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Montane side-striped chameleon
- Trioceros ellioti

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The Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti) has a soft personality. Although no chameleon should be considered a pet to be kept and interacted with, this chameleon isn't as over the top as some of its bigger cousins.
Montane side-striped chameleon
Montane side-striped chameleon – Uganda – Benjamin Klingebiel, CC BY-SA 2.0 OF, via Wikimedia Commons


Origin / Distribution

The Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti) is a small chameleon that lives in East African countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan and Burundi.

It has many common names, as Side-striped chameleon, Elliot’s groove-throated chameleon or Montane side-striped chameleon. But, these common names are rarely used and, when they are used, they are not very consistent. The Trioceros ellioti is one of those chameleons whose scientific name is the best known.

Characteristics / Appearance

The Trioceros ellioti usually reaches an age of 1 to 2 years in nature. But, In captivity they can live up to 4 years. In these animals, the transition to ovoviviparity stands out., that allows them to reproduce even in the coldest areas of high mountains.

Its helmet is slightly pronounced and there are evenly serrated ridges on its back., belly and throat. The rest of the body has a rather irregular scale. The females of this species reach a total length of 22 cm.. Males are still somewhat smaller, with a maximum of 17 cm..

A definite distinguishing feature of the sex is the thickened tail root, very pronounced in males and completely absent in females. The great heterogeneous range and the extreme altitude amplitude are also reflected in the color variability. Like this, depending on the population, the color spectrum of the males is just as diverse as that of the Carpet chameleon (Furcifer lateralis) and usually shows high proportions of blue and yellow. Females are usually less conspicuous and appear exclusively in shades of brown., gray or green. The white or brown lateral stripe is common to all animals., that runs along the entire flank. Due to its close relationship with the Trioceros bitaeniatus, is often confused with the latter. But, can be easily distinguished from Trioceros bitaeniatus by its 2-3 longitudinal black stripes on the interstitial skin of the throat sac.


It is a very adaptable species of chameleon, found at altitudes of 600-3000 m above sea level. They prefer savannah landscapes with low bushes and tall grasses., as well as the edges of the forests and, in some cases, farmland and gardens. They must have reached the latter through human introduction, daytime temperatures typically range from 25 and 27 °C and drop to 16-18 °C at night, and even up to 10 °C at higher altitude. The relative humidity is 60-80%, with an average precipitation of 1.000 mm per year.


Montane side-striped chameleon
Chamaeleo ellioti – Carsten Kopschutz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti) it is ovoviviparous. The females of this species give birth to 2 to 14 pups up to four times a year. This usually happens in the early hours of the morning, whereby the fully grown hatchlings are simply deposited in a clear eggshell on the grass. just a few minutes later, the hatchlings break free of this skin. Due to the ability to store sperm in the seminal receptacle, females can produce multiple clutches with a single mating. But, they are ready to mate again 14 days after birth.

The young reach sexual maturity after about six to nine months and the gestation period is 100 to 160 days. For the mating act itself, he approaches the female. After a brief orientation, the male should approach the female with head movements. If the female is not ready to mate, will display warning coloration and will bite or attempt to escape if male approaches closer. Otherwise, does nothing and mating occurs when the male climbs sideways onto the female and tries to bring both cloacal openings over each other. Copulation itself lasts a few 15 minutes.

Threats to the species

State of conservation ⓘ

Status Minor Concern ⓘ (UICN)ⓘ

This species has a wide distribution and seems to have the ability to adapt to a certain degradation of its natural habitat., as it also occurs in agricultural and semi-urban areas. It has therefore been classified as a “species under least concern” by the UICN.

How it is being captured for the wildlife trade,1the species has been included in the Appendix II of CITES to limit its effects

The "Montane side-striped chameleon" in captivity

The Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti) has a soft personality. Although no chameleon should be considered a pet to be kept and interacted with, this chameleon isn't as over the top as some of its bigger cousins. Usually, they are not aggressive towards each other, although there are reports of sudden violent responses in the interaction between chameleons.

Like all chameleons, the ideal situation is one chameleon per terrarium. Although breeders can keep two females in one terrarium if they are kept together, be careful not to let this give you a false sense of security. When this species behaves, he does it in a very strong way that is potentially dangerous to his cage mates.

The pups seem to be calm with each other, but it is better to separate them as soon as possible. This species grows rapidly, so they are not “Babies” for a long time.

Currently, the Montane side-striped chameleon is available both in the wild and captive-born. Captive-born are ALWAYS the best option and deserve the extra money. These pups are raised with the best nutrition and are raised between humans and cages to acclimate to captive conditions.. If you are familiar with acclimatizing wild-caught chameleons and want to breed them to introduce a new bloodline, then you know what you're getting into by buying wild-caught animals. But if you want to get one of these chameleons for the pleasure of keeping it, then avoid the challenge of acclimatization and get one born in captivity.

If you buy a female caught in the wild or any female that has been kept with the males once it is from 4-6 months of age you are likely to have a female who will give birth to live babies. The timing of this is unknown and one morning you may come across babies crawling around the cage. The females will store the sperm and produce multiple sets of babies from a mating., so being away from a male for a year doesn't save you from this. It is a very good idea to be prepared for babies unless you are sure you have a captive-born female who has never been in a cage with a male.. after 3 to 4 months of age.

The terrarium

Terrarium Size: 36 x 24 x 18 inches. Tough screen lid provides ventilation and allows UVB and infrared penetration.

terrarium size: The Montane side-striped chameleon is a small chameleon with little need for movement. So, can be accommodated in small terrariums. The absolute minimum size of the terrarium for a copy is 40 x 40 x 50 cm.. But this is for experienced caregivers and breeders who know how to create the necessary conditions of a terrarium in small spaces. If you are going to buy a chameleon to enjoy it, then don't settle for the minimum. The size of the terrarium of 45 x 45 x 90 cm., easy to get, gives a little more space. But if you want to maximize your enjoyment and comfort of your chameleons, get a terrarium of 60 x 60 x 120 cm o 90 x 45 x 90 cm.. Your little chameleon will be happy in that amount of space.

Consider it from this perspective. When you get a minimum size terrarium, you place the branches, plants and lights very strategically because you only have one chance to create the minimum gradients and microclimates necessary for the chameleon's healthy life. When you get a terrarium that gives you extra space you start looking at the cage artistically.. You place plants and branches where they look best. Of course, you have the needs of the chameleon in mind when you do this, but now you have the luxury of meeting these needs with an artistic approach that is pleasing to the human eye. This can create a piece of nature that is much more pleasant, soothing and beautiful than is possible with the condition of a terrarium of minimum dimensions.

Y, finally, with a small space, you are responsible for creating the proper temperature gradients with light bulbs that are designed to terrariums bigger. This means it's very easy to provide more heat or UVB than is healthy simply because the small space was quickly energized and there is physically less room to escape heat or UVB..

Type of terrarium: You can use mesh terrariums, hybrids or glass terrariums. The terrarium should be chosen based on the help you need to achieve the environmental goals of temperature and humidity.

Ambient temperature

The Elliot's chameleons thrive in the typical mountainous environment, daytime temperatures are usually between 25 and 27 °C y caen a 16-18 °C at night, and even a 10 °C at higher altitudes. It may seem to us that they survive well in a different environment, but temperatures very different from those of their natural environment will end up affecting them. It will be a constant and cumulative physical stress on the body and will result in a compromised immune system. This allows opportunistic infectious agents to gain a foothold.

Resting temperature

A low night temperature is a requirement for a Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti) healthy. But your chameleon will need to warm up in the morning to start the day off right.. In the wild, chameleons watch the sunrise and bask until their body temperature is sufficient for optimal hunting, digestion and general function.

In captivity, We give them this heating through a sunlight bulb which is usually an incandescent or halogen bulb that shines on their sunlight branch..

Care must be taken when placing this bulb, since it is very easy to burn the chameleon. Chameleons don't seem to have a keen sense of when they're burning. They know when they need to warm up, but they have not developed a mechanism to measure the concept of “too hot”. There is nothing in nature that encourages the development of this ability. So chameleons get overheated or even burnt. We have to be very careful to protect them from this possibility.. This is why we encourage the tanning bulbs to be mounted on top of the terrarium rather than on top of it.. The closer to the bulb, more temperature difference can be in a centimeter. The ideal scenario is to have a higher wattage bulb further away. This produces a wider heated area and “smoother” that has no risk of burns.

Regarding the solar temperature, these chameleons seem to like basking temperatures in the range of 30 Celsius degrees. This is slightly taller than other known montane chameleons, but still ok within reasonable limits. But the exact temperature is not so important. It is more important that you set it up so that you feel a soft, warm warmth on the back of your hand when you place it on top of your chameleon's head when it is sunning itself.. Its main goal is to set a safe temperature to start with and then it will adjust the distance from the bulb based on your chameleon's behavior. If your chameleon displays the following behaviors, you can consider the possibility of providing a solar temperature for a longer time or, With precaution, a higher solar temperature.

  • Hanging from the top panel of the screen under the light bulb.
  • Staying dark and lethargic. After sunbathing, they should take rest colors.

  • The problem with relying on behaviors as a cue to ward off the lightbulb is that it's usually physical harm to the body., like burnt gray areas, open wounds and fused spines. And it is worrying how long this type of situation lasts before the caregiver realizes what is happening. This means that the chameleon will be sunbathing even if it is too hot.. Also keep in mind when reading your chameleon's behavior that each chameleon will be slightly different. Learn about your chameleon's behaviors so you can verify that they are following standard chameleon behaviors.


    The elliot's chameleons experience high humidity nights and medium to low humidity days. A night humidity of between 75% and the 100% and a descent to 30-50% during the day will allow them to carry out their natural humidity cycle. Exact figures are not critical. There are two important aspects.

      1) During times of high humidity, keep the air moving. Terrariums are often modified to close off the sides to prevent airflow so that a mist can increase humidity. In this case, have a ceiling or computer fan mounted on top of the terrarium to make sure the “fog bank” Circulate. stagnant air, no matter how wet, it is not healthy.

      2) All surfaces must be dry during the day. Even if the humidity is higher than the indicated figures, if the surfaces are dry there should be no health problems. When the surfaces, like the branches that the chameleon climbs, are constantly wet, the paws become full of sores and bacteria, fungus and mold take hold.


    The Montane side-striped chameleon they accept the standard bright light that we put in our chameleon terrariums. A four times the width of its cage high output T5 fixture with four 6500K fluorescent bulbs will nicely illuminate a terrarium of 15 height cm. A cycle is used 12 power on hours and 12 off hours. Kenya is near the equator, so this cycle 12 power on hours and 12 off hours do not have to change throughout the year.

    Your chameleon will need light inside its terrarium. The biggest deficiency of a terrarium, besides not having a hiding place, is the lack of light, because when you look at the terrarium, the chameleon seems to be in a cave with a skylight. A luminous terrarium will allow plants to grow and their environment to be vibrant.

    Natural sunlight through a window is great, but dangerous. Sunlight tends to be too strong and could overheat your chameleon. Be careful in sunlight. Definitely, give your chameleons natural sunlight whenever possible, but the sun can cook your chameleon quickly, especially a small one like him Montane side-striped chameleon. Well-planted outdoor greenhouses and constant supervision are recipes for success.


    Out of natural unfiltered sunlight, the most efficient and reliable way to produce UVB for your chameleon is with high output T5 linear fluorescent tubes. These bulbs can go in a multi-bulb fixture, but they are more effective in a single bulb reflector. I highly recommend using a single bulb reflector for your UVB source, as it gives you not only the full power of the bulb (your UVB is absorbed by other bulbs), but it gives you full control over the UVB force that reaches the sunbathing zone based on the height of raising the appliance above the cage.

    Currently, a good goal is a UV index of 2-3 in the sunlight branch with a maximum of UVI of 6 to allow sufficient synthesis of vitamin D3. This is usually what can be generated using an accessory T5 HO Arcadia ProT5 with 6% of UVB or Zoomed Reptisun 5.0 on a single bulb reflector on a sunning branch 6″ inches of light going through a standard screen cage top panel. All of these numbers are general estimates., as each reflector has its own reflective properties and each bulb will have a different strength depending on age. Fortunately, this does not have to be an exact value. An approximate value is fine. If you are using a Reptisun T8 10.0 in a single bulb installation, the sunning branch must be at 8 cm below the bulb running through the top of the cage screen. Ideally,, regardless of the bulb you use, can lift it from the upper surface of the terrarium. UVB bulbs produce very high UVB radiation in the first few centimeters in front of the bulb. You can continue to use the given distances of the bulb with the bulbs raised two or three inches above the top of the cage. This reduces the maximum level of UVB that enters the cage and your chameleon is exposed to. Although we have not been able to measure what damage occurs at what levels of UVB, it's safe to expect there to be a point where the high UVB from the lamp can cause problems. They may not be human, but chameleons have living cells, and living cells are damaged by UVB.

    Just a note, UVB meters are expensive equipment, but they are a valuable tool in setting up your chameleon's environment. if you can get one, ¡hazlo! get the model Solarmeter 6.5.

    Set the lighting and hydration schedule

    When we set our daily schedule, we try to reproduce the wild conditions to which the chameleon has become accustomed. let's start at midnight.

    At midnight, the chameleon has slept for many hours. It's dark and, though the moon waxes and wanes, chameleons will look for dark places to sleep. They see light of all colors well and any light can disturb their rest.

    As the morning progresses, humidity increases. Fog banks may begin to form and the chameleon breathes moist air. This high humidity forms an important part of your natural hydration.. To simulate this, we turn on ultrasonic humidifiers around the 1:30AM. Fog from humidifiers tends to bounce off surfaces and exit the cage, so we operate the misting system for a couple of minutes to cover the cage with a layer of water. This helps make the fogger more effective and the mist tends to stay. The nebulizer goes from 1:30 to 6:00 in a pattern of 30 minutes of ignition and 30 minutes off. This is to protect against excess mist.. This is wise when you have closed off three or more sides of your terrarium to retain moisture.. If you have a full screen terrarium, you can leave it on all the time. All this is done so that the chameleon can breathe moisture. Right before the lights come on, the nebulizers are operated for a couple more minutes to ensure that when the chameleon wakes up it encounters surfaces covered with “dew”. This is a natural source of water for them, even in its dry season. Once the dew has settled, lights can be turned on.

    Around the 7 in the morning the lights of the day turn on. This may include UVB light if they are the same fixture. If it is separate installations, no need to turn on the UVB light to match the sleep bulb on. It's okay to leave daylight bulbs on for 15 or 30 minutes to give the chameleon a chance to calmly lick whatever spray it wants. Next, I turn on the sunlight bulb to warm them up.

    As the ambient temperature begins to warm, the sunlight lamp is no longer necessary and it turns off. The actual length of time the tanning lamp is on will depend on your chameleon's needs. Observe their behavior. If the chameleon routinely gets the heat it needs in 30 minutes and then walks away with the happy colors to hunt, then reduce the time in the sun to that time in which you make use of the heat. If they need the heat for a longer time, leave the bulb on for longer or consider slightly increasing the temperature. Watch your chameleon and he will tell you what he needs. With a mesh terrarium there is usually no problem leaving it on during the day, but if daytime temperatures start to get too hot for your comfort, you can turn off the heating lamp.

    at some point of the day (can be the 3 in the afternoon) start the dropper. This is a reserve hydration strategy to make sure they have enough water. While it is true that they do not have drippers every day in nature during the dry season, they also do not need to reconstitute dry calcium powder in all their feeders. The advantage of using a dropper is that it is completely optional for them and, as advantage, it also allows you the opportunity to ensure that your plants receive water. Place it on a different plant each day and, over week, all plants will receive water. The time the dripper is started is not critical. It may be in the late afternoon so that the chameleon can rehydrate before the night's rest.. It is a good rule to start the dropper an hour or more after feeding them so that they can replenish what they need.. In the wild, your food is an important source of hydration. We spoil it a bit with the food we provide them and a dropper is a way to compensate for that.. Ideally, the chameleon will have obtained sufficient hydration from the humid night air, morning dew and food. I consider it a hit when the chameleon ignores the dropper and an early warning sign when he drinks from the dropper.

    Once the chameleon settles down and goes to sleep it is good to maintain a couple of minutes of misting just to establish the humidity for the night.

    You will notice that there are no daytime mists. Although this is common in chameleon breeding. Chameleons have been consistent in their communication that they don't like to be sprayed. You do not have to decide that I know what is best for them and you have to start listening to them. the night fog, morning dew and evening dropper provide necessary hydration naturally. With them there is no need to force them to shower in the middle of the day.

    Food and supplements

    Feeding of the Montane side-striped chameleon (Trioceros ellioti)

    The Montane side-striped chameleon not a picky eater. Will eat the insects that we feed standard for chameleons. Flying insects are highly prized. An interesting feature is that it seems to prefer smaller than normal food.. Usually, when determining the proper feeder size for a chameleon, we choose a size of the length equivalent to the width between the eyes. And then the chameleon often surprises us and gobbles up something bigger. The Montane side-striped chameleon, on the other hand, seems to prefer smaller foods than we would normally give him. It is important to pay attention to the sizes of food that each chameleon prefers. they are the experts. Try different sizes and your chameleon will quickly let you know what he prefers. But don't worry if your adult goes after a fruit fly.. This is a characteristic of the species.

    The Montane side-striped chameleon it is insectivorous. You can feed them anything that moves and fits in their mouth. It is not necessary to provide fruits or vegetables to this species.

    As with the care of any of our chameleon species, we want the insects we feed to be as nutritious as possible. Unfortunately, our knowledge of nutrition from insects to chameleons is in its infancy, so we do not know what the diet of wild insects gives chameleons or, even what nutrients in what we feed our feeders gives chameleons. There are reports that insects exposed to UVB rays produce vitamin D3. Then, do chameleons really get any dietary D3 in the wild? There is a lot of speculation and little firmness. So, we feed these insects with the greatest possible variety of food and with the greatest variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, etc., What can we find. A healthy, well-fed cricket is supposed to be nutritionally superior to one that has eaten little..

    We also dust the feeders with mineral/vitamin powder to provide the chameleon with calcium.. We call this supplementation.

    Supplementation is one of the less defined aspects of chameleon husbandry. We literally don't know what they need. we are guessing. The best thing we can do is try to get as close as possible to their natural processes and try regimes..

    There will be a number of approaches that work. The background test is whether it produces a healthy, long-lived chameleon. If you do, is valid.

    It is assumed that the Montane side-striped chameleon has the typical sensitivity “Mountain” to overfeeding. Although we are not seeing that cases of edema are known.


    In the news, we see that the Trioceros ellioti behaves well when regularly supplemented with calcium and bee pollen. Monthly vitamin supplementation has been included, although currently you have to check the pros and cons of including vitamin A made in this monthly dose. Mineral supplements are being recommended, as it has been tested, but it is being evaluated Arcadia RevitaliseD3 for their equivalent levels of D3 and the addition of small amounts of vitamin A. We are depending on UVB for our D3.

    Reproduction of the “Montane side-striped chameleon”

    The Montane side-striped chameleon is a life-carrying species and, since the mother incubates the eggs, it is quite easy to breed. In fact, if your mature female has had contact with a male in the past two years, may have offspring, whether you like them or not.

    As exciting as it sounds, having chameleon pups can be heartbreaking if you're not prepared. If you have a female who had any chance of having contact with a male, then at least read about caring for chameleon offspring.

    The actual breeding process is standard. The female moves to the male's cage. If she is receptive, will allow you to mount it. If you are not receptive, will be speechless, will sway menacingly and show dappled colors. It is highly recommended to monitor the situation.

    Gestation is three to four months and then they can be born up to 22 pups, depending on the size of the female.

    For sale “Montane side-striped chameleon”

    The price of a "Montane side-striped chameleon" at the exotic animal market, ranges between 60 – 120 EUR.

    Videos "Montane side-striped chameleon"

    Trioceros ellioti

    Alternative names:

    1. Montane side-striped chameleon, Elliot’s groove-throated chameleon, Mountain Dwarf Chameleon (English).
    2. Caméléon d'Elliot (French).
    3. Elliot's Chamäleon, Chamaeleo ellioti (German).
    4. Camaleão-de-Elliot, Camaleão listrado de montanha, Camaleão de garganta estriada de Elliot (Portuguese).
    5. "Camaleón de Elliot", Camaleón de montaña de ellioti (español).

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