Chameleons

What Do Chameleons Eat?

Chameleons eat a variety of insects. They’re known to dine on grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, stick insects, and various other bugs. Larger chameleons have been known to eat larger meals, such as other lizards or smaller species of birds. There are even some chameleons that eat plants.

Whether you just find these unique lizards fascinating or you have one as a pet, you’ll find the information in this article to be relevant. You’ll discover what chameleons eat in the wild, what a pet owner can feed their chameleon, and some tips about what the healthiest and not so healthy foods are for this type of lizard.

Read on for valuable information about what chameleons eat, what they shouldn’t eat, and tips for how to properly care for your lizard. 

What Do Chameleons Eat in the Wild?

Wild chameleons aren’t limited to eating only what is provided for them. Some of their diets will be dictated by the environment they live in.

Chameleons can be found in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The majority of them live in parts of Africa and Madagascar, though. There’s also a decent population of them in the Middle East.

Many of these places have different kinds of climates. Chameleons live in everything from rainforests to deserts. This means their diets can vary broadly.

Chameleons Eat Insects

The main staple in a chameleon’s diet is insects. A hungry chameleon probably won’t discriminate when it comes to what bugs to eat, but you can count on grasshoppers, flies, crickets, locusts, bees, and caterpillars as good meals. 

Along with insects, chameleons also eat a variety of worms, snails, and slugs. These foods are more like treats for these lizards due to their fat content.

Chameleons don’t move very quickly. They rely on their fast tongues for snagging food that’s walking or flying by. Chameleons don’t even have to move their heads to see insects around them because their eyes can rotate in every direction independently of one another.

Chameleons Eat Other Lizards

Some species of chameleons are large enough to eat other lizards. Diurnal geckos are one such species. Agamas are another favorite of chameleons. 

Chameleons are carnivorous, but some are only big enough to eat insects. Others, such as the Meller’s chameleon, are large enough to eat both lizards and small birds.

Chameleons Eat Small Birds

While there are plenty of large birds that prey on chameleons, large chameleons will sometimes prey on small birds, as well. 

As was mentioned above, chameleons don’t move very quickly. So sometimes they have to eat what’s available. Small birds are not off-limits for hungry chameleons. Anything small enough that flies by is fair game.

What Do Chameleons Eat as Pets?

You can feed your pet chameleon anything they would eat in the wild. The trick is to keep their diets balanced, though. Chameleons eat a variety of insects, vertebrates, and plants in their own environments. Be careful about overfeeding your chameleon. Don’t give too many treats. 

Feed Chameleons Insects

Crickets are the easiest insect to feed your chameleon. They’re readily available and well-liked by most reptiles. The same goes for cockroaches and flies.

Include locusts, grasshoppers, stick bugs, and caterpillars in their diets, also. 

The insects you feed your chameleon should be gut-loaded before you offer them. You’ll feed the insects fresh leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables, so they provide more nutritional value to your chameleon. 

Feed Chameleons Worms

Many worms chameleons eat have high levels of fat. That makes them more treat-like. You should feed worms to your chameleon. Make sure it’s done in moderation, though. 

The worms that are highest in fat content include Butter-worms, Morio worms, Bamboo-worms, waxworms, and Pachnoda grubs. Too many treats can lead to health issues for your chameleon.

Feed Chameleons Fruits and Vegetables

Wild chameleons occasionally eat fruits and vegetables. Most of them get this type of nutrition through eating insects that have dined on fruits and vegetables. Though gut-loading should provide enough nutritional value for your chameleon, you can offer fruits and vegetables, as well.

Here’s a list of what can be offered:

  • Berries
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Sugar-snap peas
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Arugula

There’s no need to worry if your chameleon doesn’t eat what you offer, as long as they get gut-loaded insects at mealtime.

What Should a Chameleon Eat?

As is true of our own diets, not all foods are the same for your chameleon. One of the best things you can do for your chameleon is to feed him a variety of insects and other foods. If that’s not always feasible, go with quality over quantity. 

Gut-loading can be the key to raising the healthiest chameleons. Feed the insects fruits and vegetables high in nutritional value that will be passed on to your lizard. The higher the quality of the produce is, the higher the nutritional value will be. 

Most regions have reptile specialist stores that sell all sorts of feeder insects. You should be able to find a good variety of bugs to feed your chameleon. Try your best to balance their nutrition by giving them different types of insects to eat.

Be careful not to overfeed your chameleon. You may equate more eating with better health. That’s not always the case. Chameleons can struggle with obesity if overfed. Females, especially, are at great risk of this.

Example of a Healthy Diet for Chameleons

Feed your chameleon insects. If you’re limited to a small selection, go with crickets, roaches, hornworms, and reptiworms. Make sure to gut-load these as much as you can. Greens are the best foods to offer bugs for your chameleon.

Give your chameleon treats from time to time. Waxworms, mealworms, and superworms are the easiest to get. Remember to offer treats sparingly.

You also have the option to dust foods with vitamins. Vitamin supplements for your chameleon can be found at many pet stores and reptile specialty stores. It’s easy to do. Place insects into a bag. Add the supplement dust. Shake the bag lightly to coat the bugs in the supplement. 

Should I Offer My Chameleon Water?

Wild chameleons drink water. But not in the way you think. They’re not known for waltzing up to a body of water and lapping some up. Instead, chameleons get the water they need from droplets that collect on the leaves of plants. 

You should offer water to your chameleon. Don’t place a bowl of water in their habitat. It’s unlikely they will drink any of it. You should place plants in the chameleon’s enclosure so you can spray them with water. Your chameleon will drink the droplets much like a wild chameleon would.

What Shouldn’t I Feed My Chameleon?

There are some foods you should avoid giving to your chameleon. Many of them can lead to health issues and even death in some instances.

Don’t Feed Your Chameleon Caught Bugs

Don’t feed your chameleon bugs you catch in and around your home. There are differences between the crickets you’ll purchase from the pet store and the crickets in your backyard. 

Feeder insects sold in stores are farmed for that reason. They don’t get exposed to harmful parasites and substances that wild-caught bugs do. Your chameleon could get sick from eating insects caught in the wild. 

Don’t Feed Your Chameleon Fireflies

Fireflies are poisonous to chameleons. They release toxins from their bodies when any lizard chomps on them. Eating one firefly can potentially kill your chameleon. Should your lizard ingest one, contact your vet immediately.

Don’t Feed Your Chameleon Kale or Spinach

Many leafy greens are good for your chameleon. Kale and spinach are not.

Kale wreaks havoc on a chameleon’s digestive system. Though some owners do feed their chameleons kale, it’s not recommended. 

Spinach makes it hard for the chameleon’s body to absorb the calcium it needs. A calcium-deficient chameleon will be lethargic, experience a lack of appetite, and can suffer from broken bones. Spinach blocks calcium from entering the bones and muscles that need it to strengthen and function properly.

Don’t Feed Your Chameleon Mango

Mango is toxic to chameleons. Don’t offer your chameleon mango. It will make them sick and could result in death. 

All acidic fruits should be avoided. Some can make your chameleon sick, while others mess with the digestive system of most lizards. 

How Often Should I Feed My Chameleon?

Captive chameleons should be fed as much as they will eat when they’re young. You should feed them two or three times every day until they’re about 6 months old. From 6 to 12 months, feed your chameleon once a day.

Chameleons are full-grown at 12 months old. Adult chameleons don’t eat every day. Instead, feed them every other day for 5 minutes at a time. They won’t always eat the same amount. That’s ok. Give them high-quality food each feeding to ensure proper nutrition.

What If My Chameleon Stops Eating?

Occasionally, your chameleon may stop eating. Most of the time, it’s nothing. Chameleons, just like us, have preferences with regards to food. They can get bored of the same thing, just like you can. Try offering a better variety of insects to address the issue. 

If offering different insects doesn’t fix the issue, you will need to look for another cause. Parasites are somewhat common with chameleons. They can cause your chameleon to stop eating. Your vet can confirm the presence of parasites and prescribe a simple treatment plan for your lizard. 

Female chameleons about to lay eggs will often stop eating during the week leading up to the lay. Females lay eggs whether they’ve been with a male or not. She’ll want a digging bed to lay her eggs in. She’ll also need plenty of water. Be sure to mist the tank throughout the day.

Lizards require the correct amount of heat to thrive. The habitat may be too hot or too cold. Your vivarium must have a UVB that’s within its useful life. It also must be positioned at the optimum distance. Check that your setup isn’t what’s impacting your chameleon’s appetite.

Conclusion

Chameleons need the proper nutrition to thrive and stay healthy. Feeding your chameleon a variety of gut-loaded bugs is one of the best ways to get them the nutrition they need. You also need to ensure they stay well hydrated and warm enough.

Should your chameleon stop eating, assess the situation and involve your vet if you notice a lack of appetite. Your chameleon will live a healthy, happy life if you feed them a well-balanced diet.

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