Pygmy Chameleon 101 – Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

The pygmy chameleons are very adorable pet reptiles. They are very tiny lizards having lengths of up to 4 inches only. These small chameleons are found in the forests and woodlands of Central East Africa and countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Everything you need to know about a pygmy chameleon before buying one is given here. 

Pygmy chameleons are very small reptiles. The babies of this species are barely the size of your fingertip. They are easygoing pets. They are generally low maintenance and are loved as pets. There are many variations of pygmy chameleons and they each have their distinct characteristics. Their natural habitat of forests and woodlands of East Africa unifies them all together.

Quick description of Pygmy Chameleons

Scientific Name Rhampholeon
Family Chamaeleonidae
Temperature 65-80 Fahrenheit 
Natural HabitatForests, Woodlands, Savannah
personalityFriendly, Docile
Color formMany
Average Lifespan 3 years
Adult size4 inches
Tank Size5 gallons
Care level Moderate
Experience Intermediate 


Many species of pygmy chameleons can be found in the pet market. Most of these lizards are wild and therefore difficult to handle. But with time and interaction, they will start displaying friendly behavior. This is one of the reasons for their popularity. 

When you keep a pygmy chameleon as a pet you need to ensure specific temperature and humidity parameters of the enclosure. Due to their very small size, they are not handy and you can even harm them if handled without care. Handling can be stressful for your pet. 

Pygmy chameleons are known for their friendly and docile nature. Once everything settles, you are going to love them! 

How were they living in the Wild? 

pygmy chameleon

Pygmy chameleons are docile and intelligent creatures. They are native to the Central regions of East Africa. Species that belong to the pygmy chameleon genus are found in countries like Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, and others. 

Pygmy chameleons are ground-dwelling species which means that they live on forest floors for their entire life. They live in grasses or leaf litter. They also live in low-level bushes.

Even in the wild, it is pretty rare to find pygmy chameleons. For this reason, it is hard to find them in the pet trade. 

Their lives are quite simple in the wilds, they do not love to climb or anything. They live on the forest floors and in the bushes. Female pygmy chameleons mate with male chameleons and reproduce. They hunt tiny insects for their diet.

How much do they cost? 

On average, you can buy them for around $100 but many factors can affect this cost. Adult chameleons can cost up to $300 while baby chameleons can be bought for $50-100. Some common pygmy chameleons like the bearded chameleons may cost you much less. Somewhere around $25-30. 

It also depends on where you purchase them from and the type of pygmy you are adopting. 

You also need to consider the overall cost of owning and setting up the enclosure for the pet. It includes the cost of the terrarium setup, healthcare, food, and other things.  Even though these are small pets, they might be a little expensive overall. Because of their social nature, people buy multiple of them at once. This also adds up to the budget. 


Pygmy chameleons are not as colorful as other chameleons. They still have their unique charm which is loved by everyone. There are many varieties of a Pygmy chameleon and they all have different colors and patterns. They blend in perfectly with the forest floor and the natural surroundings.

Generally, they have a brownish to grayish color tone on the body. You can also see stripes on some of them. The stripes are of different colors like green, red, and brown. The colors become more vibrant during the courtship period. 

The body structure also varies a lot in different varieties of pygmy chameleons. Some of them have a beard-like protrusion while some might look like a horn on the nose and some also have lips like a duck.

Well, they have one common feature and that is the Tail. Because of their instincts to stay on the forest floor, they do not need long curvy tails like other chameleons. They have short-truncated tails. 

While there are differences in body structure and coloration of these chameleons, they are still very fun and friendly pets. You will fall in love with them anyhow. 

Their Typical Behavior and Temperament 

Pygmy chameleons have a nice and friendly personality. Their friendly attitude towards their owners is what makes them very adorable pets. They are very easygoing and docile pets. They are one of the most loved pets in the reptile owner’s world. However, it is not the best idea to handle your pygmy chameleon too much. Because of their small size, it can be harmful to handle them. 

It is not recommended to put two male pygmies together as they get easily stressed out. Even if you set up a large-sized enclosure, they might feel threatened by the presence of one more chameleon. They might produce a buzzing sound while feeling threatened.

Pygmy chameleons are not much of a climbers. Even if you put plants and timbers in their enclosure you will find them mostly on the floor. They prefer to hang out on the bottom of the tank.  

After a couple of weeks, a physical inspection is also necessary. Gently pick them up and be very careful. The best thing is to leave them to enjoy themselves on their own in the natural and comfortable environment that you created. 

Pygmy chameleons are happiest when left alone to bask, hide and climb in peace. 

Size and Growth 

The pygmy chameleons grow up to only 3-4 (8-10 cm) inches in their whole lifespan. When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings or the babies are just the size of a fingertip. 

They look like a piece of tic tac mint! That’s how cute they are. 

In about 2-3 months, they start growing faster to about 2 inches. This is a juvenile period. 

After 6 months, they grow large enough to be kept in a larger enclosure. Their fully grown sizes differ from 3-4 inches. But that is the most they can grow. 

Hatchlings/babiesSize of a finger tip 
2-3  months Up to 2 inches
6 months Up to 3-4 inches ( 8-10 cm) 


adult Pygmy Chameleon

A pygmy chameleon lives up to 3 years in captivity if proper care is given. Whereas in wilds, they only survive between 6 months to 2 years.

However, these reptiles are not known for their longevity. Even after great care and optimal habitat, they may live up to only a year.

Even though these pets do not stay with you longer, you will love everything about them.

How to take care of Pygmy chameleons

Pygmy Chameleon Enclosure

Taking care of a pygmy chameleon is not very challenging. They need minimal care and attention as compared to other pet reptiles. These animals are very low maintenance. You only need to have intermediate knowledge of reptile husbandry to pet these chameleons. 

You need to have a proper enclosure set up and follow the diet schedule for the chameleon. Feed them healthy and keep them hydrated. A basic understanding of common health issues in them is the key tool to giving your pygmy chameleon the best care. 

Give them proper lighting, enough space to hide and move, a nutrient-rich diet, enough water, and a warm and humid enclosure. That’s it!  

Diet and water requirements

Pygmy chameleons do not have special requirements for water. They drink water from the misting you do in the enclosures. The water droplets in the surrounding area fulfill their hydration needs. 

Editor’s Note
It is very important to mist the enclosure with non-chlorinated water. Misting is the only water source for your chameleon, do it nicely!

Pygmy chameleons are also very easy to feed. They are insectivorous which means that their diet should majorly consist of small insects. The food given to them shall be of appropriate size. It should not be longer than the width of the chameleon’s head. If you follow this rule, it will become easy to feed them. 

You can give small crickets, fruit flies, or baby silkworms to your pygmy. They are also known to love house flies. All the food should be gut loaded with nutritious items. To make sure that proper vitamins are given to your pygmy, dust the insects with multivitamins or calcium powder. Make sure to feed different types of insects to your pet, to maintain a balance of nutrients.  

Feed your pygmy in the morning time, it gives enough time to the chameleon for proper digestion. The juvenile Pygmy which is 3-6 months old can have 6-10 crickets daily. While adult chameleons can be fed 4-6 small crickets every other day.

Make sure to follow this routine for the well-being of your chameleon!

If your chameleon is refusing to eat, this can be due to a variety of reasons like stress, pregnancy, shedding, etc. However, if the loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss and weakness, it can be an indication of a bigger problem, and your chameleon may need medical attention.

Temperature and Heating Requirements

Temperature and Heating Requirements

The pygmy chameleons need a consistent level of temperature and warmth to grow healthy and happy. You need to give them the comfort and feel of their natural habitat. 

Naturally, these reptiles live near the ground. They always live under shades or low-hanging bushes. That is why they do not experience any major change in the temperature throughout the day. 

  • They do not need any basking areas or cooler areas. 
  • You don’t need to provide them with a UV bulb or heating lamp.
  • You can use a simple fluorescent bulb for 12 hours a day in the enclosure. This will keep your chameleon healthy. 

A pygmy chameleon thrives in temperatures between 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit

  • You will have to ensure that the temperature never rises above the mark of 80 degrees. It can be dangerous for the reptile. 
  • Temperature below 65 degrees won’t kill your pet but can prove to be very harmful and might cause serious health issues.

While chameleons are originally from the regions of East Africa, which is why they need a consistently high level of humidity in their surroundings. 

  • Try to maintain the humidity levels of the enclosure between 60-80%. It can be achieved easily by spraying the enclosure with water twice a day. 

Always keep a check on the levels of temperature and humidity using a Hygrometer. By following these, you can keep your pygmy healthy and happy! 

How to set up a tank – A step-wise guide!

How to Set Up a Tank - a Step-wise Guide

Before setting up the tank, try to understand more about the Pygmy chameleons. They come from a warm region with a lot of vegetation and high levels of humidity. These conditions should be replicated in the enclosure to make sure that they are happy and healthy while growing.

  1. First of all, you need an enclosure for your pet 

Due to the very small sizes of the pygmy chameleons, they need a very small space for living. As compared to other reptiles, which move a lot and therefore require larger tanks. 

A pygmy chameleon can be kept in a 5-gallon terrarium. They will thrive perfectly well in it. If you are planning to buy or adopt more pygmy chameleons than one, then add 5-gallon space per chameleon.  Ensure to give each chameleon enough space in the terrarium. Chameleons like to establish their area, so it is important to give them enough space to do so. 

They are not very active climbers. So, they need more horizontal space. The best dimensions for the pygmy chameleon tank are 16 inches in length, 8 inches in width, and 10 inches in height. 

Editor’s Note
Well, housing male pygmy chameleons together is not a great idea, but you can successfully house male and female chameleons together. 

  1. Then you need to add some Substrate or plants to the terrarium

Pygmy chameleons are very delicate creatures, they need soft bedding in their habitat to ensure comfort. Coconut substrate is a great option for pygmy chameleons. It should be layered 2.4 inches deep in the terrarium. It holds moisture well and supports the humidity level in the tank. 

You can also use plants whether real or fake to cover the space in the tank. This will enable the pet to hide and feel safe. However, do wash the plants before keeping them in the tank. 

The rich vegetation in the tank will enhance their happy nature and health. They will feel at home!

  1.  Set up a normal bulb in the enclosure for Lighting and Temperature

Pygmy chameleons do not need anything fancy when it comes to lighting. They do not need any UVB lighting. A simple fluorescent bulb will be enough for their enclosure. The temperature and warmth will be maintained by it.  

Editor’s Note
Never let the temperature of the tank go above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  1. Use an Automatic Mister or hand Sprayers for humid and moist environment

Use a mister or hand sprayer for making the tank humid and moist for the chameleon. They drink water droplets from their surroundings. You need to mist them twice a day for proper hydration. Remember, that the environment needs to be moist and not wet! 

Keeping live plants in the habitat is a great way of maintaining humidity.

How to clean Pygmy chameleons and their tank

To keep the enclosure clean, refrain from spraying water on the terrarium walls during the daytime. This might leave water trails on the glass. Clean the walls and the floor of the tank properly using a mild cleaning solution. 

Do remember to spot clean daily. Remove any excrement, leftovers, and waste around the tank. Wipe out any stains from the walls of the tank. 

Deep cleaning should be performed once every few months. But before starting with it, remove the chameleon with care and attention. Put it in a box or a container with high walls. It might try to escape from it. 

While deep cleaning the whole bedding and substrate shall be removed and new ones shall be installed. Also, remove all the other decorations and disinfect them by boiling them for 30 minutes. You can even clean them in a dishwasher. 

Chameleons need not be bathed every day. It can be stressful for them. Bathe them once or twice a month while you are deep cleaning the enclosure. 


It is very easy to breed pygmy chameleons in captivity. You need to prepare the enclosure with perfect conditions that match their natural habitat. The chameleons need to be kept at their usual temperature and humidity levels to breed. A nutritious diet is also necessary to ensure that they are healthy.

Well, you might not notice any mating behaviors in them because they hide a lot in the enclosure. It will be difficult for you to observe them so minutely to see any difference. 

The female pygmy chameleon like other chameleons also does not change color during breeding. The male pygmy chameleons would not show any courting behaviors. 

When you put both male and female pygmy chameleons in a large enclosure together, mating will naturally happen. The chameleons need a thick layer of soft substrate in the enclosure. The female pygmy chameleon uses the substrate to bury eggs in it. 

Editor’s Note
Coconut fiber is the best substrate for these chameleons.

You might notice the female pygmy chameleon getting larger before she lays eggs. This would be your sign. However, the pygmy chameleon eggs are very tiny. You need to look closely into the enclosure to find them. 

After the chameleons lay eggs, you can remove the eggs with utmost care to avoid damage and place them in an incubator at a temperature of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. These eggs shall be incubated for around 45-90 days before they hatch. 

When the eggs are hatched and tiny pygmies are out, keep them in a small enclosure and feed them tiny insects. These hatchlings will grow large enough in 6 months, then you can move them into larger enclosures.  

Common Health Issues 

Pygmy chameleons are fragile and high-maintenance creatures which makes it hard to take care of them. Chameleons also fall sick really fast. It is important to have a good veterinarian who has experience with the reptiles. Once you bring home a pet, you’ll have to keep it for any possible health concerns. Some common health problems in pygmy chameleons are: 

Sometimes these chameleons develop painful mouth sores. It will need treatment from the vet as soon as possible. These sores are caused by bacterial infections, so antibiotics will be required to clear them up. 

Sometimes, your pygmy chameleon will scratch itself on a branch or somewhere in the enclosure. These scratches become infected quickly. So, you’ll have to take it to a vet. 

Metabolic bone disease is another health issue. However, this can be taken care of with proper diet and supplementation. 

Editor’s Note
If you notice your chameleon is lethargic, or has stopped eating or drinking, then take your pet to a vet right away. 

Pygmy chameleons can get very sick very quickly. So, it is important to give them treatment as soon as possible. 

Do chameleons get along with other pets? 

Well, a pygmy chameleon has a very friendly and social nature. However, due to their small size, it is not recommended to keep them with other pets. They get stressed easily and because of their small size, it is difficult to keep them out. They might themself, or the other pet might harm them unknowingly. 

It is better to keep them in their enclosure alone or with other pygmy chameleons only. Letting them play with other pets might prove to be dangerous. 

Pros and Cons 

While there are many things about these cute pygmy chameleons that you are going to love. There are also a few things that might stop you from buying these. Let’s weigh all the pros and cons: – 

Pros Cons
Pygmy chameleons are cute little pets and do not require much space. Due to their small size, it is dangerous to keep them out of the enclosure. 
These chameleons have a friendly and docile nature. They have a fragile nature. They do not like man-handling. 
Taking care of these pets is quite easy. Difficult to find in pet stores. 
Their whole setup is not very expensive. 


Where Can I Buy A Pygmy Chameleon? 

Pygmy chameleons are difficult to find in pet stores around the US. The best way to have them is to look out for a breeder. Some breeders keep them in captivity. They also make sure of any health problems that the pygmy might be suffering. 

Can You Hold These Chameleons? Do They Like It? 

While you may hold them once in a while very carefully, they are not a big fan of man-handling. They have a fragile nature. And due to their small size, it is dangerous to handle them. You might harm them unknowingly. However, you can do it once in a while. 


Pygmy chameleons are fun little pets. You are going to enjoy their company a lot. Caring for them is as easy as it sounds. 

However, it is quite difficult to find these chameleons in pet stores around the US. It is better to find a reliable breeder for the chameleons. A good breeder will also ensure that the chameleon has no health issues or infections. It is best to buy them after seeing them in person. 

Well, the pygmy chameleons are great options for reptile pet owners with minimal care and requirements. You’ll do a great job!

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