Breeding & keeping info

Furcifer lateralis keeping and breeding at BION Terrarium Center:  more information in the context of our Chameleon species project

by Lilia Krivosheeva, Olga Bilyga & Anna Golenko

Carpet Chameleon, or Jeweled Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis), is one of numerous Madagascar endemic species. It inhabits large territories of the island, excepting the North and Northwestern regions, and can be found at a variety of elevations, from sea-level to 2,000 meters above sea level.


Furcifer lateralis is extremely adaptable and is not much affected by human habitation the way that many other species are. It prefers humid forests, but can also be found in dryer areas, and around human modified landscapes. Though it is considered a forest edge species that is associated with herbaceous vegetation and shrubby grasslands, it has also been recorded inside forest and in altered habitats.


Carpet Chameleonscan reach a maximum length of 17-20 cm, including tail. The males are usually larger, they have green coloration with bright pattern, including bands of white, yellow and orange.Females are smaller and have a wider range of colours. Both sexes have striped throats and lips. As most of Chameleon species, individuals change their colour depending on physiologic and enviromental factors.

Animals are diurnal, insectivorous, rather active and sociable.

Furcifer lateralis has a large estimated distribution of more than 130,000km². This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Catching is restricted to an export quota of 2,000 specimens a year, and there is no distinction made between the subspecies.

We have already got 5 males and 10 females in our adult breeding group, and there are more than 120 juveniles in our laboratory at the moment (September 2015).


The typical enclosure conditions

Enclosure: we keep adult animals separately at the well ventilated cages 60x60x60 cm made from metallic   wire all year round, and place them in couples only for mating.

Substrate: paper sheets, or nothing at all.

Decoration: tree branches, live plants. Feeding dish should be fixed nearby the middle of terrarium height. Water bowl is not needed.

Illumination: full spectrum lamp is necessary for all age individuals. Day length is usually 12 hours, and only 10 hours in winter season.

Temperature and heating: temperature should be about 22-24º C at night and 25-28º C (not more) during daytime, without spot lamps.

Humidity: 50-60% for adults (spraying with warm water 1-2 times a day).

Diet: adult individuals receive different insects (crickets, cockroaches, locusts etc.)  2-3 times per week (5-6 feeding objects for each chameleon). We use meal-warms too – 4 larvae once a week.

Mineral supplements: we give Calcium powder with feed once per 10 days for our adult group, and we use vitamins once a week.

Hibernation: winter season is delicate, we just settle shorter light day (10 hours  lighting).


Juveniles in general demonstrate good survival and growth. However, exceeding humidity for adults can lead to stomatitis and dermatitis. 


Furcifer lateralis females become sexually mature at the age of 5-8 month, but first mating is recommended in the age of 8-9 month (to prevent health problems).

During breeding season we keep chameleons in pairs. Gravid female has visibly dark coloration. 

IMG 3414 IMG 3407

Gravidity takes about 5-7 weeks after mating. After it, female bury clutch (usually 8-16 eggs) into a substrate, thus a dish with peat or peat+vermiculite is needed at this time. About 90% of eggs we have got in 2015 were fertile.

Temperature of incubation: 25º C during the first 2 month, 18º C (next 2 month),  and 25º C for 2 month until hatching.

Humidity for incubation: 70-80% (a drop of water should appear on the surface of substrate – vermiculite – after pressing it).

Incubation period takes 7-9 month.



Hatchlings usually are 3-5 cm long, and during the first month they grow up to 5-8 cm.

We keep young animals in the same type cages 60x60x60 cm, with the similar decorations, as the adult individuals. Juveniles can be placed in groups of 3-4 during the first week of life. If keep youngs separately, they grow up faster.

Paper towels are recommended as a substrate.

Babies need spraying 2-3 times a day (humidity about 70%).

The first feed is Drosophila melanogaster (always available for youngs), and we offer Shefordella tartara larvae 3 times per week (7-10 insects for each chameleon). Calcium should be proposed with every feeding.

From the age of 50 days, males and females are sexable. Also 6 month animals become sexually mature.


Frank Glaw - Miguel Vences. 2007: Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Vences & Glaw Verlag GbR 3rd Edition. 496 pp. Germany

Petr Necas. 2004: Chameleons: Nature`s hidden jewels. Edition Chimaira. 380 pp. Frankfurt am Main 

References and useful links