Chameleons come from some of the Earth’s warmest climates which means providing heat is essential when they’re kept as pets. They’re also incredibly sensitive to changes in temperature, so you might wonder, how long can chameleons survive without heat?
How long a chameleon can survive without heat depends on factors including species, health, and the weather. Healthy adult chameleons may survive for a few days without heat in temperatures below 60 °F (15.5 °C), but young chameleons and adults in colder climates may only last one or two hours.
In this article, we explore how long different species of chameleon can survive without a heat source, the health risks of cold temperatures, provide tips for planning for emergency situations and see the signs that your chameleon is too cold.
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How Long Can Chameleons Go Without Heat?
The length of time a chameleon can survive without heat can range from as little as an hour to several days.
This is because chameleons are ectothermic, aka cold-blooded. This means they can’t produce their own body heat. Instead, they rely on heat from their environment to regulate their body temperature.
All chameleons need to stay within specific temperature ranges to survive, and exposure to temperatures outside these ranges can be deadly.
This is why maintaining a warm environment is so important — it’s also why you won’t find wild chameleons living in Canada!
To determine how long a pet chameleon can survive without heat, you need to consider:
There are around 170 species of chameleons and they are all accustomed to their specific environments. Some are from very hot and humid tropical climates, while others have adapted to life in cooler climates.
Therefore, a temperature that’s too cold for one chameleon might be ok for another.
The size range of chameleons is quite impressive. They range from the tiny, 2.54-centimeter-long Pygmy leaf chameleon to the Parson’s chameleon which can reach up to 69.5 centimeters!
Larger chameleons may be able to go longer without heat than their smaller counterparts.
Baby and juvenile chameleons are small and much more sensitive to temperature changes than adults. Baby chameleons can also dry out easily so it’s important to maintain high humidity levels as well as the correct temperature.
Elderly chameleons may also be more sensitive to cooler temperatures than adults in their prime.
Like all living things, illness, injury, and other health issues can affect a chameleon’s ability to handle low temperatures. It can be difficult to predict how long a sick or injured chameleon can survive without heat.
However, chameleons that are ill or injured will be much more vulnerable to temperatures than healthy chameleons.
Tip: Read our article on signs your chameleon might be dying!
How long a chameleon can survive without heat depends on where you are in the world. In some parts of the world, there are huge changes in temperature throughout the seasons.
So, a chameleon might be fine away from its heat source on a summer day in Texas, but the situation could be very different overnight during winter.
Ideal Temperatures For Common Pet Chameleon Species
Knowing your chameleon’s species and how warm their environment needs to be can help you determine how long they can go without heat.
This is because species that are native to cooler climates can usually handle cooler temperatures for a bit longer.
This info will help you know how long your chameleon can stay away from an artificial heat source. It can also help you plan for emergencies such as power outages and lost pets.
Ideal Daytime Temperatures
Here are the recommended daytime temperatures for the most commonly kept chameleon species:
|Bearded pygmy chameleon||59 to 77°F (15 to 25°C)|
|Jackson’s chameleon||68 to 75°F (20 to 24°C)|
|Veiled chameleon||71 to 78°F (22 to 26°C)|
|Panther chameleon||73F to 82°F (23 to 28°C)|
Understanding your pet chameleon’s natural environment can also be helpful. For example, if a pet chameleon gets lost outdoors, you can compare its natural habitat to your outside environment.
Doing this can help you get a better idea of its chances of survival. Here are the common pet chameleon species and their natural environments:
- Bearded pygmy chameleon (Rieppeleon brevicaudatus): native to the lowland forests of Tanzania and Kenya, in East Africa.
- Jackson’s chameleon (Rioceros jacksonii): inhabit the cooler elevated areas around the mountains of south-central Kenya and northern Tanzania.
- Veiled chameleon (Chameleo calyptratus): come from the hot and semi-arid Arab Peninsula.
- Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis): from the more humid, tropical island of Madagascar.
How Long Can Chameleons Go Without Heat At Night?
As one of the most recognizable “exotic” pets, you might think that chameleons need constant heat throughout the night. In fact, this isn’t true. Here’s why:
- The goal of good husbandry is to mimic your chameleon’s natural environment as closely as possible.
- The purpose of having a heat lamp is to replicate the heat and light that they’d get from the sun in their native environment.
- When the sun sets at night, the temperatures can drop significantly.
- This nighttime drop in temperature is important and is thought to be connected to maintaining a healthy sleep cycle.
So, chameleons are used to lower night-time temperatures. But becoming too cold during the night can be dangerous.
This means that you might still need to heat your chameleon’s enclosure depending on how cold your home gets during the night. Whether or not you need to do this can also change throughout the year.
Ideal Nighttime Temperatures
Here are the recommended nighttime temperatures:
|Bearded pygmy chameleon||59 to 71°F (15 to 22°C)|
|Jackson’s chameleon||53 to 64°F (12 to 18°C)|
|Veiled chameleon||64 to 77°F (18 to 25°C)|
|Panther chameleon||62 to 77°F (17 to 25°C)|
Chameleons are hardier than they look and some chameleons have been known to survive surprisingly low temperatures. But we certainly don’t recommend this because the potential health risks can have serious consequences.
Chameleons don’t hibernate so they will be very vulnerable if exposed to low temperatures for too long. This can result in health risks such as:
Hypothermia is a potentially deadly condition that happens when body temperature falls below the normal range. When reptiles become hypothermic, they often stop moving. This puts them in danger of dehydration and weight loss as well as the cold.
Respiratory infections are a serious concern because they affect the lungs and airways. Being exposed to the cold can make it more difficult to fight off infections such as pneumonia. and may create long-term health problems.
Impaction is a life-threatening form of constipation where the intestines become blocked. Symptoms include a swollen abdomen and straining when trying to pass stool.
Being exposed to low temperatures for a prolonged time slows down digestion which can put a chameleon at risk of impaction.
Signs That Your Chameleon Is Too Cold
Here are three common signs that can indicate that a chameleon is too cold:
- Lethargic: Cold temperatures can make your pet sluggish and less active. Chameleons are diurnal reptiles which means that they are usually active during the day. If you notice your chameleon moving less or sleeping during the day, they may need warming up.
- Look pale and less vibrant in color: Color-changing can signify several things, including reactions to environmental temperature changes. If you notice that your pet looks unusually pale or faded, it may be because it is too cold.
- Loss of appetite: A cold chameleon is likely to have reduced appetite — eating takes energy after all. If your chameleon unexpectedly stops eating, check the temperature of its enclosure to make sure it is within the optimal range.
What To Do In An Emergency
In an emergency situation, it can be crucial to act quickly. Here’s what to do and how to prepare:
Power loss or heat bulb going out
Unexpected power loss or even a bulb expiring can cause significant temperature drops.
Prepare by: Purchasing a portable power station that can power your heat lamp in case of a power outage.
In an emergency: Try to maintain a suitable temperature by covering the enclosure with blankets and make a candle space heater if necessary.
Severe weather conditions
Very cold weather may affect the temperatures in your chameleon’s enclosure.
Prepare by: Keeping a portable space heater on hand to provide additional warmth in case of extreme weather and watching weather forecasts.
In an emergency: Measure the temperature of the enclosure with a digital thermometer
and adjust the heat lamp settings if necessary. Use additional insulation to maintain temperatures during the night.
If your chameleon becomes lost in low temperatures, it’s crucial to find them and get them to a vet as soon as possible.
Prepare by: Securing your chameleon’s enclosure and free-range area so they can’t escape.
In an emergency: Wrap your pet in a warm blanket and place them somewhere warm to gradually heat up. Even if your pet seems ok, you must see a vet to rule out any unseen health complications.
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