How to Care for Your Jackson's Chameleon
Jackson’s Chameleons (Trioceros jacksonii) are moderate-sized (10-14”, females are smaller), diurnal, arboreal reptiles native to the mountains of East Africa. There are several subspecies, the most common in the reptile trade being Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus. They generally prefer a well ventilated, humid habitat. Adult Jackson’s are primarily dark green with some darker patterning. Males are notable for the three horns on the nose and head. Some females may have a single small horn on the nose. To an extent, the coloration is dependent on their locale of origin. Although they are easier to keep than they were when first introduced into the hobby, the size of their enclosure and the watering system they require means that they are at an intermediate or advanced care level.
Jackson’s Chameleons require large, well-ventilated enclosures and do best in tall, screened cages. A minimum size of 24” wide and 36” tall is essential. With the growing popularity of Chameleons, enclosures specially designed for them are becoming more common. Since Chameleons are arboreal, they need appropriate sized perches, which can be artificial or made from actual plants. Perches must be of a width that the Chameleon can easily grip and be able to hold its weight. They also require cover vegetation for hiding spots so they will feel secure. Many keepers place a large potted plant at the bottom of the cage to provide both perches and hiding spots. In addition, Jackson’s Chameleons will benefit from real or fake foliage to provide them with opportunities to exercise and explore. It’s generally recommended that the Chameleon enclosure not have a particulate substrate (such as eco earth), though an increasing number of reptile keepers have successfully maintained a large variety of species in bioactive enclosures with particulate substrates.
Heating and Lighting
Since they are moderately sized diurnal reptiles, Jackson’s Chameleons require two kinds of lighting: a source of UVB throughout the cage to provide vitamin D3 for metabolizing calcium, and a focused basking light to provide heat. The temperature in the enclosure should range from about 65-75F at the bottom of the enclosure to 85 below the basking light. At night, a temperature drop to 50-60F is permissible. The recommended UVB light is a full-spectrum fluorescent or compact florescent bulb that runs most of the width of the enclosure. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels. The basking light can be a floodlight or LED light and should provide a heat level of approximately 85 degrees F when the Chameleon is on its highest perch. Both lights should be placed about 6-8” above the highest perch. The fluorescent light will provide UVB throughout the cage, and the basking light will allow the Chameleon to thermoregulate by choosing different spots at different elevations of the enclosure. A 12-hour on/12-hour off lighting schedule is sufficient to provide enough light and heat, as well as a temperature drop at night (see above).
Food and Supplementation
Jackson’s Chameleons are primarily fed with adult-sized crickets or large Dubia Roaches. The Chameleon’s size and arboreal habits make worms an impractical choice. Feeders should be dusted with calcium, vitamin D3, and other vitamins and minerals at every feeding. Juvenile Chameleons should be fed daily; adults can be fed every other day. Jackson’s Chameleons get their hydration from droplets of water that adhere to the cage and the foliage. The enclosure should be misted two to three times daily to thoroughly wet the perches and foliage. Some keepers prefer to use a timed drip or mist system, which they can either purchase or make themselves. On occasion, keepers will place the Chameleon and a large plant in the shower to provide hydration.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Jackson’s Chameleons, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.