What Do Chameleons Eat?

Kelly Roper
Chameleon eating a bug; Copyright Yuriy Zelenen'kyy at Dreamstime.com

If you're going to take on the challenge of keeping a chameleon, you have to feed him the right diet to keep him healthy. Find out how to feed your pet from juvenile to adult.

Captive Chameleon Diet

According to veterinarian Holly Nash, chameleons are mainly insect eaters, but many, especially veiled chameleons, will accept some leafy greens like collard greens, mustard greens and dandelion greens. Some adult chameleons will even accept the occasional pinkie mouse. You can feed your chameleon a varied diet of the following:

  • Crickets
  • Cicadas
  • Katydids
  • King meal worms
  • Night crawlers
  • Cockroaches
  • Meal worms
  • Wax worms
  • Earthworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Caterpillars
  • Silk worms
  • House flies
  • Pill bugs
  • Grain beetles

Some of these insects are readily available in pets stores, and you'll need to order others from companies that specialize in raising feeder insects for the pet industry. While you can collect insects yourself, you must be very careful where you collect them from because you don't want to expose your chameleon to pesticides and other chemicals.

The Importance of Calcium and Phosphorus

Chameleons require a calcium and phosphorous ratio of 2:1, and most of the insects you can purchase at pet stores won't meet this requirement. So, it's usually necessary to supplement this lizard's diet with extra calcium. However, Margaret A. Wissman, DVM warns about the possibility of over supplementing calcium if you have already equipped your pet's habitat with UVB lighting, which provides vitamin D-3. If this is the case, you can just supplement occasionally so you don't overdo it.

Chameleon about to eat a cricket; Copyright Arnaud Weisser at Dreamstime.com

Dusting

One way to do this is to dust the insects with a commercial vitamin and mineral supplement before you offer them to your pet, and it's easy to do:

  1. Carefully load several insects into a plastic bag.
  2. Add a couple pinches of the calcium supplement to the bag.
  3. Gently shake the bag to coat the insects with the dust.
  4. Feed them to your pet.

Gut Loading Insects

Gut loading is another way to make insects more nutritious for your pet. After all, he's going to be eating whatever they have eaten before he consumes them. Feed your insects collard and mustard greens as well as other healthy foods like melon, rolled oats, sweet potatoes, spinach and crushed beans. You can also offer your feeder insects a commercial cricket food designed especially for gut loading feeder insects.

Feeding Schedule

Juveniles

Juvenile chameleons should be fed twice a day, and you must be careful to feed them insects that are small enough for them to consume. Most enthusiasts find the pin-size crickets are just the right size, and baby chameleons readily accept them.

Adults

Adult chameleons should be fed insects every other day. You can also clip some leafy greens to a branch in their enclosures.

How Much to Offer

There's no standard number of insects you should feed at a single feeding. Offer your pet a few bugs at a time, and then offer him one more to see if he'll take it. The size of the insects is naturally going to vary, so you can figure your pet will tend to eat more when you serve small insects. It will take few insects to fill him up when you serve larger bugs.

Temperature and UV Lighting Aids in Digestion

Chameleons need a lot of warmth to help them digest their food. The pros at Reptile Channel suggest that the temperature in your chameleon's basking area remain between 90 and 100 degrees F While the heat helps your reptile digest food, UV light will help your chameleon produce vital Viatmin D which in turns helps him metabolize and process calcium. Without sufficient warmth and lighting, your chameleon will not likely thrive.

Feeding Chameleons Can Be a Challenge

Providing a varied, nutritious diet for a chameleon isn't easy. You need a constant supply of fresh insects to keep your pet satisfied and healthy. It takes a real commitment to keep that going year after year, so be prepared to meet that challenge and give your pet the best diet you possibly can.

What Do Chameleons Eat?