What color should chameleons be during basking?

sensation

New Member
Every morning I wake up and my Carpet is a dark green color under the basking light. When he sleeps he a beautiful bright green color. I was just wondering what is the normal color during basking? He is 3-4 months old and the basking temp is right around 80
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Chams may turn darker while basking to absorb more heat and UV rays. My panther turns nearly black every time he sees real sunlight! After a while of soaking it up he colors back up and starts cruising. :)
 

warpdrive

Avid Member
he is just trying to absorb the extra heat to warm up. they turn dark to do that.
you could try raising his basking spot to 84F and see if he doesn't get too dark.

but this is normal for some who a craving the added warmth.

Harry
 

jojackson

New Member
This is normal sensation. As a lizard regulates its temperature, its coloration will change accordingly. In the morning, your lizard has not yet warmed up, its color will be darker. (darker color absorbs heat more readily). once its warm, or if it gets too warm, its color will be lighter (lighter color absorbs heat less readily).
Your lizards color in regard to thermoregulation will depend on its current body temperature. :)
 

Chris Jury

New Member
Agreed, turning dark colors (and laterally compressing their bodies while holding them perpendicular to the angle of the light) is normal for these guys while basking. However, 80 F is a really low basking temp. Most chameleons maintain operating temps in the mid 80's to low 90's F. When ambient temps are in that neighborhood they don't have to bask much (e.g., lowland animals on hot days). However, most see cooler ambient temps than that much of the time either because they live at high elevation, or it is the cool season. They darken, flatten, and soak up the rays so that most species can warm up easily to these temps in a few minutes. Keep in mind that a dark object exposed to the sun can heat up to much higher than ambient. In some studies, dark colored chameleon models hit temps of 100-120 F when kept in the sun (thus, the 'effective' basking temp is much, much higher than ambient).

This is, I suppose, a round about way of saying I'd provide a warmer basking spot, especially if the animal is keeping dark colors during the day. It probably isn't able to reach high enough body temps, so is staying dark trying to warm up. Ideally the basking spot should hit a minimum of 90 F, but 95-105 F is preferable IMHO. Please understand, this is the basking spot only--ambient temps should range down to the mid to upper 70's F in the coolest part. That will let the animal thermoregulate effectively.

Just to give you an example: my Jackson's chameleons actively bask in the morning, or after cloud cover passes (here in Hawaii). I have an indoor-outdoor thermometer. I measure ambient temps with the "indoor" part, in the shade, and lay the "outdoor" probe in the sun, to get an estimate of radiant heat from the sun (how warm the white, plastic probe gets). In the last few weeks, ambient temps during the day have been about 77-85 F at my place, depending on cloud cover mostly. When cloud cover is high the temp probe reads the same as the ambient air temp--negligible radiant heating on the probe from the sun. When clouds clear completely the probe registers in the neighborhood of 90-97 F. This is not the ambient temp, of course, which is usually around 80 F or so. Rather, this temp of the probe is higher due to radiant heating by the sun, and is equivalent to what we measure when we measure the basking temp under a bulb.

My Jackson's activley bask in the sun at these temps to get warmed up, even when the ambient temp is as high as 85 F (though they bask much less than when temps are cooler). A basking temp of 90-100 F is not too high, and not unusual, even for montane chameleons (like Jackson's). They see the same sort of radiant heat available in nature much of the time (though intermitant and frequent cloud cover limits basking opportunity for some), and use it to actively thermoregulate.

I'd suggest bumping the basking site temp by at least 10 if not 15-20 F while making sure it has access to cooler temps too, and see if that helps. I'm betting it will.

cj
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
I'd suggest bumping the basking site temp by at least 10 if not 15-20 F while making sure it has access to cooler temps too, and see if that helps. I'm betting it will.
While that may be true for panthers and veiled, that's not necessarily the case with this species. Actually carpet chameleons enjoy an ambient range of 70-80 with basking temp of around 82. And since it's a young one, having slightly cooler temps is not a bad thing. Those are the temps I'm using for my little 5 month old carpet. Different species have different requirements depending on what habitat they originated from so broad generalizations don't always work if you're not familiar with that species. Your temps sound normal to me Sensation. Being dark in the morning is natural since temps should drop at night. If your cham was dark all day then I might be concerned about temps or stress.
 

Chris Jury

New Member
While that may be true for panthers and veiled, that's not necessarily the case with this species. Actually carpet chameleons enjoy an ambient range of 70-80 with basking temp of around 82. And since it's a young one, having slightly cooler temps is not a bad thing. Those are the temps I'm using for my little 5 month old carpet. Different species have different requirements depending on what habitat they originated from so broad generalizations don't always work if you're not familiar with that species. Your temps sound normal to me Sensation. Being dark in the morning is natural since temps should drop at night. If your cham was dark all day then I might be concerned about temps or stress.
The ranges of Carpet and Panther chameleons overlap in Madagascar (though Carpet chameleons have a much wider distribution, but this is probably because of lumping a species complex together) and the two can be found in the same habitats.

But even so, I don't understand why one would want to deny the animal the capacity to warm up and cool down (i.e., thermoregulate) as it chooses. Doesn't it serve to reason that the chameleon has a better understanding (instinctual though it is) of it's temperature needs than we do? Allowing it access to temps both warmer and cooler than it wants to be most of the time is the only way to let it thermoregulate effectively, as they would in nature. I honestly don't understand the aversion I sometimes see to providing the animals with access to both hot and cool conditions, and allowing them to thermoregulate.

cj
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
The range of Carpet and Panther chameleons overlap in Madagascar (though Carpet chameleons have a wider distribution, though this is probably because of lumping a species complex together) and they can be found in the same habitats.

But even so, I don't understand why one would want to deny the animal to warm up and cool down (i.e., thermoregulate) as it chooses. Doesn't it serve to reason that the chameleon has a better understanding (instinctual though it is) of it's temperature needs than we do? Allowing it access to temps both warmer and cooler than it wants to be most of the time is the only way to let it thermoregulate effectively, as they would in nature. I honestly don't understand the aversion I sometimes see to providing the animals with access to both hot and cool conditions, and allowing them to thermoregulate.

cj
I never said to keep it at one temp all the time...I gave a range of 70-82 degrees, which is plenty of thermoregulation options. According to Necas' field studies and experience with many species those are the temps recommended. That is also the range recommended by a very successful carpet breeder. But carpets do not do well with temps in the 90s, although short periods of high heat can be tolerated. They prefer low 80s, which was the only point I was making. A temperature gradient is definitely something you want them to have. Here is a caresheet on carpet chameleons.
 

sensation

New Member
Ok it sounds normal thanks guys.

I do have my lights on a timer. Lights come on at 7:30 and off at 9. I have different layers of vines so that if he wants to get higher or lower he can so he can self regulate the temp, also the basking spot is in the front right hand corner so if he needs to cool down he can always go to the back left corner. I've seen him basking in the morning and chilling in the back during the afternoon.

I've always read that basking temp for a Carpet should be in the low 80s and since hes young, I figured 80-81 would be a great temp. Should I buy a higher Wattage and alternate each day switching them out every other day? See how he likes it at about 85? I believe I have a 60w now and I'll double check tomorrow morning when hes up but if I get a 65-70w, it may warm it up a little more during the day. During the night it gets down to 69-70.
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Ok it sounds normal thanks guys.

I do have my lights on a timer. Lights come on at 7:30 and off at 9. I have different layers of vines so that if he wants to get higher or lower he can so he can self regulate the temp, also the basking spot is in the front right hand corner so if he needs to cool down he can always go to the back left corner. I've seen him basking in the morning and chilling in the back during the afternoon.

I've always read that basking temp for a Carpet should be in the low 80s and since hes young, I figured 80-81 would be a great temp. Should I buy a higher Wattage and alternate each day switching them out every other day? See how he likes it at about 85? I believe I have a 60w now and I'll double check tomorrow morning when hes up but if I get a 65-70w, it may warm it up a little more during the day. During the night it gets down to 69-70.
I don't think it's necessary to raise temps. Young chams do better when temps are a little cooler than recommended for adults and your range sounds perfect to me. It's the same range I use for mine. It sounds like you have plenty of options for thermoregulation in different areas of the cage. :)
 

sensation

New Member
I don't think it's necessary to raise temps. Young chams do better when temps are a little cooler than recommended for adults and your range sounds perfect to me. It's the same range I use for mine. It sounds like you have plenty of options for thermoregulation in different areas of the cage. :)
Thanks ferretinmyshoes, I think I just worry too much. I'm just extremely lucky for finding this forum. The people have been great and I think Kevin is happier for it! I'm going to continue to watch the temps and when he gets older, I may raise the wattage a little bit. Just to add a little more heat.
 

Chris Jury

New Member
Perhaps I'm being unclear, but regardless I don't feel that what I'm saying is being understood, so let me try a slightly different approach.

There are two different temperatures with which we are concerned.

1) Ambient air temperature--this is simply the temperature of the air. In order to get a proper measurement outdoors, not contaminated by the temperature of other objects, or sunlight, we measure this temperature in the shade at chest height. In a chameleon enclosure usually the ambient air temp will be higher in a shaded spot near the basking light, and lower near the bottom, away from the basking light.

For most chameleons, including this carpet, I'd shoot for an ambient temp of about 72-80 F in most of the cage. About this we are in agreement.

2) The temperature of objects exposed to sunlight, or the basking light--there seems to be confusion, or misunderstanding here, so please let me try to be as clear as I can. When something is exposed to sunlight, or a basking bulb, the temperature of that object may reach higher than the ambient air temperature. This is especially true for many solid and dark objects. We're all familiar with this. Go to the beach on a nice 85 F day, and the temperature of the sand can exceed 120 F (and it's fairly light colored). The temperature of asphalt can approach 200 F on a day where the ambient air temp is 85 F. If we stick a thermometer in the sun, or under our basking bulb, we will read a higher temperature than the ambient air temp. How much higher depends on how much radiation there is (e.g., a 100 watt bulb puts out more than a 25 watt bulb), and on how much of that radiation our thermometer absorbs (black absorbs more than white).

Even though the ambient air temperatures where Carpet chameleons live is often in the neighborhood of 70-85 F during the day, depending on season (higher is summer, lower in winter), the temperature of a thermometer placed in the sun will easily reach 90-100 F, or even much higher. That is the 'effective' basking temperature the animal uses. As I said, dark colored chameleon models placed in the sun where live chameleons bask will often reach 100-120 F if you leave them in the sun. The basking temperature (not the ambient air temperature) where Carpet and other chameleons bask is hot--much hotter than ambient.

This is very important, because many species, especially those that live at higher elevations and thereby lower temperatures (including F. lateralis) actively bask so that they are able to keep their body temps in the 85-92 F range, even when ambient temps might be 10-20 F cooler than that. They use the sun, and basking, to overcome these low ambient temps (though chameleons seem better able to tolerate low operating temps than most other lizards).

Consider a few excerpts of the article linked, written by Kevin Stanford who has indeed been very successful with these animals. He writes,

"Each of my cages is topped with one or two Reptisun 5.0 bulbs, and a 60 watt basking light. The basking light is simply a standard light bulb situated in a dome fixture. Carpets are avid baskers, and will not hesitate to take advantage of the warmth."

"Carpets can take a wide-range of temperatures outdoors, and mine have stayed outdoors during daytime highs around 95F, and nighttime lows dipping to 40F. Both of those temperatures are at extreme ends of the spectrum though, and I feel most comfortable in the 50F+ night/70-85F day range."

Ambient temps of 70-85 F during the day mean that, in full sun, the basking temps as I've defined them above will easily reach 10-15 F warmer for a light colored object, and 20+ F warmer for a dark object. With an outdoor ambient temp of, say, 80 F, which is not at all high for what many F. lateralis see in nature, effective basking temps will be at least 90 F, and can easily exceed 100 F, exactly like what I see here in Hawaii.

Paraphrasing Kevin (if you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe him), these animals are avid baskers. Basking outdoors at the ambient temps he allows them to see (summertime in the Northeastern U.S.) means they are seeing effective basking temps of 90+ F. Keeping the basking temp at 80-82 F is unnatural for these animals, and does not allow them to warm up to preferred body temps. It is tolerable for a few months at least, I'm sure, since Carpet chameleons are found in the very southernmost Madagascar (probably not F. lateralis lateralis though--again, likely a species a complex). However, if the animals are kept at constant suboptimal temperatures, and do not merely get through them during the cool season, as they would in Madagascar, I would not expect long-term success.

Hope this makes more sense,

Chris
 

Mimm

New Member
Sensation,
Like you I am starting out with a chameleon....I have a juvenile Ambilobe Panther. I read a lot and did a lot of online study and everything I have seen suggest 2 lights for your enclosure...including the breeder....a daylight UVB lamp of 5.0 and a basking lamp that reaches temps of 85 to 100. I found a sit ethat has some very reasonable prices compared to pet stores PetMountain.com
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Chris - I'm not quite sure what quest you're on and I'm not actually trying to argue with you here. I am well aware of the concept of basking temps versus ambient temps, it was never really questioned in this discussion anyway. We agree on all points except the exact temperature of the basking spot. I linked to Kevin's article, which you then used to "prove me wrong". Here is what you said:

Excerpt: "Carpets can take a wide-range of temperatures outdoors, and mine have stayed outdoors during daytime highs around 95F, and nighttime lows dipping to 40F. Both of those temperatures are at extreme ends of the spectrum though, and I feel most comfortable in the 50F+ night/70-85F day range."

Paraphrasing Kevin (if you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe him), these animals are avid baskers. Basking outdoors at the ambient temps he allows them to see (summertime in the Northeastern U.S.) means they are seeing effective basking temps of 90+ F. Keeping the basking temp at 80-82 F is unnatural for these animals
Do you see the contradiction in the parts I bolded between what the article actually says compared to your paraphrasing? Being an avid basker doesn't mean they need temps like a bearded dragon. He said 95 degrees is the extreme end of the spectrum and you are saying that is what they need and that the preferred temp by the author is unnatural. If you are linking to an article from an expert then why are you manipulating what he recommends? By your own logic things that sit in the sun/light get much hotter than the air around them, so why would you want to increase the temps so much? That would cook a cham if the air temp below a light was 100 and then the cham was even warmer sitting in it.

Now I don't have much experience with this species yet since I just started keeping it, and I have no doubt you have plenty of experience with the species you have worked with. But it seems like you are interpreting the reference how you want to see it rather than the author's intent. And I could be wrong about that since I'm not the author. But at this point can we agree to disagree so as not to clutter the forums with an argument about nitpicking details? The OP is free to take both of our advice and do what they see fit for their own setup. In the end I doubt a few degrees difference is going to be life or death to a chameleon in this case. My carpet stays near the bottom when her basking spot temps reach around 86 inadvertently, which tells me that it is too hot for her. That is my experience with this issue so far. We have both voiced our opinions, for others to take them or leave them. It's why the forums are so great, plenty of experience and references to use to make your own opinions. :)
 
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ataraxia

Avid Member
i dont think he is attacking you. he is trying his best to help.

the first set of bold temps he is explaining ambient outside air temps, not basking temps. the second is stating not to keep the basking temps at kosher ambient air temps. i didnt read his post fully but what you quoted im not seeing any contradiction.
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
i dont think he is attacking you. he is trying his best to help.
Oh I didn't think he was attacking me, I guess I just don't see what the real disagreement is. The ambient temps shouldn't be above the mid 80s in this species from what I've read, they should be in the 70s mostly with a basking temp in the low-mid 80s. From that I just don't think a basking temp should be in the 90s. Basking temps don't necessarily need to be so drastically different from ambient temps, just a warmer spot than the rest with the ability to move in and out of it. Perhaps we are both just misunderstanding each other - easy to do on the internet! :)
 

ataraxia

Avid Member
mine like it semi hot. if i dont give them the heat they will surf the top right under the bulb. this is just my own experience and observation. mine like it around 85-90* basking and 72 ambients. they will let you know when it is 2 hot. they turn bright yellow. im still new to these guys myself only keeping for a year now.
 

Chris Jury

New Member
Chris - I'm not quite sure what quest you're on and I'm not actually trying to argue with you here. I am well aware of the concept of basking temps versus ambient temps, it was never really questioned in this discussion anyway. We agree on all points except the exact temperature of the basking spot. I linked to Kevin's article, which you then used to "prove me wrong". Here is what you said:
I truly hope I’m not coming off as argumentative, as that’s not my purpose here. Temperature is a very important physical parameter for all organisms. Improper environmental temperatures lead to problems. My concern here is for the well-being of the animals, and that is all.

Do you see the contradiction in the parts I bolded between what the article actually says compared to your paraphrasing? Being an avid basker doesn't mean they need temps like a bearded dragon. He said 95 degrees is the extreme end of the spectrum and you are saying that is what they need and that the preferred temp by the author is unnatural. If you are linking to an article from an expert then why are you manipulating what he recommends? By your own logic things that sit in the sun/light get much hotter than the air around them, so why would you want to increase the temps so much? That would cook a cham if the air temp below a light was 100 and then the cham was even warmer sitting in it.
Ok, I think I see where the misunderstanding here is coming from. The 70-85 F temperature range is the outdoor ambient air temperature where Kevin has good success housing the animals outdoors, with an ambient air temp of 95 F being on the high side. Given the natural range of this species, those ambient temps make perfect sense.

The point where I think you have become confused when trying to compare what I am saying to what Kevin is saying is Kevin doesn’t directly give outdoor ‘basking temps’, he gives ambient air temps only, whereas I am focusing on both. As I’ve explained above, the temperature of a solid object in the sunlight can go much, much higher than ambient—even a light colored object can heat up much higher than ambient. So, for example, when Kevin has his animals outdoors in the Northeast summer the ambient air temp might be 80 F. The chameleons actively bask in those conditions (just as my Jackson’s do here in Hawaii). If you put a thermometer in the sunlight that those chameleons are basking in, you’ll measure a temperature of easily 90-100 F. Kevin’s animals are using these basking temperatures, which are much higher than ambient, even though he only reports the ambient air temps in the article.

If this is still confusing, I’m not sure what else to say really. Comparing ambient and basking temps is comparing apples and oranges. I guess I’d recommend grabbing a thermometer and, on the next sunny day, go measure the temperature in a well shaded spot, and the temperature in the sunshine. The shade temperature is ambient air temp while the sunny temperature is equivalent to the basking temp. Please, if you don’t believe me, go see for yourself.

Now I don't have much experience with this species yet since I just started keeping it, and I have no doubt you have plenty of experience with the species you have worked with. But it seems like you are interpreting the reference how you want to see it rather than the author's intent.
As I said, the problem here is that you’re comparing apples and oranges in terms of temperature measurements, and this is leading to confusion.

And I could be wrong about that since I'm not the author. But at this point can we agree to disagree so as not to clutter the forums with an argument about nitpicking details? The OP is free to take both of our advice and do what they see fit for their own setup. In the end I doubt a few degrees difference is going to be life or death to a chameleon in this case. My carpet stays near the bottom when her basking spot temps reach around 86 inadvertently, which tells me that it is too hot for her. That is my experience with this issue so far. We have both voiced our opinions, for others to take them or leave them. It's why the forums are so great, plenty of experience and references to use to make your own opinions. :)
Cheers :D

Chris
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Oh I believe you about the difference of temps in sun and shade, I've measured them myself for my outdoor cages. I think I see what happened here...I guess I was thinking that the measurement of temps he mentioned in the article were from a thermometer placed in the sun where the chams were basking since that's where I would measure, rather than in the shade, and would therefore be measuring the basking temps rather than just the ambient. But since he doesn't specifically mention where the thermometer was placed (in sun versus shade) it could be interpreted in two different ways. If the thermometer was not placed in direct sun it would be measuring a different range, which is the point you are making. Thus our little discussion. :)
 
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