While the carpet chameleon is not as popular as the more commonly seen panther chameleon, this species is a gem that can bring a lot of color in a small package. These chameleons are very prolific, but it does take some dedication to care for them properly.
The carpet chameleon (Furcifer lateralis) originates from Madagascar, an island located off of the east coast of Africa. Here, they are one of the most common and plentiful types of chameleons, and this abundance is part of why they have become a popular house pet.
Another reason they are so popular as reptiles to keep is that they are a manageable size, they have very beautiful and vibrant colors, and even the carpet chameleons bred in captivity remain quite healthy.
While this small reptile has been shown to be able to adapt to a variety of different landscapes on their home island, the carpet chameleon still has a preferred habit of humid areas, and you will need to create such habitat for them to thrive at home.
Carpet Chameleon Lifespan & Size
It’s a fact that the carpet chameleon has a reputation for being a delicate and short-lived species. This reputation is somewhat underserved, though it is true that captive-bred chameleons of this variety will survive much better than wild-caught ones.
In the wild, the carpet chameleon may live for five years or more, though more research is needed to be sure. Captive-bred carpet chameleons, on the other hand, have a typical lifespan of between three and four years.
Depending on which subspecies of carpet chameleon you own, you will find that they grow to be between four inches and ten inches in length. This size largely depends on the sex and the conditions of their habitat, but most captive-bred varieties average around five inches.
Carpet Chameleon Facts & Characteristic
Furcifer lateralis, also known as the carpet chameleon because the female chameleons look somewhat like an oriental rug, have two different major subspecies: Furcifer lateralis major and F. l. lateralis. For simplicity’s sake, we will discuss the species as a whole excepting points that are important to differentiate.
This species of chameleon is relatively small in the world of chameleons, but they are one of the most vibrantly colored varieties.
The females are more brilliantly colored than males, and many owners prefer them for this reason. Males tend to be green with a white stripe at rest while females are dark-red or brown with white spots. When fully colors, males are bright green with some spots while females may have black, yellow, orange, blue, or even red spots.
Carpet Chameleon Feeding
Most carpet chameleons will enjoy the following diet:
- Medium-sized crickets
- Small insects
- Bean beetles
An alternative diet plan is to feed them up to six gut-loaded insects per meal. Feed them two times per week. Young chameleons should be fed as much as they eat. This might mean that you will be feeding a juvenile 12 insects every single day as they mature.
If you want your chameleon to remain strong and active, it is recommended that you allow their meal to roam freely, forcing the chameleon to catch their meal themselves.
If you don’t feed live insects, avoid placing the chameleon’s meal in a feeding dish. It is very possible for a chameleon to damage their tongue on the dish due to the tongue’s suction power. This type of injury could mean something as serious as death for a carpet chameleon, so it is best to avoid using feeding dishes.
If you are feeding a breeding female carpet chameleon, you will want to make some adjustments in their diet.
Generally speaking, follow these provisions to ensure a healthy breeding period:
- Undernourished females will not produce healthy offspring.
- Overnourished females can be too fat to release the eggs and can even die from this happening.
- Supplementing breeding females with calcium, vitamins, and minerals every other feeding will keep them healthy.
Carpet Chameleon Care
While carpet chameleons are quite adaptable to different types of living conditions, that does not mean that you as their owner should not aim to create the perfect environment.
Ideally, the carpet chameleon should have a habitat that is above 70 percent humidity. This species can adapt to more dryness and varying temperatures, but they thrive when the humidity is high. Mist the enclosure two times per day, and be sure also to mist the plants and the chameleon itself when you do this.
The best type of enclosure to use with carpet chameleons is a full-screen or glass enclosure. You would want this enclosure to be at least 1’ x 1’ x 2’ for each chameleon. However, the more space you can give them the better! These numbers represent the minimum area needed.
Create areas of both shade and sun within the enclosure. This type of chameleon loves to bask in the sun, but some shade is needed as well so that they do not overheat. You want the ambient temperature to remain between 70- and 80-degrees and the highest temperature point shouldn’t be over 90-degrees.
Fill the enclosure with places to bask and nontoxic plants. Ensure that the chameleon cannot see their reflection or any other chameleons unless you are aiming to breed them as this can cause unnecessary stress. Be sure to place things of different diameters at different angles so that they can climb around.
Some types of chameleons, including the carpet chameleon, can become overheated if they bask in the sun for too long. A normal chameleon that has been basking should appear to be dark green or black.
If you notice that your chameleon is light green or yellow, or that they are panting, you will want to move them into the shade and give them water.
Alternatively, you can take them to the shower to help them recover faster.
Here’s what to do:
- Place chameleon in the shower on a plant or another stable structure.
- Turn the shower on.
- Shower the chameleon with a lukewarm mist for up to one hour.
- Do this up to two times a week in dry climates.
This method can help an overheated chameleon to recover, and it can also help to stabilize a chameleon that has become dehydrated due to low humidity levels in their enclosure.
Carpet Chameleon Breeding
Carpet chameleons are very prolific breeders. After reaching sexual maturity at the age of six months, these chameleons can produce up to 20 eggs per clutch. The hatch rates of this type of chameleon are very high as well, and you can expect eggs to be laid every six to eight weeks.
Males will mate at every chance that they are given, so it is females that you will want to pay attention to:
- The female will show mating-readiness by turning soft shades of green, purple, blue, or pink. If these colors show, place the female in the enclosure.
- If the female is ok with the male, she will stay these colors. If she puffs up or changes to dark vibrant colors, remove her immediately and try again in a few days.
- Always keep an eye on them. If they become hostile, they can hurt each other.
Copulation for carpet chameleons typically takes up to 30 minutes, but the pair might breed a few times over a period of days. Once the female stops being receptive, separate the pair to prevent any fights. From there, you will have the mighty task of taking care of the egg-laying and hatching process!
This process can be quite difficult, so it is recommended that only experience breeders try to breed carpet chameleons. Alternatively, seek advice from an expert during your first breeding round!