Where to buy a chameleon

There are different options where to buy a chameleon as a pet. You can purchase a chameleon at one of the following places:

  • From a pet shop
  • On a reptile fair
  • Directly from a breeder
  • From a private person

You cannot get a clear cut answer on what the best place would be. There are good and bad pet shops, good and bad breeders and good and bad chameleon owners. You always have to pay attention to the unique situation. Below I sum up the pros and cons of each vendor.

It is possible to buy a live chameleon over the internet. You just buy it, pay it and they ship it overnight. I would never do that, as you cannot see how they are kept, cannot see the health status of the chameleon and don’t have direct contact with the breeder or seller.

Buying from a pet shop

When you buy your chameleon from a local pet shop, they people there can probably advice you. Both when you are buying your pet and its terrarium, but also later when you could run into problems. A good pet shop owner will have a lot of experience with reptiles and can help you out quite a bit. You will also have some chance of a guarantee on your chameleon, as it is easier to hold a pet shop responsible for selling a sick chameleon that a private person.

The downside is that a bad pet shop will give you bad advice or no advice, and will just try to sell you a pet and all stuff you would use for your pet. And the difference between a good pet shop and a bad pet shop could be hard to tell.

Always check how the chameleons and other animals are housed. Also check if the people that work there have experience with reptiles and especially with chameleons.

Healthy veiled chameleon female
Healthy veiled chameleon female

Buying a chameleon at a reptile fair

On a reptile fair you will find both pet shops and breeders selling directly. You often will have a huge offer of chameleons. Both in species, age, color morph, price and unfortunately also health. At the fair it is not possible to see how the chameleons have been housed or how they were raised. You just have to talk to the people that work there, to see if they know what they are talking about and if they raised the chameleons themselves. You will find very knowledgeable breeders at such fairs. The pet shops that just bought some chameleons to sell again will not be able to tell you about how they were raised. They could have been cared for well, but you don’t know for sure. Always check the health of the chameleons and other reptiles that are on offer.

Ask for the contact information of the seller, so you can ask them questions later if necessary. When you buy a chameleon at a fair, the seller usually lives far from you. You cannot go there to buy supplies or ask for advice.

Buying a chameleon directly from a breeder

In my opinion, this is the best option. You read all about chameleons and their care. You then make an appointment with a a breeder to buy one, choose one of the offered chameleons and in the mean time you can see how the chameleons are kept and can ask the breeder any questions you may have. If you do not like the way the chameleons are kept, you should back away from the sale. Usually this is not the case, as breeding chameleons is hard if they are not kept optimally.

To breed a chameleon is not easy, making chameleon breeders experts in keeping chameleons healthy. Only a healthy chameleon will produce offspring that can be raised to 3 months old in order to sell them. I do not recommend buying veiled chameleons younger than 3 months. Here I explain why. The advice of breeders is therefore worth gold. They can tell you the brands of lamps they use, the type of calcium supplement they use and how they handle their animals. Of course you should do your homework before you go to a breeder to buy a chameleon, so don’t just depend on the information one person tells you.

The only problem is that breeders may not live close enough for you to visit them. Some breeders in the US ship live reptiles to your house. I don’t recommend ordering a live pet online, as you don’t know what kind of life it had and if it is healthy.

Newborn veiled chameleons
Newborn veiled chameleons, too young to be sold to prospective pet owners.

Buying a chameleon from a private person

There are many chameleons for sale from private people. Mostly people that have bought a chameleon, but can’t or won’t take care of them anymore. Those chameleons can be perfectly healthy and can have been properly cared for all their life. But there are also many people that did not keep their chameleons healthy, due to ignorance, laziness or bad luck. Those people would also be looking into selling their chameleon, as it is not fun to care for a sick animal that probably needs pricey medical attention.

You really have to pay attention to any individual offer of a “second hand” pet chameleon. If the owner wants to have a good home for their pet, they will be willing to help you asses the health of the chameleon. You could go and check the chameleon out, including its terrarium and food, and ask the owner how he or she kept it. When you like what you see and the chameleon looks healthy, you can come back to buy it. Maybe the owner also want to see where you are going to keep it, so could possibly bring the chameleon over to you. It is a very personal thing to buy the pet of someone else, so how you go about it will be different from person to person.