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

Senegal Chameleons are one of the most popular pet chameleons. They originate from Senegal, West Africa, and live in the moist Savanna. Many varieties of Senegal chameleons can be found in countries including Mali, Nigeria, and Cameroon. These are small and fragile chameleons but as beautiful as they can be. They are fun to look at but do not enjoy man-handling just like other chameleons! 

Senegal chameleons are exotic, small lizards. These chameleons are native to West Africa and grow in very specific temperatures and humidity levels. They grow up to 8 inches long and live up to 5 years of life. They have a very striking look. These chameleons are not suited for beginner lizard owners. 

Let’s have a look at how they live and what they need from you as the pet owner.  

Quick Description of Senegal Chameleons

Common Name Senegal Chameleon
Scientific Name Chamaeleo Senegalensis 
Natural habitatMoist Savanna
Size 6-8 inches (including tail) 
Lifespan Up to 5 years
Temperament Docile, not playful, easily stressed
Cost $35
Diet Carnivorous 
Appearance Olive brown & Green color 
Enclosure Screened Enclosure 
Experience Intermediate to expert 


Senegal chameleons are from the family of Chamaeleonidae. These chameleons are usually olive brown and green. They can grow up to 8 inches in their adulthood. Although, the male chameleons are usually smaller in this species. They are native to West Africa and live in the moist savanna. 

They are ideally not suited for beginner lizard owners. They require a high level of care and handling. They have an aggressive nature with other chameleons, so you cannot keep two chameleons in one enclosure. Because of these reasons, it is better to watch them instead of playing with them. 

They are sensitive reptiles and therefore need perfect conditions to thrive in captivity. Enough space for climbing and proper ventilation should be your priority. 

How were they living in the Wild?

Senegal Chameleons

Senegal chameleons are native to West Africa. In the wild, they live their life as per their rules. They have unique temperature requirements and cannot survive without them. 

They are not very friendly creatures. While in the wild, they live in solitary. They love to climb on vines, and plants, explore their surroundings and change color as per their mood.  

The male chameleons do not enjoy the company of other male chameleons. They have an aggressive nature. On the other hand, even the female chameleon does not enjoy the company of a male chameleon after she has laid eggs. 

Simply put, these chameleons have their own lifestyle and habitat requirements and they do not like compromising with it!

How much do they cost?

A Senegal chameleon can be bought for around $35. But that is not it! 

Purchasing a chameleon is only the first step. There are many things that you need to know money-wise to set up your chameleon housing at your home. 

The cost of owning and setting up the habitat for the pet will cost you a fortune. Raising a chameleon is not an easy task. And certainly requires a lot of things!

Senegal chameleons require very specific conditions to live a healthy and happy life. There are specific temperature and humidity levels that need to be maintained in the enclosure. Along with this, they have specific food and water requirements. They even need a UVB light in their enclosure. And you need to keep live insects ready at all times. 

Setting up all these things may become a little too heavy on your pocket. In total, you are going to spend around $500 for setting up the enclosure. 

However, if you already have experience in handling reptiles then you might get away easily. 


Senegal chameleons grow up to 8 inches in their whole life. Senegal chameleons do not have very bright-colored bodies like other chameleons. They do not have intricate patterns. 

They have bulging eyes and cubed heads. These traits give them a distinct look. 

Senegal chameleons have a light brown or green colored body. They subtly change color according to their surroundings and their mood. 

  • When a Senegal chameleon is relaxed and resting, it changes its color to green with black spots. 
  • When it is basking, it changes to a light brown color with brown patterns. 
  • They also change colors when they are hunting, roosting, mating, and more!

By observing these changes, you can get to know more about your pet. 

These chameleons have very long, curled tails. They have two toes facing forward and two toes that are falling backward. This phenomenon is called Zygodactylous. 

Behavior and Temperament

Senegal chameleons are very secretive and shy creatures. They like to live in solitary. They get stressed very easily if they are kept with other creatures, even with their kind. They do not like manhandling at all. 

Avoid keeping two male Senegal chameleons together in one enclosure, as they might even start fighting. They have aggression and do not like living with other chameleons. 

Watching a Senegal chameleon is a fun task, they change their colors like any other chameleon and it becomes really fun tracking it. 

There are some signs that you can notice to trace their moods: – 

  • When they are colorful and bright, it means that everything is going well. Your chameleon is feeling happy. 
  • When they turn into dark shades of brown or black, they are feeling sad. 
  • When they are not as vibrant and bright as usual, then they might be feeling a bit gloomy. 

The above changes would help you keep track of your pet. The chameleons are adventurous and to keep them happy in their enclosure, you need to give them a lot of objects to explore and climb on to!

Editor’s Note: They are happy and thrive when left alone. The more foliage you add to their cage, the more engaged and happy they will be. 

Chameleons do not bite their owners, but when they do they might send some signal way ahead, like hissing, gaping, or changing color. However, if your pet chameleon bites you, do not worry, they are not venomous. Just clean the wound and watch for any infections. 

Diet and water requirements

Senegal chameleons need a lot of water and food. 

They do not drink water from bowls. They like to lick water droplets from surfaces, like foliage and enclosure screens. Chameleons are known for shooting out their long tongues and drinking water and food. You need to set up a constant supply of water in their enclosure. 

You will have to install an automatic mister or dripping system in the enclosure to provide water at all times. This will coat the surfaces of the enclosure with water droplets. Along with this, make sure there are wet leaves in the enclosure for your chameleon. 

Senegal chameleons are carnivores. They Love to eat a protein-rich diet full of insects, worms, roaches, and crickets. You can feed them 5-10 crickets at once. If you choose to give mealworms, then feed them 3-4 at once. 

You also need to have vitamin & calcium powder supplements to dust off your food now and then. This helps in preventing health issues like bone disorders. 

Feed your Senegal chameleon every second day and try doing it in the morning time. This will help them with proper digestion. Keep track of what they eat and how much.

Although chameleons love food, they may refuse to eat for a variety of different reasons including stress, pregnancy, health issues, etc. If your chameleon’s loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss and weakness, it is best to take your reptile to a vet.

Temperature, Heat, and Lighting 

Senegal chameleons are used to a very specific environment. You need to perfectly balance out the temperature and humidity in their housing. 

Senegal chameleon needs around 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive in captivity. The temperature shall never drop below 70 degrees in the enclosure. 

Senegal chameleons need to have both Heat light and UVB light in their enclosure to maintain temperature. UVB lights are simply a substitute for the sun rays that normally would be there if the chameleon was living in the wilds. 

Editor’s Note: UVB lights increase metabolism, and activity and provide vitamin D3. vitamin D3 is very important for the chameleon as it helps in absorbing calcium. 

If there is no UVB light, your pet is likely to suffer from weakened bones or broken bones. Your chameleon won’t be able to absorb the calcium that you provide in the diet without UVB light. 

Place the UVB light at least 12 inches away from the highest point, your pet can reach in the enclosure to avoid any thermal burns. UVB light shall not be filtered or covered by any screen or plastic. This will reduce the rays reaching your chameleon to almost zero. 

Editor’s Note: If it is possible, you should try taking out your chameleon in direct sunlight for a few hours a day.

Keep the following points in mind in terms of temperature: 

  • 85 degrees Fahrenheit at the basking 
  • 75 degrees Fahrenheit for daytime. 
  • 72 degrees Fahrenheit for nighttime. 

How to set up a Tank

Senegal chameleons are very sensitive reptiles. You need to set up their housing exactly like what they had in the wilds. They need to feel at home to live happily. You need to set up a big tank with enough space for climbing and hiding. There should be proper air ventilation, lighting, temperature balance, a dripping system for hydration and maintaining humidity, etc. 

Let’s have a step-by-step guide to set up a perfect enclosure for your pet: – 

  • Firstly, you need to buy a Tank. An ideal tank for a Senegal chameleon should be around 30 gallons. Senegal chameleons need big enclosures to have enough space for climbing and hiding. They are solitary creatures and need privacy. A 30-gallon tank would be a great enclosure for your pet. 

You can keep both artificial and real plants, however, keeping a real plant would increase your task of often cleaning and taking care of other things. It is easier to keep artificial plants. You must wash artificial plants properly before installing them in the enclosure. On the other hand, real plants can provide fresh oxygen to your chameleon and help in maintaining ideal humidity levels.

  • Install a Dripper system in the enclosure now. Senegal chameleons are suckers for water. They have high water needs to live properly hydrated. And to make things a bit more complicated, they do not drink water from bowls. 

They drink water droplets from plants, surroundings, etc. so, a mister shall be there at all times spraying water at frequent intervals. 

  • Now for maintaining temperature and proper lighting in the enclosure, install a UVB light and a heating lamp. It is very important for the healthy growth of the chameleon.
  • Senegal chameleons do not need substrate in their enclosure. You can put up a reptile carpet or even use old newspapers for this purpose. However, if you want to install substrate in the enclosure then it is completely up to you.  

For these chameleons, decoration is the most important part. It is not for aesthetic purposes but it provides the chameleon a playground to climb and explore. 

Well, after equipping the tank with all of these things, it is ready for living. It might become a little over troublesome for you, but once it is all settled, your pet is going to be happy and thrive. 

If you do not want a chameleon that takes up so much space, you could look into getting another chameleon species like a pygmy chameleon. A pygmy chameleon is very low-maintenance and only requires a 5-gallon terrarium to thrive.

How to clean them and their Tank

Cleaning the enclosure every day is very crucial. A spot cleaning is needed every day to wipe out the waste and any dirt that might have accumulated inside the enclosure. 

Also, if you are using a substrate do have a look at it every day. It should be clean and free of any bacteria. If you choose to use a newspaper, then you need to replace it almost every day. 

Cleaning the tank daily might seem a little too much, but it is required. However, you can do deep cleaning once every couple of months. 

In the deep cleaning process, you need to take out the foliage and wash it properly with warm water, clean the surfaces of the enclosure, and change the substrate. Deep cleaning is going to take time and effort. You can put your chameleon in another box for some time, while you clean its housing. 

Senegal chameleons do not enjoy handling. Therefore, when you deep clean the enclosure, you can give a quick wash to your chameleon also. However, do not do it very often. It may irritate the chameleon and stress him unnecessarily. 

How to take care of a Senegal Chameleon

Taking care of a Senegal Chameleon is not too tough a task. Once you set up everything in their enclosure, they do not need anything else besides food. They do not even like handling, so it saves you time. 

Meet their basic needs and avoid playing with them frequently. They do not expect anything more from you. Your aim should be just to look and not touch. 

They need a lot of food and water. Just fulfill their dietary requirements daily. Leave them to play and explore their enclosure. This makes them happy and healthy. You can sit and watch them doing things. It will be fun! 

Size and Growth 

The Senegal chameleons are medium-sized reptiles. They can grow up to 25-30 cm (8 inches) in their adult life. This site is inclusive of their tail. 

When the eggs hatch and the baby chameleons are born, they are just the size of a few cm. Their growth rate is quite quick. In about six months, female chameleons reach sexual maturity and might start laying eggs. Usually, in approx 18 months, a chameleon grows to its fullest size.

In some cases, a female chameleon can grow larger than a male chameleon. 


A Senegal chameleon usually has a lifespan of 5-8 years. But in captivity, they might live up longer. 

The Senegal chameleon is a very beautiful species and loved pets. They require constant attention from the owner. The lifespan of a chameleon differs on many factors. If they live in the wild, they have a low life span. But if they are living in captivity, and proper care is being given to them then they live a much longer and happier life. 

So, it is up to you how much care you give to your pet. They thrive in a good environment. They need rich diets and a lot of water. Provide them with all these things and they will stay with you longer. You’ll have a companion for a good period of your life. 


Breeding a Senegal chameleon is not easy as other reptiles. Senegal chameleons do not breed regularly, so it becomes difficult to successfully breed a pair. 

Female Senegal chameleons can reproduce at 6 months of age, but it is recommended that the pet should be at least 1 year old before being introduced for mating with a male chameleon. 

Healthy females can lay only up to 2-3 clutches of eggs per year. These clutches contain around 15-70 eggs. After laying eggs, female chameleons become a little aggressive towards the male chameleons. 

Editor’s Note: it is better to remove the male chameleon from the enclosure after the female chameleon has laid eggs. 

Female chameleons may also attack male chameleons if they are not ready to breed. So, begin with placing the male chameleon’s cage near the female chameleon’s cage. Try to observe their behavior and then move ahead. 

It is difficult to make them breed but if you are successful in it, then make sure that young chameleons are incredibly delicate and fragile. They often die quickly after their birth. They might catch any health issues or become stressed quickly. 

Unless you are an experienced breeder, it is not recommended to breed your Senegal chameleons. It can be a really difficult task for you. 

Common Health Issues

Senegal chameleons are hard to take care of due to their delicate nature. They can catch many health problems if not taken care of properly. Some health issues like Respiratory infections, stress-related ailments, calcium deficiency, stomatitis, Metabolic Bone Disease, etc. 

Respiratory infections are very common in these chameleons. This issue happens because of temperature fluctuations or maybe because of drastic changes in the temperature. 

If you do not give your chameleon a proper diet, deficiency of vitamin A and calcium becomes inevitable. Calcium deficiency happens because of low UVB lighting or a decrease in calcium in the diet. That is why you need to give your chameleon a proper diet and UVB lighting.

Because of calcium deficiency, metabolic bone disease happens in the chameleons. They are not able to absorb calcium. This is a very painful condition and weakens the bones. The legs might appear wobbly. Metabolic bone disease is a common cause of death in chameleons but it is completely preventable through diet. If you suspect that your chameleon has MBD, take them to a vet immediately.

Chameleons are not familiar with living in an enclosure and having a human interfering all the time. That is why they can get easily stressed. Stress leads to serious problems like problems in the respiratory system or loss of appetite.

Editor’s Note: Both male and female chameleons are similar. It is better to not meddle too much in their daily routine. 

Do Senegal Chameleons Get Along With Other Pets 

Senegal Chameleons do not like to get along with other creatures, even with one of their kind. They are docile animals but they are really specific about their lifestyle. 

They do not like others to meddle in their life. They do not like manhandling. They do not like living with other chameleons. If you put them with other chameleons in the same enclosure, they get stressed out and aggressive. They might even start fighting with the male chameleon. 

Thus, it is not advised to let your chameleon play with other pets. 

Pros and Cons

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

Pros Cons 
Senegal chameleons are fun, small-sized pets. They need a very big enclosure. It might cost you a fortune. 
Their color-changing abilities will keep you stunned. They do not get along with other pets 
They do not like much attention from you. They enjoy themselves.  They do not like handling, so you can almost never play with them. 


Do Senegal Chameleons Like To Be Played With?

No, Senegal chameleons do not like manhandling. They get easily stressed out. If you want to enjoy their company try most minor handling. You can sit and watch them doing things in their enclosure but do not take them out. 

How Many Eggs Do Senegal Chameleons Lay? 

The female Senegal chameleon lays about 20-70 eggs in a clutch at a time. They can reproduce 2-3 times a year. You need to be careful when they are pregnant.


Senegal chameleons are amazing creatures. They are very docile and entertaining pets. But as we know now, they are not very easy to pet! However, like all other pets, they need a lot of time, energy, and resources. Once you have figured out everything, it will become a lot easier for you. Everything takes time and so does this. 

They are wonderful pets and are going to give you company for a long period of your life. 

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