Cuban False Chameleon Care Sheet

The Cuban False Chameleon is a medium sized lizard that belongs to the Anole family of lizards. While relatively small, they are actually quite large for a lizard that belongs to the Anole family.

They belong to a subclade of the Anole family called Chamaeleolis. The Chamaeleolis group consists of 5 species of lizards, all of which are native to Cuba. These species are C. agueroi, C. barbatus, C. chamaeleonides, C. guamuhaya and C. porcus.

The Chamaeleolis group of lizards was once considered a species in itself but is was later changed to a subclade of the Anole genus. All of the Chamaeleolis lizards are native to Cuba and they are all considered ‘False Chameleons’.

This article will focus on Chamaeleolis chamaeleonides and barbatus, but much of the information is transferrable between the other lizards in the group.

Cuban False Chameleon Description

The Cuban False Chameleon is a medium sized lizard with a snout to vent length of about 15cm-18cm. They are an unusual looking lizard with an alien like appearance. They are referred to as ‘False Chameleons’ because they resemble chameleons with similar eyes that are capable of moving independently.

They have a large, bony casque at the rear of the skull which makes their head appear large and alien like.

It is difficult to distinguish between males and females as there isn’t much sexual dimorphism within the species. Males are generally slightly larger with bigger heads, but the difference is minimal, making it an inaccurate way to sex them. Males have enlarged scales just below the vent. This is the best method for sexing these lizards.

Cuban False Chameleon

Cuban False Chameleons as Pets

A Cuban False Chameleon can make a great pet. These lizards are very unique looking and would be highly recommended for someone looking for something a little different.

They would be considered an intermediate species due to their high humidity requirements. These lizards also need UV lighting which makes their care requirements that little bit more complex.

They are a large species of Anole with a calm, shy temperament. This makes them a great alternative to the Cuban Knight Anole.

Feeding a Cuban False Chameleon

In the wild, the diet of a Cuban False Chameleon consists primarily of snails. This is supplemented with a variety of insects but the bulk of their diet consists of snails. This can be difficult to replicate in captivity as feeder snails aren’t commercially available in most pet stores.

Personally we don’t recommend feeding your lizard wild snails that you find in the garden. ‘Garden’ snails are usually full of internal parasites which can infest your Cuban False Chameleon. These snails can also contain pesticides from the food that they have ingested which will in turn be passed onto your lizard.

It is highly recommended to source your snails from a reputable retailer to ensure they are clean and safe for your lizard. We recommend feeding one live snail twice a week. Your Cuban False Chameleon will eat the snail and spit out the shell. If the shell is very hard, you can pre-crush it to make it easier for the lizard.

Their diet of snails can be supplemented with 2-3 appropriately sized insects every day or so. We recommend feeding dusted crickets. You don’t need to offer crickets on the days that you feed them a snail.

Cuban False Chameleon Enclosure

At a minimum, a Cuban False Chameleon should be kept in an enclosure measuring 2ft x 1.5ft x 2ft high. Height is important for these lizards as they are an arboreal species.

We recommend a glass enclosure with a screen lid. A wooden enclosure will rot in high humidity. You can also cover part of the screen lid with foil to obtain the optimal level of humidity within the enclosure.

Add plenty of climbing branches as these lizards will spend most of their time walking along them or sitting perched on their favourite branch. Like Chameleons, the Cuban False Chameleon will often sway side to side while perched on a branch.

It is important not to house two males together as they are very territorial and will fight, especially if there is a female around. You will even need to ensure that two males in different cages can’t see each other. If they can, they will perform territorial displays at each other which can cause undue stress.

Cuban False Chameleon - Chamaeleolis Barbatus

Light and Heat

A basking light should provide a hot spot of around 90F at the top of the cage. As the lizard moves away from the source of the heat, the cage will become cooler (towards the end). The cool end can fall to around 78F.

A heat mat is not suitable for these lizards as they are an arboreal species. They will not spend time on the cage floor absorbing belly heat like many species of snake.

A Cuban False Chameleon will also need an ultraviolet light source to help synthesise Calcium/D3 and prevent metabolic bone disease. A UV light source should be mounted above the screen of the cage. This light should be left on for around 8 hours a day.


Humidity is very important for these lizards as they will dehydrate quickly. Try to keep the humidity in the enclosure at around 70%. A good choice of substrate is one that will retain humidity without growing mould. Some good choices include Sphagnum Moss or Coco Fibre.

Daily misting will also be required to keep the humidity up. If you live in a dry climate, you can cover some of the screen lid to lock in the humidity. Some signs of dehydration that you should look out for include lethargic skin and sunken eyes.

 Handling a Cuban False Chameleon

A Cuban False Chameleon is a calm lizard that usually doesn’t bite. Their primary mode of defence is intimidation. They will stand facing you with their mouth open, a warning sign that they will bite if you threaten them. As long as you pay attention to your lizard’s mood and warning signs, bites are rare.

The blind spot of a Cuban False Chameleon is below the lizard. Therefore when picking them up you should slide your hand under their belly. The lizard will usually crawl onto your hand instinctively and you can then remove it from the cage.