Gono pair (

A pair of chameleon forest dragons

The Chameleon Forest Dragon (Gonocephalus chamaeleontinus) is an arboreal agamid native to the rainforests of Indonesia. It is uncommon in the pet trade but shows amazing colors and can take on a docile temperament when fully acclimated.

Natural HistoryEdit

Little is known about this lizard. It does not grow to a large length like some arboreal lizards such as iguanas. It has a distinctive crest and dewlap, and its eyes are surrounded by a ring of bright blue.

These tree dragons originate from the Indonesian islands such as Java. In the wild, they are always found near running water. They have been observed to sit on a perch for several days at a time. The species was originally described in 1825 by Joseph Nicolas Laurenti.


Few people have kept the chameleon forest dragon, but with the right budget and a bit of planning it can be done. The effort is certainly worth it for such a magnificent lizard.


Unfortunately, almost all chameleon forest dragons in the pet trade are wild caught. These specimens can be quite flighty and can also carry parasites. Only a few breeders in Europe have ever managed to successfully breed these lizards for actual selling purposes.


Gono vertical
Chameleon forest dragons require a complex and expensive vivarium setup to thrive, but it is a healthy challenge to build.

As these lizards are arboreal, a tall cage must be selected. Many keepers have reported success in a 3-foot high glass vivarium with a screen top. Ventilation is important for such a high-humidity enclosure. The tree dragons can be a bit flighty at first, so at least three sides of the vivarium should be covered with paper or sheets of cork bark. Planted backgrounds are even better as they give even more surface area for the tree dragons to climb on.

A drainage layer of gravel or clay balls under the substrate is important for proper drainage. The substrate itself can consist of orchid bark or Eco Earth. Moisture must pass through the substrate to the drainage layer easily, as otherwise bacterial and mold problems could arise. You may want to choose a bioactive substrate, where springtails and other microscopic organisms decompose waste and provide fresh soil for plants.

These tree dragons are always found near running water, so some stream or waterfall system is required. These can be expensive but have both importance to the animal (by keeping humidity high) and aesthetic appeal. A pond in the enclosure will also double as a water dish.

Branches and live plants are a must to provide a place for the lizard to climb. These tree dragons seem to prefer vertical perches instead of horizontal ones. The branches must be wide enough to support the animal. Live plants must be used as opposed to artificial ones, because they both raise humidity and improve the overall condition of the vivarium by aiding the nitrogen cycle.

The recommended heating and lighting for this animal comes from conflicting sources. They should be kept at a temperature of around 80 degrees F. They need a source of UV as well.


Like many lizards, chameleon forest dragons are insectivorous. Crickets are a reliable and accepted source of food, and you can also try grasshoppers or locusts. However, they prefer slowly-moving worms such as silkworms, earthworms or waxworms. These lizards have been reported to eat freshwater snails, but keepers have had varying reactions to this food. If you have a pond in your vivarium, those snails may double to clean the water.


These lizards have rarely been bred, and not much information is available on it. Incubation is believed to take place at relatively cool temperatures (approx. 24 degrees Celsius).

Health CareEdit

Chameleon tree dragons often have health problems such as calcium deficiency, various infections, and parasites. Not only do stressed-out wild caught specimens catch infections easily but captive bred babies, too.