Having achieved success with a single chameleon, many keepers eventually ponder adding more chameleons to their collection. While it is possible to own more than one chameleon, most species require individual caging. In most cases, you should not even place cages within sight of each other to prevent stressing your pets. While most chameleons are not social animals and solitary cages are the rule, a few exceptions exist, including juveniles and some species that cohabitate well in communal cages.
In general, most common pet chameleon species -- including panther (Furcifer pardalis), veiled (Chamaeleo calyptratus) and Jackson’s chameleons (Chamaeleo jacksonii) -- require individual cages. Most species are solitary in the wild; when they do interact, it is either for reproductive purposes or to defend a territory or breeding partner. Because of this, when chameleons inhabit the same cage, they often stress each other, which leads to serious health problems. Even if chameleons do not exhibit obvious signs of aggression toward each other, they may intimidate each other in subtle ways until one or both lizards become ill from the stress.
Some chameleon breeders and keepers successfully house hatchling and juvenile chameleons together in small groups. However, as the youngsters grow, it is necessary to keep them in progressively smaller groups -- usually they require individual housing by 3 months of age. When housing immature chameleons together, it is crucial that each individual has enough food, water and perching space. Additionally, the cage must have numerous visual barriers, such as real or artificial plant leaves.
The Mating Game
Some keepers house breeding pairs together year round with satisfactory results, whereas others maintain the sexes separately and only introduce them during breeding trials. Females of many species exhibit very dark or high-contrast colors once they are no longer receptive to mating advances -- at this point you should separate females from males to keep their stress level low.
See No Evil
Males of most chameleon species will initiate territorial behavior immediately upon seeing a conspecific male. This happens even if your chameleons are in different cages -- if they can see each other, they will engage in such displays. This territorial posturing may dominate their behavior, with the constant stress eventually causing them to become sick. It is also important to ensure that males cannot see reflections of other males when using glass cages or in rooms with mirrors.
A few types of chameleon do cohabitate well with other members of their species. The tiny stump-tailed chameleons of the genus Brookesia and dwarf chameleons of the genus Rhampholeon often cohabitate well, as long as they have enough cage space. For these species, a single male can cohabitate with two or three females -- never house males together. Different opinions surround the keeping of four-horned chameleons (Chamaeleo quadricornis): Some keepers have success keeping pairs or trios in very large cages, while others find that it stresses their chameleons. As the signs of stress are often subtle, only experienced keepers should attempt to house this species in groups.
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images