Food and Diet

Chameleon Food and Diet Guide

Welcome to our Chameleons section! You’ll find everything you need to take care of your pet, complete with helpful guides, how-to’s, reviews and checklists!

What Does a Chameleon Eat?

If your reading this guide you obviously care about your pet! There’s nothing I love more than knowing people are doing their research before mistreating their little creature. Make sure you go through the Diet and Food information to learn more about:
  • What to feed your pet and what not to!
  • What is gut-loading
  • Diet guide by species
  • Supplements
  • AND MORE...

Chameleon Diet

As carnivores, these creatures eat a varied diet of insects. While some larger chameleons will feed on lizards and birds, most enjoy insects such as locusts, stick bugs, crickets, and grasshoppers. However, some eat a small quantity of flowers and plants. Chameleons use their long, sticky tongues to catch insects. When it sees an insect, it quickly snaps its tongue and creates a suction force that allows it to pull the insect. Because it moves so slowly, it relies heavily on its camouflage and keen eyesight to sneak up on prey.

Insects

Just like other insectivores, chameleons feed largely on insects. As soon as you get a chameleon as a pet, you should regularly provide it with food even if it is not comfortable eating yet. Some of the insects it will feed on include crickets, meal worms, and roaches, among others. These insects are relatively available online, in pet stores and are not costly. You can also use silk worms and wax worms to treat your pet every once in a while, or to add a little variety to its diet. However, since these insects are a bit fatty, avoiding feeding you chameleon with worms too often. If possible, gut load your insects first before feeding them to reptile. This will ensure that they get the required vitamins and nutrients that they need to develop.

Plants

Some chameleon species such as the veiled may occasionally feed on plants in addition to insects. It’s, therefore, important to make sure, if using live plants, that they are not toxic. The best plants for their habitat include Pothos, Ficus, Schefflera, and Hibiscus plants. However, before introducing the plant inside the cage you need to prep it well since pesticides and fertilizer used in the nurseries are highly toxic. The same plants, vegetables, and fruit that you use for gut loading your insects can be fed directly to your chameleon. If your pet likes eating plant matter, try giving it kale, collard, leafy greens, fruits, sliced vegetables, and berries. Before giving it the food, ensure that you chop it into the small bits that it can chew easily. Remember, you should never feed your chameleon anything larger than the gap between its eyes.

Mice

If you keep larger chameleons, mice are quite a good option. You can add these to its diets because they are a good source of vitamins and nutrients. Since some mice are quite fatty, your pet should only feed on them occasionally. If you are freaked out about feeding your pet a little mouse, no worries, it will do fine without! Giving it mice once or twice in a month should suffice. As a human way of feeding your pet, ensure that you use pre-killed mice. Frozen mice are cheap, can be stored for long, and thawed in warm water whenever you decide your little pet has been on his best behavior. Before feeding your pet, ensure that it is completely thawed and is close to room temperature. Large species of chameleons also seem to do well when offered mice every month, due to the fact that mice are an amazing source of calcium. However, do not use an adult or fuzzy mice. This is because they chew their food alive hence may be injured by the rodent.

Chameleon Food

What are Feeders?

Because food is very important to chameleons you need to provide your pet with a variety of foods. Feeders, in short, are special meals to vary your pet’s diet. Some of these feeders are more practical to get and keep hence finding them should not be a problem. Remember, a good nutrition is very important for the well-being of your pet. In their natural habitats, chameleons have access to hundreds of different insect species. It’s, therefore, very important to offer it the largest selection of prey possible and ensure that it’s as nutritious as possible. If you feel that your feeders are not nutritious you can practice gut loading as this will ensure that it gets all the necessary nutrients.

Some of the best feeders include:

Silk Worms
According to experts, silkworms are perhaps one of the healthiest insects that you can feed your pet chameleon. It has a low-fat content and the best nutritional value that your pet needs. They contain a high source of protein, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and vitamins. When it comes to feeding chameleons, they are the favorites of many people.
Horn Worms
Apart from being good feeders, horn worms also grow very big hence ideal for large chameleons. Just like silkworms, they are also very healthy. They contain a lot of calcium and low-fat and the lack of an exoskeleton makes for easy feeding for a happy chameleon.
Super Worms
Although they are nutritiously competent, they require some adjustments if you want to use them to feed your pet. One way of doing this is to feed them on high-quality fruits and vegetables. before using them as feeders. You should definitely gut load these suckers before feeding to your chameleon. My chameleon loves these worms, but in order to make them nutritionally valuable, they need to be gut-loaded.
Butter Worms
The good thing about butter worms is that when storing them you do not have to feed them. When you keep them cold and dry, their metabolism slows down. This means they use up very little amount of their stored food. They also have an attractive color and smell that will attract most animals. It’s, therefore, a great source of food for your pet especially for the growing one.

What is Gut Loading?

If you are new to keeping chameleons, you may be wondering about the obsession of giving it proper nutrition through gut loading. Why all the talk about gut loading? Why is there a need to gut load its food before feeding it? Well, in their natural habitat, chameleons get all their nutrients from a variety of insects that they feed on. The insects they feed on, in turn, get all of their vital nutrition from feeding as well. Hence, in order for your chameleon to have a balanced diet, they need the same nutrients in captivity that they would receive in the wild.. Gut loading is, therefore, the process of feeding the pet’s prey on nutritious foods so that the pet can benefit from the same.

Good Ingredients to Gut Load

You want your little guy to be happy and healthy right? Well it’s important for you to learn what kind of foods you put into his little belly. Do not feed your crickets or feeders anything that you would not directly feed your chameleon. You need to use high-quality fruits and veggies to provide your feeders with additional food and moisture. The fresher the food, the better. However, you should avoid foods that are rich in oxalic acid because it may end up binding nutrients such as magnesium, sodium, iron, and calcium and prevents their absorption by the body.

Some of the best gut loading ingredients include:

  • Mustard Greens
  • Dandelion Leaves
  • Hibiscus and it's Flowers
  • Collard Greens
  • Squash
  • Alfalfa
  • Zucchini
  • Baby Rice Cereal
  • Oranges
  • Carrots
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Apple
  • Yams
  • Kale

Dangerous Ingredients to Gut Load

If you want to gut load your insects it’s very important to use not only valuable ingredients, but non-toxic ones as well. When choosing your gut load you need to check the ingredients and the amount of each ingredient that you will use. While many gut load formulas have useful ingredients, others have too many useful ingredients. Like your mom used to say, “everything in moderation.” While choosing your gut load ingredients, look at the levels of vitamin A, sodium, phosphorus and calcium. If you notice that your gut-load ingredient is moldy, smelly, or rancid discard it immediately.

Some of the most dangerous ingredients include:

  • Dead Insects
  • Meat
  • Cabbage
  • ​Figs
  • ​Apricots
  • Vertebretes
  • Dog/Cat Food
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Spinach

How to Feed Your Chameleon Step by Step

While in the wild, chameleons eat a variety of insects, in captivity they do not get all the diet that they require. It’s, therefore, important to give chameleons a variety of crickets and other diets that have been gut loaded to ensure that they get enough nutrients and vitamins. Ensure that you offer them live insects so that they can hunt for them. Remember, a live insect excites the pet. However, if it is having difficulty with this method, feed them using a cup.

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Buy Live Crickets

This is the main food given to chameleons in captivity. Apart from being easy to breed, chameleons also enjoy hunting for them. You can easily find then in any store that sells pet supplies.
  • Baby Chameleons – should be fed on pinhead crickets. Fed anywhere from 10-25 per day. When baby chameleons reach 2-3 months they are able to graduate to 1/4″ crickets.
  • Young Chameleon – Fed on 1/2″, then 5/8″, then 3/4″ crickets respectively as they grow from a very young chameleon to a young adult.
  • Adult Chameleons – Depending on the size of your chameleon, it can be fed adult 1″ to 1 1/2″ crickets. If your pet is relatively small do not think twice about keeping him or her on smaller cricket sizes.
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Feed it in the Morning

Feeding your pet in the morning can help it digest thoroughly. Just like you do not want to go to sleep on a full stomach, either does your little friend. Choose a nice consistent schedule that not only works with your routine but also conducive for your pet.
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Vary the Diet

While crickets should form the bulk of your pet’s food, you should always add in some differing insects once or twice a week. These include silkworms, horn worms, butter worms, wax worms, meal worms, roaches, fruit flies, domestic flies, and locusts.
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Gutload the Insects

This process involves feeding the Insects on certain foods before using them as feeders. To properly do this, you need to give them nutritious food that are high in calcium before feeding them to your pet. For instance, you can feed them on sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, mango, and broccoli.
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Select the Insects

Depending on the age, size, gender, and species you need to choose the insect to feed your pet. You should not give your chameleon an insect that is larger than the width of its head as this can end up choking it to death.
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Dust the Insects with Supplements

Because your chameleon should receive nutritious food, you can boost this by coating your insects with vitamin supplements. These supplements are specially made for chameleons and can be bought from all the major pet stores. You should coat your crickets and feeders everyday with a light dusting, such that, the supplement is barely visible. Over-supplementation could cause health problems. Dust your pets food with calcium daily, then dust it with a multi-vitamin supplement with D3 2-3 times a month.
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Make it Hunt

Place the insects in a cup or on tree leaves and branches so that the pet can hunt for them. It’s good to keep your chameleon exercising and as close to their natural habitat as possible. If you spoon feed your pet too much, it will start depending on you more than it already is, and become unhealthy.
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The Best Chameleon Supplements

One of the best ways to ensure that your pet is getting enough nutrients is to give them additional supplements so that they can stay healthy.

Some of the best supplements include:

  • Calcium - This is a mineral that is usually abundant in the body of any animal. If it’s lacking, the animal will grow weak bones. When the body of the chameleon is not having enough calcium it will steal some from the bones thereby weakening them. This leads to malformations and breaks. It's, therefore, very important to offer it as a supplement.
  • Phosphorus - Apart from calcium, this is also very much abundant in the body and it helps in regulating the use of other minerals and vitamins. Although they work together they are also antagonist hence should be balanced in the best way so that they can work well.
  • Vitamin D3 - This is one of the vitamins that the body can make when exposed to sunlight. Although it can be consumed from the diet, reptiles such as chameleons get it by basking in the sun. although it should be given too much of it may affect the muscles and the nerves and become severely toxic.
  • Vitamin A - Vitamin A is very important in helping the animal develop healthy eyes, Remember, chameleons depend on their eyes to catch their preys. Vitamin A is also important for maintaining the immune system. Keepers who supplement vitamin A have never reported any eye issues hence it’s very important. However, while supplementing, avoid having too much of it as this might lead to other problems.

Chameleon Diet Guide by Species

If you wish to keep chameleons it’s very important to do some research so as to know what they eat. You should also know the type of species that you intend to keep. While some species feed on a lot of insects others do not. Also, species such as Flap-neck must be given a lot of minerals and vitamins for them to grow strong and healthy. However, when it comes to feeding chameleons, you must be very keen on variety otherwise, they might lack some nutrients. You need to remember that each species has its own diet.

What do Veiled Chameleons Eat?

Veiled chameleons should be put on a diet of crickets. However, you should ensure that the crickets are not wider than their heads. Babies and juvenile should be fed twice a day but as they grow old you need to feed them less frequently. To help promote proper growth and health, it’s important to supplement these with vitamins and calcium. You can also gut load the insects to make them more nutritious. While your veiled chameleon is growing it should be fed once or twice a day. You should also give it greens and vegetables once or twice a week. However, an adult veiled chameleon appetite is not as demanding as when they are young, therefore, you can minimize its feeding schedule to once every two days as not to overfeed. Remember, when they refuse to eat vegetables you should not be bothered since they are known to only feed on insects in the wild.

What do Jackson Chameleons Eat?

Jackson chameleons depend heavily on a variety of insects such as crickets, flies, and meal worms. While some eat vegetables this is not very common. These little animals can grow up to 13 inches and live up to 10 years while they are in captivity. However, for young hatchlings it’s important to get a good baby food jar. For small youngsters insert a small stick and extend it up to the food so that they have the ability to reach the food. However, it should not touch the bottom since the insects might easily climb out and escape. Remember to feed your insects with a variety of vegetables and fruit that is covered more heavily in the gut loading section above. While feeding them, do not forget about calcium and vitamin supplementation.

What do Panther Chameleons Eat?

The best diet for a panther chameleon is a varied diet. Although crickets are their main staple food, super worm, silk worms, wax worms, roaches, and stick bugs should also be offered. You also need to give them calcium at least 3 times a week. As compared to other chameleons, panther chameleons will readily eat any feeder insects. Some of the common insects that they feed on include super worms, crickets, wax worms, butter worms, roaches, and flies. Since each one of them has its own advantages and disadvantages, you need to be sure to give your pet variety of meals often. However, crickets are not only the easiest to catch but also the most common feeder. The rest of the foods should just be given as treats. You should feed your panther chameleon shortly after the day has started. Avoid feeding it in evenings or Nights. This is because they need the activity and the heat for digestion to take place.

What do Baby Chameleons Eat?

First, it’s important to ensure that you are keeping the baby chameleon at the correct temperature and even have a good system for the water to drip. During the day, the temperature of the cage should be approximately 85 degrees. Apart from feeding them on appropriate gut loaded insects, give them some vegetable and plant materials. You should also try offering them turnips and collard greens. The most important thing is to offer them some vegetation and appropriately sized insects that cannot choke them. Pin head crickets should be their main source of nutrition.

The Best Chameleon Foods

One of the most challenging things about chameleons is properly feeding them. Between offering a variety of insects and supplementation, taking shortcuts is very easy. Unfortunately, this can lead to an unhealthy and unhappy pet. You do not want your once cute little friend to turn into a grumpy, hissing hellion. As insectivores, chameleon diets consist mainly of insects. However, unlike other animals that feed on insects, they rarely eat dead insects. This means as part of keeping them you must care for their prey. More so, easy-to-buy insects are not the only good option when it comes to feeding chameleons.

In the wild, they have a variety of insects to choose from, but in the captivity, they only eat what you give them. In many instances, meal worms and crickets are not enough to keep your chameleon truly healthy and happy. Ideally, they need a larger variety to help them balance their diet well. Although it’s easy to rely on one feeder, it’s advisable to give them at least three different types of feeders. Some of the best choices include roaches, mantids, worms, moths, roaches, locusts, flies, and butterflys. You should also remember to gut load the insects that to ensure that they have enough nutrients.

While feeding your pet, you should also be careful about the digestibility of the feeder. While insects are invertebrates they have chitin that can make it difficult for them to be digested. Depending on the type of insect, this can be a major problem such that after eating it as food the poor pet can succumb due to poor digestion. It’s therefore, very important to be careful about this. Remember ti feed your chameleon before 10am to ensure it has plenty of time to digest the food in it’s belly.

Apart from feeders, proper supplementation is also very important. The only challenge is that there are many products and some of them are much better hence choosing the best one can be challenging. On a regular basis, ensure that you dust the feeders. While chameleons need vitamin D3 they do not require this on a daily basis because it can lead to toxicity. Do not forget about giving them water. Since they cannot drink water from a container you must spray the plants with water so that they can take it as it drips.

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