51 of the Most Colorful Chameleons in the World

Most people have at least a passing familiarity with chameleons, the lizards known for changing their colors to camouflage when needed. But not everyone knows that there are actually over one hundred different chameleon species. And many of them are even more vibrant than you’re imagining!

Here’s our list of the world’s most colorful chameleons:

1. Knysna Dwarf Chameleon

Knysna Dwarf Chameleon isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Bradypodion damaranum
  • Habitat: Forested areas in Africa, especially near Knysa, South Africa
  • Size: Up to 7.1″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This especially beautiful little chameleon’s color varies somewhat. It is usually blue to green with accents of yellow, pink, and purple.

Even though this small chameleon is native to Afromontane forests, it can also be found in gardens where there is adequate vegetation. The Knysna dwarf chameleon is not usually kept as a pet. And as the name suggests, it is a very small species. Its total length may sound large, but the body of this lizard is often about the size of the average human thumb! Despite its limited range, it is not considered to be at risk of extinction.

2. Oustalet’s Chameleon

Closeup of Oustalet's Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Furcifer oustaleti
  • Habitat: Various habitat types throughout Madagascar
  • Size: Up to 27″ long
  • Diet: Different types of invertebrates, smaller vertebrates, and sometimes fruit
  • Colorful feature: The Oustalet’s chameleon has very variable color. Often, it is various shades of gray and brown. But unlike many other species, the females are generally more colorful than males. Many females are bright green, and as you can see in the picture, they will sometimes also have very bright accents.

The Oustalet’s chameleon is also called the Malagasy giant chameleon. It’s a fitting name, as these lizards are incredibly large compared to most other chameleon species. Though it is highly adaptable and does well in a huge range of habitat types, it is not usually found in the interiors of forests.

3. Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleon agaainst black bakckground.
  • Latin name: Furcifer pardalis
  • Habitat: Tropical forests in northern and eastern Madagascar
  • Size: Usually between 16″ and 20″ long; females are usually smaller than males
  • Diet: Mainly different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: The panther chameleon may well be the most colorful species. In the wild, color varies largely depending on location. Males are usually brighter and can be found in blue, green, orange, and red. Females are usually a mixture of tan or brown with patches of orange, pink, or peach. Captive breeders have produced strains with even more striking color.

If you’re looking for one of the most colorful chameleon species out there, look no further than the panther chameleon. Its beauty makes it highly sought after by reptile enthusiasts. Unfortunately, panther chameleons don’t seem to live very long. Males typically live up to six years and females typically live up to three years.

4. Petter’s Chameleon

Petter's Chameleon perched on stick.
  • Latin name: Furcifer petteri
  • Habitat: Forested areas in the northernmost part of Madagascar
  • Size: On average, 6.3″ long
  • Diet: Primarily different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Both males and females of this species are bright, intense grass green. They usually have white-lined lips and a white stripe down each side.

The Petter’s chameleon has a very small native range covering 4,200 square miles in northern Madagascar. Unfortunately, it is now classified as being vulnerable to extinction. Habitat destruction is the main threat to its population. Mining, logging, and fires all pose threats.

5. Parson’s Chameleon

An adult Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii) resting among jungle vegetation.
  • Latin name: Calumma parsonii
  • Habitat: Humid forested areas in northern and eastern Madagascar
  • Size: Up to 27″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects and smaller vertebrates
  • Colorful feature: Like many chameleon species, the Parson’s chameleon comes in a few color varieties. The one in the picture is an “orange eye” variant, where the males are primarily turquoise with bright orange eyelids. In some variants, males are primarily green, primarily yellow, or green/turquoise with yellow lips. Regardless of the variant, females are usually brown, green, or yellow.

The large, colorful Parson’s chameleon is one of the few species that can be exported from Madagascar, albeit in small numbers. It is currently classified as being near threatened. The Parson’s chameleon is one of the longest-living species; males usually live at least 9 years and females live at least 8 years.

6. West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon

Person West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Kinyongia multituberculata
  • Habitat: Forested parts of the West Usambara Mountains in Tanzania
  • Size: Usually between 9″ and 11″ long
  • Diet: Typically insects
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons are usually very bright green with irregular patches of bluish white. As you can see in the picture, some also have patches of light purple.

This stunning species is unfortunately endangered in the wild. Part of its population decline is due to the fragmentation of its habitat. The West Usambara two-horned chameleon needs forested habitat with a relatively complex structure. So as parts of forest are destroyed, the chameleon won’t cross the cleared area to reach the undisturbed forest. Despite population threats, it is often exported for the pet trade.

7. Meller’s Chameleon

Meller's Chameleon perched on branch.
  • Latin name: Trioceros melleri
  • Habitat: Savannas and mountains in East Africa
  • Size: Up to about 24″ long
  • Diet: Spiders, insects, and small vertebrates
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons have skin with distinctive vertical bands. The darker bands are typically dark green, while the lighter bands range from tan to white to bright yellow. Of course, depending on the exact situation, a Meller’s chameleon can darken or lighten its color.

The Meller’s chameleon looks a lot different from the chameleons mentioned thus far. It has a scalloped crest that makes it look like a small stegosaurus. It also has spotted, striped skin. While not the absolute largest chameleon on the list, it is the largest chameleon from mainland Africa.

8. Four-Horned Chameleon

Four-Horned Chameleon sitting among vegetation.
  • Latin name: Trioceros quadricornis
  • Habitat: Highlands of western Cameroon and southeastern Nigeria
  • Size: Usually between 10″ and 14″
  • Diet: Mostly insects
  • Colorful feature: As with many chameleon species, the color of this one varies significantly, although it is normally some shade of green. As you can see in the picture, some also have colors that are blended with dreamy blue.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has currently classified this chameleon species as being vulnerable to extinction. Habitat destruction poses a major threat, but so does exportation for the international pet trade. That exportation happens even in areas where the four-horned chameleon is a protected species.

9. Transvaal Dwarf Chameleon

Transvaal Dwarf Chameleon isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Bradypodion transvaalense
  • Habitat: Forested areas in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, South Africa
  • Size: Around 6″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: These striking chameleons vary somewhat in coloration. But along each side, they usually have a bold stripe of orange or red. As in many species, males in the dominant coloration will be very bright. Males using submissive coloration will be more muted, brownish colors.

These nice-looking chameleons are bigger than many dwarf species. Although they are not threatened or endangered, they aren’t seen too often in captivity. You might see this species called the Wolkberg dwarf chameleon as well. This is after the Wolkberg mountain range that covers much of its habitat range.

10. Indian Chameleon

Indian Chameleon perched on small branch.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo zeylanicus
  • Habitat: Forested areas in Sri Lanka, India, and other parts of South Asia
  • Size: Around 15″ long
  • Diet: Mostly different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: The Indian chameleon is usually some shade of green or yellow green. And as you can see in the picture, they can often be patterned intricately with bands or spots.

Some research suggests that the Indian chameleon, unlike many other chameleon species, may not be able to tell the exact color of its background. That means it doesn’t change color to blend in. Rather, it uses color changes much like bearded dragons and other agamid lizards. Changes in color help them to communicate with other chameleons, and changing to dark colors allows them to absorb heat.

11. Jackson’s Chameleon

Jackson's Chameleon against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros jacksonii jacksonii
  • Habitat: Forests in south-central Kenya and northern Tanzania
  • Size: Usually between 6″ and 15″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects, although they will also eat small vertebrates and snails
  • Colorful feature: These colorful lizards are usually bright green. But as you can see in the picture, many are a mixture of green, yellow, and blue.

The Jackson’s chameleon is somewhat unique in that there are three distinct subspecies. Each one looks a lot different from the others. This one, the nominate subspecies, is almost always the one people mean when they refer to a Jackson’s chameleon. It’s one of the relatively few chameleon species that are common in captivity. Males have three horns on the head, so they look a little like a triceratops!

12. Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon on stick.
  • Latin name: Bradypodion thamnobates
  • Habitat: Forested parts of the Midlands area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Size: About 3″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Males of this species are more colorful than females. They tend to be bright green with a yellow-orange stripe on the sides and a yellow crest on the head. Their eyelids typically have red spots, too. Females are usually brownish. However, with both males and females, colors vary fairly widely between individuals.

This cute chameleon is one of the smaller dwarf varieties. Its scales make it look somewhat bumpy, so it looks remarkably different from most smooth-skinned chameleon varieties. Unfortunately, it is classified as an endangered species. Part of its decline in population may be due to its use in folk medicine.

13. Graceful Chameleon

Graceful Chameleon walking in desert.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo gracilis
  • Habitat: Forests and bushy areas in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Size: Between 12″ and 15″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Just like many other species of chameleon, this one varies considerably in color. It is usually yellow, green, or brown. Many individuals have a pattern of splotchy bands.

This long, lithe chameleon certainly lives up to its name! It looks a lot like most people’s idea of a chameleon. This species is not considered to be threatened or endangered, so it is commonly collected and sold into the pet trade. It lives longer than most species kept as pets, as it can live up to 10 years in captivity with proper care.

14. Mount Hanang Chameleon

Mount Hanang Chameleon isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros hanangensis
  • Habitat: Forested parts of Mount Hanang in Tanzania
  • Size: Up to about 5.4″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This smallish chameleon has one of the most interesting color combinations on the list. Its head is a bright sky blue with a dark ring around the eye. Its body is bright green with a tan or brown stripe extending from the head to the tail.

These strange-looking yet beautiful chameleons have a very small native range, as they can only be found on one mountain in Tanzania. But despite their beauty, they are very hard to find in captivity. There are of course some specialty breeders, but they are relatively rare. In the wild, they are currently classified as being a species that is near threatened.

15. Tanzanian Montane Dwarf Chameleon

Tanzanian Montane Dwarf Chameleon isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros sternfeldi
  • Habitat: Forested parts of Mt. Meru and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
  • Size: Usually from 4″ to 6.5″
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These bright chameleons vary somewhat in coloration, although they nearly always have a side stripe that is orange or yellow. The base color is usually green, blue-green, or some combination of green and blue.

This small chameleon is in the same genus as the Mount Hanang chameleon, and it does often have some similar coloration. In particular, individuals with some blue patterning often have the same shade of blue as Mount Hanang chameleons have on their heads. Males usually are brighter in color than females.

16. Globe-Horned Chameleon

Globe-Horned Chameleon on log.
  • Latin name: Calumma globifer
  • Habitat: Humid forests in southeastern and eastern Madagascar
  • Size: Up to about 15″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: These elegant chameleons often have complex, geometric patterning across their bodies. The exact patterns vary, as do the colors: you can usually find these colorful lizards in shades of green, reddish brown, yellow, black, and white.

The globe-horned chameleon comes in many exciting colors and patterns. It is an endangered species in its native Madagascar, where export of it is not legally permitted. Unfortunately, its population is threatened by deforestation, and its habitat is not quite as legally protected as the species itself.

17. Johnston’s Chameleon

Johnston's Chameleon on stick.
  • Latin name: Trioceros johnstoni
  • Habitat: Areas with trees and/or bushes in Central Africa’s Albertine Rift
  • Size: Usually between 10″ and 15″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects and snails
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons are usually some combination of green, blue, and yellow. Their patterns are usually not especially defined, so they tend to look almost as if they’ve been airbrushed.

The Johnston’s chameleon looks a lot like the Jackson’s chameleon at first glance. And just like the Jackson’s chameleon, males have three horns while females do not have horns. It is possible to keep these chameleons in captivity, but it takes some dedication; they need very high humidity as well as a significant drop in temperature at night.

18. Warty Chameleon

Side view of Warty Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Furcifer verrucosus
  • Habitat: Arid parts of Madagascar, especially the west and south
  • Size: Females are up to 8″ long and males are up to 22″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects
  • Colorful feature: The base color of both males and females is a blotchy gray. However, males usually have some green in their coloring. The one in the picture has especially bright green accents!

You probably have a good idea of what the warty chameleon looks like based on its name. It’s also called the crocodile chameleon or the spiny chameleon. It’s somewhat unique in that it tends to prefer dry areas where land is at least somewhat disturbed. It is more terrestrial than it is arboreal, although it will both burrow into sand and climb around in bushes.

19. Nose-Horned Chameleon

Nose-Horned Chameleon among jungle vegetation.
  • Latin name: Calumma nasutum
  • Habitat: Various habitats throughout eastern Madagascar
  • Size: Males up to 4″ long, females up to 3.7″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These little lizards are usually mottled with green, brown, white, and similar colors. They may not be quite as bright as some species on the list, but their patterning can be very intricate.

You might sometimes hear this chameleon called the “big-nosed chameleon.” That’s because it has a soft protrusion at the end of the snout that looks a lot like a long nose. More recent research has suggested this species is actually a group of several closely related species, so it’s likely that there will be some reclassification in the years to come.

20. Rhinoceros Chameleon

Rhinoceros Chameleon against a black background.
  • Latin name: Furcifer rhinoceratus
  • Habitat: Dry, forested areas of Madagascar
  • Size: Females up to about 6″ long, males up to about 11″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons are usually patterned with gray or light brown. However, as you can see in the picture, some are patterned with bright blue, green, and yellow!

The rhinoceros chameleon looks kind of like the nose-horned chameleon, although its “horn” is more prominent (at least in males). The species is not very common in the wild, but most experts believe that males use their horns to fight one another. It is classified as being vulnerable to extinction, and it is likely that its numbers in the wild are decreasing.

21. Namaqua Chameleon

Namaqua Chameleon on rock.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo namaquensis
  • Habitat: Deserts of Namibia, South Africa, and southern Angola
  • Size: Up to about 10″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects, but they may also eat some small vertebrates
  • Colorful feature: The Namaqua chameleon is usually brown or gray, although some individuals may have bright yellow accents.

This stubby-legged chameleon is one of the relatively few ground-dwelling species on the list. Like many chameleon species, it can use its long and fast-moving tongue to catch prey. However, it may sometimes run down insects and snap them up with its jaws instead. Most species of chameleon have a tail that can be used to aid in climbing. But since the Namaqua chameleon lives on the ground, its tail cannot wrap around branches or be used to help the lizard climb.

22. Mount Lefo Chameleon

Mount Lefo Chameleon sitting on rock.
  • Latin name: Trioceros wiedersheimi
  • Habitat: Montane rainforests in eastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon
  • Size: Up to 8″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Like many different chameleon species, this one has a bright green base color. As you can see in the picture, it often has markings of white and blue.

You might sometimes hear this one called the Wiedersheim’s montane chameleon. Compared to many chameleon species, this one is not too well-known. Not much research has been done on it despite the fact that it was first scientifically described in 1910. Nonetheless, it’s colorful and beautiful, and many adults have a base color of bright emerald green.

23. Senegal Chameleon

A Chameleon (Chamaeleo senegalensis) slowly climbing on a branch.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo senegalensis
  • Habitat: Moist savanna in West Africa
  • Size: Usually between 8″ and 12″ long; males are usually smaller than females
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Most Senegal chameleons are an olive brown color. However, like the lizard in the picture, some have striking patterning on a brighter green base color.

While many chameleon species prefer to live in forests, this one is most at home on the West African savanna. It has one of the widest ranges of any chameleon species on the list, so experts are not totally sure of its population size. There’s a possibility that its numbers may be falling due to collection for the pet trade.

24. Green Chameleon

Close-up of Green Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Furcifer viridis
  • Habitat: Various habitat types throughout northern Madagascar
  • Size: Males up to 11″, females up to 7.5″
  • Diet: Primarily different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Contrary to the name, the female green chameleon is often patterned with blue, pink, and orange. Usually, it has dark green vertical bands. Male green chameleons tend to be mostly green.

The green chameleon is one of the most versatile when it comes to habitat type. It can be found in both hot, dry parts of Madagascar and more humid forests. Interestingly enough, this chameleon was previously considered to be the same species as the carpet chameleon. In 2012, it was designated as a separate species.

25. Two-Banded Chameleon

Two-Banded Chameleon on branch isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Furcifer balteatus
  • Habitat: Rainforests in southeastern Madagascar
  • Size: Up to 18″ long
  • Diet: Mostly various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Most of these chameleons have bands of white across a bright green base color. But as you can see, there’s definite variation in colors and patterning.

Thanks to its two bold white bands, the two-banded chameleon is especially striking. Experts believe it is probably collected for the pet trade. Madagascar has laws banning the export of two-banded chameleons and has since 1994. However, illegal exports are a threat to the population. The two-banded chameleon is currently considered to be an endangered species.

26. Perinet Chameleon

Side view of Perinet Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Calumma gastrotaenia
  • Habitat: Humid forests in eastern and central Madagascar
  • Size: Usually between 6″ and 8″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons are usually a bright yellow-green. They have a stripe running down each side. The stripes are thin and look almost like racing stripes on a car. They are sometimes brownish, but especially colorful chameleons have yellow stripes like the lizard in the picture.

This pretty chameleon is also sometimes called the Malagasy side-striped chameleon. Even though it is not endangered or threatened, Madagascar has completely banned exporting it since 1995. Though it has an eye-catching spiny crest like many species, it has a long, pointed nose that makes it look different from a lot of chameleon species.

27. Usambara Three-Horned Chameleon

Side view of Usambara Three-Horned Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Trioceros deremensis
  • Habitat: Patches of mountain rainforests in some parts of Tanzania
  • Size: Usually between 12″ and 16″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: This chameleon usually has a green base color, although many individuals have polka-dot patterning. The small spots are usually dark in color, but both males and females may have irregular, slightly larger yellow markings as well.

Lots of us picture chameleons as delicate, slow-moving lizards. But the Usambara three-horned chameleon is a reminder that some chameleons can be massive! The three large, sharp-looking horns on the male make it look a little intimidating. However, it is a good pet and is often captured in order to be sold. Export is not currently regulated, although some individuals exported from Tanzania are captive-bred.

28. Rosette-Nosed Chameleon

Side view of Rosette-Nosed Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Rhampholeon spinosus
  • Habitat: Forests in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania
  • Size: Up to about 4″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects
  • Colorful feature: While these smallish chameleons are usually mostly gray in color, many individuals have touches of green and/or turquoise. Their bumpy scales make these interesting patches even more striking!

As the name suggests, this chameleon’s nose has a round, rosette-like protrusion. Like the Usambara three-horned chameleon, it can be found in forests in Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains. But unlike the three-horned variety, this one is considered to be an endangered species. It’s a very proficient hunter; research has indicated that its sticky tongue accelerates at 2,590 meters per second when reaching toward an insect.

29. Lesser Chameleon

Side view of Lesser Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Furcifer minor
  • Habitat: Dry forests in Madagascar
  • Size: Males up to 9.5″ long; females up to 6.3″ long
  • Diet: Mostly various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: The lesser chameleon is highly unusual in that females are more colorful than males. When resting, females usually have greenish and yellow bands. When they are gravid (carrying eggs), females have yellow and dark green bands. They usually have red markings on the lower jaw and bluish spots on either side of the chest. Males look almost like a different species; they are usually brownish black with a very prominent, horn-like appendage on the nose.

This interesting, smallish chameleon is another of the endangered species found in Madagascar. Its population is threatened by both habitat loss and collection for the pet trade. Logging and mining of quartz and tourmaline have led to significant habitat destruction. Export of the chameleons has been banned since 1994, but some of them are still illegally collected and sold.

30. Common Chameleon

Closeup of common chameleon.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo chamaeleon
  • Habitat: The Mediterranean Basin and land surrounding the Red Sea
  • Size: Usually between 8″ and 16″ long; females are usually longer than males
  • Diet: Mostly different types of insects, although they will sometimes eat fruit
  • Colorful feature: These chameleons are one of the many species that vary substantially when it comes to coloration. They can range from yellow to brown to green to gray. As you can see in the photo, sometimes they have intricate patterns made of multiple colors.

This chameleon is also sometimes called the Mediterranean chameleon. Notably, it is the only existing chameleon species whose natural range includes parts of Europe. It is also one of the species that doesn’t change color in order to camouflage. Rather, it changes color in response to temperature and light (to absorb more or less sunlight) and in order to communicate with other members of the species.

31. Cryptic Chameleon

Cryptic Chameleon at night.
  • Latin name: Calumma crypticum
  • Habitat: Humid forests in eastern Madagascar
  • Size: Up to about 5″ long
  • Diet: Primarily different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This is one of the chameleons that can vary substantially in coloration depending on both internal and external factors. It is often called the blue-legged chameleon due to the bluish spots usually seen on its legs. Different individuals may be reddish brown, green, blue, or a combination of those colors.

Though male and female cryptic chameleons don’t vary too much in terms of color, males have a very noticeable horn-like protrusion on the nose. As is the case with many chameleon species in Madagascar, this one faces habitat destruction due to agriculture. However, it is common and widespread enough that its population seems to be stable, so it is not considered to be threatened, vulnerable, or endangered.

32. Jewelled Chameleon

Adult Jewelled Chameleon standing on branch against Black Background
  • Latin name: Furcifer campani
  • Habitat: Some mountainous areas of central Madagascar; it prefers grasses and heathlands to forests
  • Size: Up to about 5.5″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects
  • Colorful feature: The jewelled chameleon certainly lives up to its name. Its base color is usually green or brown with the sides marked by pale stripes. In between the stripes are many small, jewel-like spots of color. You may sometimes see red spots on the head as well.

The jewelled chameleon is part of the Furcifer genus, arguably the most colorful genus of chameleons (it includes the panther chameleon). The placement and coloration of its “jewels” vary widely between individuals, so each one is like a small work of art. It was once heavily exported for the pet trade; in 1994, more than 5,000 jewelled chameleons were exported from Madagascar. Exports have been banned since 1994, but habitat destruction remains a major threat. The jewelled chameleon is currently classified as being vulnerable to extinction.

33. O’Shaughnessy’s Chameleon

O'Shaughnessy's Chameleon isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Calumma oshaughnessyi
  • Habitat: Humid forests in Madagascar’s central highlands
  • Size: Up to about 15.5″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: These pretty, relatively large chameleons are an interesting mix of color. They are usually bright green with grayish heads. However, their lower jaws are usually turquoise, with the skin around the eye being bright green.

As we’ve seen, many chameleon species are named after people. This one was named for Arthur O’Shaughnessy, an interesting character who was both a herpetologist and a poet. Like many species in Madagascar, O’Shaughnessy’s chameleon is threatened by habitat loss. Compared to other species, it is not collected for the pet trade as often. It is currently classified as being vulnerable to extinction.

34. Yellow-Crested Jackson’s Chameleon

Yellow-Crested Jackson's Chameleon on branch.
  • Latin name: Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus
  • Habitat: Forested areas of eastern Africa; it is also an invasive species in Florida and Hawaii
  • Size: Males are up to 15″ long; females are up to 10″ long
  • Diet: Primarily different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: As the name suggests, this highly distinctive chameleon has a noticeable spiky, yellow crest down the back. This bright accent goes well with the bright green color of most males.

Lots of chameleon species can be divided into subspecies. But few have subspecies that look as different as those of the Jackson’s chameleon. This one, the yellow-crested Jackson’s chameleon, is probably the most adaptable species. Though it does well in its native eastern Africa, it has also been highly successful as an introduced species in Hawaii and Florida!

35. Spiny-Flanked Chameleon

Spiny-Flanked Chameleon isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros laterispinis
  • Habitat: Forests in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania
  • Size: Up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This stunning chameleon looks a whole lot different from most other chameleon species. Many individuals look a lot like the one in the picture, as they are patterned in black and white. They have very spiky sides and crests. That, along with their distinctive coloring, allows them to blend in with their lichen-rich surroundings.

The strange yet oddly charming spiny-flanked chameleon is one of the rarest species in captivity. Some of that is due to the fact that it is an endangered species in the wild. Experts haven’t been able to determine an exact population, but its numbers are likely declining thanks to habitat destruction for agriculture.

36. Setaro’s Dwarf Chameleon

Setaro's Dwarf Chameleon isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Bradypodion setaroi
  • Habitat: Dune forests along coastland in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Size: Up to about 3.9″ long
  • Diet: Various insect species
  • Colorful feature: These little chameleons have subtle yet intricate patterning. They are usually greenish-brown with a few patches of orange and bluish-gray along the sides. Of course, the exact coloration varies by individual.

This little lizard is one of the smallest dwarf chameleons. Though its native range is small, it adapts well and can thrive in gardens if it is not preyed upon by domestic cats. This species is not often targeted for the pet trade, and it is not as threatened by habitat loss to the extent that many other species are. As a result, it is currently not threatened or near threatened.

37. Fischer’s Chameleon

Fischer's Chameleon islolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Kinyongia fischeri
  • Habitat: Forests in the Nguru and Nguu Mountains in Tanzania
  • Size: Between 9″ and 11″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: The Fischer’s chameleon is an especially lovely species with a base color of bright green. It is often marked with irregular spots and lines of white and sometimes blue.

You may have seen Fischer’s chameleons offered for sale by breeders. However, these are almost always other members of the Kinyongia genus. Once the Fischer’s chameleon was determined to be a distinct species, experts discovered it was much rarer than previously thought. It’s also virtually never found in captivity, as only three Fischer’s chameleons are known to have actually been brought into captivity.

38. Crested Chameleon

Crested Chameleon against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros cristatus
  • Habitat: Forested areas in Africa, especially in Equatorial Guinea, Bioko, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, the Gabonese Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo
  • Size: Males are up to 9.8″ long; females are up to 11″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This distinctive chameleon is often green, orange, or a mixture of the two. When puffed out, the throat often has orange lines. The head also is usually marked with various patches of blue. Males tend to be more orange or brown, while females tend to be more green.

The spiny, sail-like crest of this chameleon makes it look like a small dinosaur. It is somewhat rare in captivity, largely because it is extremely difficult to keep healthy even for experienced reptile keepers. Notably, the females tend to be both larger and more aggressive than the males, who are relatively timid by comparison. In the wild, the crested chameleon is not considered to be vulnerable or otherwise at risk.

39. Strange-Horned Chameleon

Side view of strange-Horned Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Kinyongia xenorhina
  • Habitat: Rainforests in the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda and the Congo
  • Size: Up to 11″ long
  • Diet: Various insect species
  • Colorful feature: Usually, males are more green and females are more brown. But the female in the picture is especially bright with eye-catching hints of purple, blue, and yellow.

The Kinyongia genus includes some odd-looking chameleons, and the strange-horned chameleon is certainly one of them. You might hear it called the Rwenzori plate-nosed chameleon or the single welded-horn chameleon. The horn is more prominent on males of the species. Currently, this species is classified as being near threatened. Large portions of its habitat have been destroyed, and while it isn’t often found in captivity, its numbers may be in decline due to collection for the exotic pet trade.

40. Helmeted Chameleon

Helmeted Chameleon isolated on black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros hoehnelii
  • Habitat: Forested areas of Kenya and Uganda
  • Size: Up to 10″ long
  • Diet: Many types of insects and spiders
  • Colorful feature: This interesting species is often made up of various shades of green. Dominant males in particular are especially bright, and they often display complex mottling over their somewhat bumpy scales.

This species has a noticeable, beard-like line of spikes along the bottom of its lower jaw. It has an unusual mating ritual, as males and females form pair bonds while the female is pregnant. After she gives birth to live young, the pairs will usually split up. You might hear the helmeted chameleon called by a few different names: it is also called the von Höhnel’s chameleon or the high-casqued chameleon. The “high-casqued” refers to the large bony crest seen at the top of the head.

41. Cameroon Sailfin Chameleon

Cameroon Sailfin Chameleon isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Trioceros montium
  • Habitat: Rainforests in the highlands around Mount Cameroon; sometimes in gardens or on small farms
  • Size: Females are up to 8″ long; males are up to 10″ long
  • Diet: Many types of insects
  • Colorful feature: Males and females are both usually bright green, sometimes with mottling or irregular banding. When males display for females, they often look bluish. Sometimes they have white spotting on the head like the lizard in the picture.

As you can tell from the name, this is another chameleon with a striking crest along the back. It’s also known as the Cameroon two-horned mountain chameleon. And between its long horns and prominent crest, it’s one of the most distinctive species on the list. While it was once very commonly exported, it is now rarely found in captivity.

42. Peters’ Flap-Necked Chameleon

Side view of Peters' Flap-Necked Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo dilepis petersii
  • Habitat: Forests, savannas, grasslands, and even some suburban areas in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Size: Up to 14″ long
  • Diet: Various species of insects, although larger individuals may eat smaller vertebrates
  • Colorful feature: This chameleon has an extensive range of colors. It comes in yellow, brown, green, and combinations of those colors. The lizard in the photo is an especially colorful example!

Though this species may not be quite as well-known as some other species on the list, the flap-necked chameleon is the third most sold chameleon species. It does very well as a pet and is relatively easy to care for compared to many other varieties on the list. It’s also somewhat long-lived, as it can survive 5-8 years in captivity with good care.

43. Dwarf Jackson’s Chameleon

Side view of Dwarf Jackson's Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Trioceros jacksonii merumontanus
  • Habitat: Forested areas of Mt. Meru in Tanzania
  • Size: Up to about 7″ to 8″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: This smallish chameleon is usually very bright in color. Males are usually bluish-green. Females like the one in the picture, are more of a pale grayish color with hints of orange, green, yellow, and blue.

It’s somewhat unusual to have only one subspecies of a given chameleon species be a dwarf variety. But the dwarf Jackson’s chameleon often looks different from the standard variety. Thanks to its small size, it’s a great pet if you have a smaller setup or just prefer keeping a smaller lizard. Males and females are very easy to tell apart, as males have three horns and females have one. 

44. African Chameleon

African Chameleon perched on twig.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo africanus
  • Habitat: Dry savanna in the Sahel and Nile Valley in Africa; there is also a thriving introduced population in Greece
  • Size: Around 13″ long on average, though it can grow to 18″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects, although it also eats small birds and insects
  • Colorful feature: This stunning chameleon is a colorful palette of bright yellow, dark green, and light green. The yellow markings usually form a sort of dotted line down the side.

This interesting chameleon is one of the relatively few species that live in dry areas. It has a slender, athletic body with proportionally long limbs. Though it lives in savannas, it is still a decent climber that prefers to sit on low branches, reeds, and shrubs. Despite its streamlined body, it is a very slow-moving species.

45. Cape Dwarf Chameleon

Side view of Cape Dwarf Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Bradypodion pumilum
  • Habitat: Many different habitat types in the area immediately around Cape Town, Africa
  • Size: Around 6″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects and various other arthropods
  • Colorful feature: This smallish chameleon is among the most colorful on the list. Its base color is usually green, and it has intricate side markings of orange, blue, yellow, and tan.

With the sheer brilliance of their colors, you would think that these chameleons would be common in captivity. They are rarely kept as pets, though you can purchase one with a permit from South Africa’s government. Though they are not the most human-oriented of the chameleons, consistent handling can sometimes tame them. However, it’s best to only obtain one if you have experience with other chameleons, as maintaining the right temperature, humidity, level of UV light, and diet is often demanding.

46. Bearded Pygmy Chameleon

Side view of a Bearded leaf chameleon isolated on white
  • Latin name: Rieppeleon brevicaudatus
  • Habitat: Forested areas in northeastern Tanzania’s Usambara and Uluguru Mountains
  • Size: Around 3″ long
  • Diet: Various types of insects
  • Colorful feature: In order to camouflage, regulate light absorption, and communicate with other chameleons, this species can change color in a number of ways. It’s not unusual to see bearded pygmy chameleons in shades of green, yellow, orange, gray, and brown.

This little creature, also known as the bearded leaf chameleon, is especially adept at camouflage. Like many other species, it is capable of changing its color to blend into the background. But it has an even more impressive means of camouflage: by flattening its body and darkening a horizontal stripe, it is able to look remarkably like a dead leaf. This small chameleon is not usually found in captivity, and experts don’t currently believe its population is under threat.

47. Veiled Chameleon

Side view of Veiled Chameleon.
  • Latin name: Chamaeleo calyptratus
  • Habitat: Areas with large plants and trees on the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia and Yemen
  • Size: Males grow to about 17″ to 24″ long; females grow to about 14″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects, although they will also eat plant matter.
  • Colorful feature: These beautiful lizards usually have a base color of green or blue green. They also have bold yellow bands and other markings that often extend up the large casque on the head. Veiled chameleons will drastically change color to communicate.

The veiled chameleon, also called the Yemen chameleon or the cone-headed chameleon, is the most popular species sold in the pet trade. Though proper care is still important, it is hardier than many species and can tolerate less than ideal conditions. They are somewhat long-lived as pets; females usually live about five years and males usually live about eight years.

48. Malthe’s Green-Eared Chameleon

Malthe's Green-Eared Chameleon on tree trunk.
  • Latin name: Calumma malthe
  • Habitat: Rainforests in northeast Madagascar
  • Size: Males up to about 15.7″ long; females up to about 11″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: These beautiful, unusual chameleons are often grayish brown with hints of green. During mating season, females have some blue markings.

These interesting lizards are one of the many species where males have a very large, spiky protrusion on the nose. They are not often kept in captivity, partially because it is hard to accurately mimic the high humidity of their natural habitat.

49. Side-Striped Chameleon

Side-Striped Chameleon on stick.
  • Latin name: Trioceros ellioti
  • Habitat: Forested areas of eastern Africa
  • Size: Up to about 9″ long
  • Diet: Primarily insects
  • Colorful feature: These beautiful chameleons have a huge range of colors ranging from brownish orange to bright green. As the name suggests, they have a stripe (and sometimes additional markings) going along each side.

This interesting lizard is also called Elliot’s groove-throated chameleon or the montane side-striped chameleon. It is a great pet because it is relatively mellow and does not like to move a whole lot, so it’s comfortable even in smaller enclosures.

50. Wills’s Chameleon

Canopy Wills chameleon, sitting on the branch in forest habitat.
  • Latin name: Furcifer willsii
  • Habitat: Forests in central Madagascar, northern Madagascar, and central northeast Madagascar
  • Size: Usually from 6″ long to 6.7″ long
  • Diet: Primarily different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These lovely lizards are usually some shade of bright green, although the exact coloration varies. The green base color is usually interrupted by bright white lines.

This bright creature, also called the canopy chameleon, was once reported in large numbers from Madagascar. However, as is the case with many Madagascan chameleon species, exporting it was banned in the early 1990s.

51. Carpet Chameleon

Side view of carpet chameleon.
  • Latin name: Furcifer lateralis
  • Habitat: Forested parts of central Madagascar
  • Size: Usually between 6.7″ and 9.8″
  • Diet: Mostly different types of insects
  • Colorful feature: These magnificent chameleons are a mosaic of different colors: orange, blue, green, black, yellow, red, and more. Some are brighter and more intricately patterned than others.

These smallish, colorful chameleons are somewhat shy in nature. But if you like colorful creatures, you might be wondering whether you can keep one as a pet. They are fairly common, although it’s best to wait until you have at least an intermediate level of reptile experience before you take care of one. They are unfortunately short-lived and often only survive a few years.

Nature’s Brightly Colored Chameleons

While you can find some of these brilliant chameleon species in pet stores, many more can only be seen in their natural habitats. Whether you find one in nature, spot a chameleon in a zoo or pet store, or even welcome one as a new family member, we hope these special lizards will add some color to your world!