JACKSON'S CHAMELEON Caresheet
Common Name: Jackson's Chameleon; Jackson's Horned Cameleon
Scientific Name: Trioceros jacksonii
Origin: Native to East Africa; has been introduced to parts of California, Florida, and Hawaii (where it's become an invasive species).
Size: 9" - 13" head to tail (males larger than females)
Lifespan: 5-10 years
You will find many ways on the internet on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of caring for this species.
In the African wild, most Jackson's chameleons live in mountain forests.
The type of enclosure
you choose will depend on your location. If you live in a humid
climate, then screened enclosures work best for these chameleons as they
need a lot of airflow. Stagnant air can lead to upper respiratory
infections. However, if you are in a dryer climate, glass tanks are
better because they do need humidity.
One adult can be housed in a minimum of a 18" wide x 36" tall enclosure. The screened 18" x 18" x 36" like Exo Terras sm xtall enclosure works well. Or if you need glass, there is also an Exo Terra 18" x 18" x 36".
Babies and juveniles can be kept in smaller screened enclosures (18" x 18" x 24") until they are approximately 7-8 months old.
Chameleons do best if kept singly after they reach sexual maturity. They are very territorial and prefer to have the enclosure to themselves.
You will want to have plenty of foliage and vines for your veil to climb on and hide in. If you use live plants, here are some good non-toxic ones: Ficus, Schefflera, Hibiscus and Pothos. You can use a reptile carpet on the floor of the enclosure. Or a substrate will work too if it does not have big pieces for your veil to accidentally ingest. Zoo Med eco earth or Zilla jungle mix are good.
LIGHTING & TEMPERATURES
Chameleons need a temperature gradient to thermoregulate and control their body temperature. This essentially means you need to provide a hot and cool side to your enclosure. All the lighting and heat elements should be on one side and the other will be the cool side. This way your chameleon can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs. If you have a taller enclosure, your temp gradient will usually be top to bottom instead of side to side.
A basking area of 88-95 degrees should be provided. The rest of the enclosure can be in the 74-80 range. At night, temps can drop to as low as 72 degrees. Use a good quality temperature gauge, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer. The easiest way to increase the heat in your enclosure is with a Reptile basking bulb.
In addition to heat, chameleons need UVB lighting to help absorb calcium and to synthesize vitamin D3. Since they are not out in natural sunlight in our homes, we must provide UVB light in the form of a special fluorescent bulb designed to produce UVB rays. You will want the Zoo Med 5.0 or Exo Terra UVB 100 variety. These are both designed for rainforest animals.
Jackson's chameleons spend their time in the trees. They do not naturally drink from a still water bowl on the ground. The best way to water your lizard is with a spray bottle at least twice a day, usually for minimum of a minute each time, getting all the leaves and branches wet. You can also put a dripper on the enclosure or use an auto mister like Exo Terras monsoon. Make sure your chameleon is getting enough to drink. If its eyes start to look sunken or less cone-shaped, it's a sign of dehydration.
Jackson's chameleons can be given a live diet of crickets, mealworms, dubia roaches and hornworms. Baby and juveniles should be fed once or twice a day. Adults every other day. Try to put the food up in the foliage or in an elevated dish such as magnaturals worm dish.
Make sure to supplement your lizard's food at least every other feeding with calcium and vitamins such as Repashy Calcium Plus or Zoo Med Reptivite with D3.
While some Jackson's chameleons will tolerate handling, most do not like it. They tend to get stressed with excessive holding.
Chameleons feel safer the higher up they are. Even those that tolerate handling will usually feel most comfortable walking up your arm and on to the top of your head. Some are happy coming out of their enclosure and exploring with more room to roam if you set up a network of vines or "trees" for them.
As you work with your chameleon, you'll learn its personality and what it will tolerate as far as interaction and handling. Have fun and enjoy your beautiful pet.