Best Watering Systems To Keep Your Panther Chameleon Hydrated

Keeping your panther chameleon well hydrated by providing drinking water in appropriate amounts is one of the most vital aspects of chameleon health. Most chameleons come from areas of the world that receive between 60 and 120 inches of rainfall annually. Chameleons that come from areas with less rainfall are usually found near bodies of water where there is sufficient drinking water available from heavy condensation. In the wild, chameleons lick dew and rain droplets from leaves and are stimulated to drink by the movement of water. Special watering techniques must be used in captivity to stimulate the consumption of adequate volumes of drinking water to keep a chameleon hydrated and healthy. The amount of water required by a chameleon will vary depending on size and species of the animal, air temperature and air humidity levels. Large chameleons that originate from rain forests, such as Calumma parsonii, can require copious amounts of water.

Failing to provide water in an acceptable way (to the chameleon) and in sufficient quantities can cause extremely serious health problems. Chronic low-level dehydration – which can be undetectable to the eye – often leads to irreversible kidney failure followed by death. Dehydrated panther chameleons often become anorexic first, and this should be considered one of the first symptoms of dehydration. If you suspect your chameleon is suffering from dehydration or kidney problems, please ask your veterinarian to administer a blood test to measure the uric acid levels in the blood.

Watering methods

Few chameleons learn to drink water from a standing water dish (with or without an air stone) and this method should be avoided altogether. Waterfalls should also be avoided as they are easily contaminated with feces and are difficult to disinfect properly. Melting ice cubes are not recommended as the frigid temperature of the water may result in avoidance by the chameleon.

Chameleons are naturally attracted to droplets of water that reflect light, and pendulous drops of water hanging from leaves of plants. Keepers of these lizards can take advantage of this by designing watering systems that take this natural preference into account. Following is a list of the most commonly used methods of providing drinking water for panther chameleons and the primary advantages and disadvantages of each method. 

#/5MethodAdvantagesDisadvantages
5In-Cage Rain Systems
In-cage rain systems deliver large amounts of dripping water throughout a chameleon’s living area. These systems can be created a number of ways. Most commonly, some type of PVC tubing is connected to a water supply. The tubing contains holes that drip water onto many surfaces. A valve is generally required to control water flow.Because these systems are capable of delivering large amounts of water, it is essential to plan for a water collection and removal system. This can be as simple as buckets or trays to collect water under the cages, or as sophisticated as drain systems.
The benefits of this type of watering system cannot be understated. This is the most natural way for a chameleon to receive its water. Some keepers automate the water delivery and removal by timers, thus eliminating a significant portion of the daily maintenance requirements of their chameleons.These systems also increase the relative humidity in the area.The primary disadvantage to this type of system is the level of planning and effort to get it working efficiently. However, this disadvantage is more than offset by the tremendous advantages of a functioning system.
4Drip Systems
Drip systems are the most common form of chameleon watering system. They generally consist of a gravity-fed container of water that sits above the enclosure. A plastic tube runs from the water container and into the chameleon cage. Water drips out of the end of the plastic tube.These systems differ from rain systems by offering water in a more isolated area, however an extra length of aquarium airline tubing with multiple holes can be attached to dispense water over a wider area.
These systems are readily available and portable. They can be set up in minutes and, if properly used, can deliver water sufficient for many species of chameleons if the correct size container is used.

The drip rate must be very fast (approx. 45 drops every 15 seconds) to attract the attention of the chameleon to begin drinking.
Daily maintenance is required to fill them by hand. Water collection and removal is also required.
5Automated Misting Systems
Automated misting systems are much like rain systems. Rather than dripping water from holes in the hose, misting systems push pressurized water through special heads that create a fine mist.Small droplets of water fall over a broad area. When these droplets collect on leaves, they eventually form drops of water that fall like rain.
These systems offer many of the same advantages as rain systems. Some smaller chameleons seem to prefer the smaller droplets of water, and are attracted to the mist. Some chameleons may drink by sitting in the falling mist. The water collects and rolls down the casques and into their mouths.Commercial systems are available for purchase. They can also be made from supplies found at most larger garden supply stores.Because the water is pressurized, flooding problems can occur if hoses become damaged or loose. Misting heads are prone to mineral deposits that can cause them to clog.
1The Shower Method
Some chameleon dealers recommend moving chameleons into a bathroom shower stall where a small tree or large plant has been placed. Water is then directed from the showerhead over the plant to provide drinking water for the chameleon.
The shower stall provides an area in which large amounts of water can be provided without risk of flooding. This method can be used in emergency situations, but should not be used as a daily method of providing drinking water due to the disadvantages.Many panther chameleons become distressed at being removed from their enclosures and relocated. Stressed animals may become startled and leap to the floor resulting in injury. There have also been reports of scalding injuries from hot water and avoidance due to high water pressure.
3Manual Misting
Another common method of watering chameleons is to simply mist the plants in the chameleon’s enclosure once or twice per day with a spray bottle as the sole source of drinking water.
This technique can be used as the sole source of drinking water for very small species of chameleons (e.g. Ch. fuelleborni, Ch. pfefferi, Brookesia and Rhampholeon species), or babies of all species less than 3 mos. old whose water needs are lower. The plants must be dripping heavily when spraying ceases.

Warm water sprayed daily in conjunction with ALL types of drinking watering systems increases the relative humidity in the environment and helps stimulate a drinking response from panther chameleons.
It is very time-consuming and difficult (if not impossible) to provide sufficient amounts of drinking water for medium to large chameleons using this technique.

Warning: Adult chameleons of species such as pardalis, calyptratus, oustaleti and jacksonii are at serious risk of developing kidney failure from chronic low-level dehydration using the Manual Misting method as the sole source of drinking water.

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