There is no question that natural sunlight is much more
beneficial than any kind of artificial light to most species of animals. This is especially true in most lizard species where
absorption of natural ultraviolet (UV) radiation is essential in calcium metabolism.
Even if the animal is receiving adequate amounts of calcium in its diet, if it is not absorbed into
the body, metabolic bone disease can result.
When the animal's skin is exposed to natural sunlight, a process
occurs in the body resulting in vitamin D3 production, a key ingredient in the metabolism of calcium. For the record,
ultraviolet is divided in to UVA(longwave), UVB(midwave) and UVC(shortwave) and it is thought that UVB is most essential in
vitamin D3 production.
For those of you fortunate enough to live in a temperate climate
zone without great fluctuations in temperature and humidity, keeping your Panthers outdoors is ideal. Unfortunately,
most of us who live in the USA do not live in the ideal conditions and are forced to raise the Panthers mostly indoors.
Although I live in Southern California, and only about 30 miles inland from the ocean, the summer time temperatures can
exceed 100 degrees at times and in winter, they can drop to near freezing temperatures with accompanying frost.
These temperatures are much too extreme for Panther Chameleons to tolerate.
However, for those
of us forced to raise our animals indoors, all is not lost. In some respects, I believe raising Panthers indoors can
be superior to keeping them outdoors all the time. While indoors, it is much easier to control temperature and humidity
to the Panther's optimal levels at all times. Of course it is essential that you use proper lighting that is capable
of producing UV radiation. There are several fluorescent lights on the market that produce adequate amounts of UV A
and B radiation. Do not be confused by less expensive fluorescent lights that can be purchased at the local hardware
store marked as "full spectrum" or "simulates natural sunlight". Being "full spectrum"
does not mean it is capable of producing UV radiation. In fact the light should be labeled with a warning cautioning
its use only with reptiles (excessive exposure to UV radiation by humans can lead to skin cancer). I also use a small
incandescent light bulb (40 to 60 watts) in conjunction with the fluorescent light to provide additional heat for the animals
to bask because most Chameleons are heliothermic, meaning that they use the heat of the sun to regulate their body temperatures.
There is a relatively new product on the market that is called UV Heat. It is a mercury vapor
light that is capable of producing high levels of UV rays as well as provide basking heat. Although these lamps
produce a lot of UV radiation, they do not seem to produce a lot of visible light. Chameleons generally enjoy high
amounts of visible light and without it, they usually do not show their full color potential. For this reason,
we prefer using the fluorescent light/incandescent light combination over the single Mercury light bulb.
Despite having to raise your Panthers indoors due to inhospitable climates, you should still be able
to let your animals enjoy natural sunlight periodically as the weather allows no matter what part of the country you are living
in. It is essential to do this as much as feasible to ensure the health of your animal and any future generations if
you plan to breed. During spring or fall, the climate in North America should be mild enough to allow quite a bit of
time outside. We always try to leave our animals outside at least during the weekend as climate condition allows.
It is generally thought that as little as 15-30 min. of natural sunlight a week is better than a week under man made UVB lighting.