before releasing them to their new owners. Raising up our hold backs to become new breeders. And starting the cycle again. Keeping breeders till they have lived their full 5-7+ year life span. Even a wild caught living 8 years in our care. (And not coming to us as a baby.) A animal that would only eat super worms. (To some “Facebook group admin experts” the no no danger worm). Please don’t let these groups scare you. These “experts” seem to push their way or the highway. Just a simple search on most of these people shows how much “expertises” they have. Owning a panther chameleon for 1-2-3 years does not make you an expert worthy of giving advice to a new keeper. We have been raising panther chameleons since 2009. And we do not considered ourselves experts. But we do know a thing or 2. The amount of animals thriving in our care is proof alone. The amount of babies we have sold that are thriving is proof. The simply way of caring for these animals is proof. They are not hard. There is not only one way to care for them. Our way just happens to be super easy and time tested. 1 tip we give everyone is to stay off facebook groups for some advice. And remember when you buy a panther from us, you get us for the life of your animal. we are here to answer your questions & give our advice when we can. We also started our own group called no fear chameleon care, you are welcome to join it.

 

***Updated June 2023
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