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Chameleons are one of the most famous reptile species in the world for one big reason; Their ability to change color is mesmerizing.
These beautiful creatures change color so they can blend in with their environment. By camouflaging themselves, they elude predatory species and they also use this disguise to catch their prey.
There are 202 species of chameleons and they come in a wide range of colors. Some of these species can change color while others cannot.
But all chameleon species are carnivorous reptiles and they all share the same basic food source.
What do chameleons eat?
Chameleons are mostly insectivores. These interesting creatures are adapted for climbing trees to great heights and they are visual hunters. The chameleon catches its prey by projecting its long tongues at lightning speeds towards insects.
The tongues of most chameleon species are two and a half times their length but it is found that the tongues of smaller chameleon species are longer to help increase their chances of survival. These quick tongues can catch prey in 0.07 seconds and are also incredibly powerful to recoil and catch prey.
Chameleons mostly focus on food sources that are small enough to fit into their mouths. They also eat live foods and are very unlikely to catch and munch on insects that are already dead. Here is a quick look at the most common food of chameleons.
Chameleons love to eat flying insects. This can almost be considered as one of their favorite food sources. They will hide out high in trees close to flowers or fruits where flying insects are most likely to gather. They are visual creatures and are excellent at spotting insects. They will catch and eat insects like house flies, moths, bees, wasps, and more.
Crawling and jumping insects
Crawling and jumping insects are also a favorite food source for chameleons. Smaller chameleon species and especially baby chameleons are especially fond of crawling and jumping insects. These tricksters love to eat a variety of crawling and jumping insects like crickets, cicadas, katydids, king mealworms, nightcrawlers, cockroaches, mealworms, wax worms, earthworms, grasshoppers, caterpillars, silkworms, pillbugs, grain beetles, and more.
Pet chameleons are mostly fed on foods that are easily obtained from pet food stores. These usually include mealworms and crickets.
It is important to offer your pet chameleon other foods because they rely on diverse insect varieties for nutrition and chameleons can tire of eating the same foods all the time. Many pet owners offer other species they find around the house and some even add supplements.
In nature, chameleons drink water drops off leaves after rainfall. It is important to try to replicate this situation for chameleons that are kept in captivity. Ideally, your enclosure should contain natural plants and the leaves of these plants should be moistened or watered regularly. Water that collects on leaves will offer sufficient hydration for chameleons.
Pet owners and conservations often choose to offer supplements to chameleons when these animals are not offered a diverse diet. These supplements are acquired from vets or pet stores and can be offered to your chameleon in two different ways;
Gut loading insects – This method involves feeding supplements to insects. When the insects are absorbed by the chameleon, they will also absorb the supplements.
Dusting insects – Insects can also be ‘dusted’ in supplements by dusting them with a vitamin or mineral powder before offering the insect to the reptile.
Many believe that gut loading insects are a better way to offer more nourishment because, in the wild, chameleons will consume insects who just munched on lots of nutrient-rich plants.
In natural circumstances, the nutrients will be inside the insect and not on the outside as with dusting.
Chameleons are insectivores but that doesn’t mean that they do not require any fruits and veggies at all. It is uncommon for chameleons to eat fruits in the wild because they don’t have a vitamin A deficiency due to a rich and versatile insect diet. Those in captivity may lack certain vitamins and owners usually boost insects with these nutrient-rich foods to increase the vitamin and mineral intake of these insects.
Chameleon’s owners feed insects on foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals before offering these insects to their pets. Good choices are broccoli, carrots, collard, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, and oranges.
The more nutrient-rich the insect’s diet is, the healthier your chameleon will become.
How to feed chameleons?
Chameleons will only consume live foods. They love the challenge of catching insects and their minds also function on reflex for catching prey. Offering live food encourages healthy feeding.
It is, however, important to know that these reptiles need warmth to properly digest their foods.
Your chameleon’s basking area should be around 90 – 100degrees while the rest of the habitat can be kept around 75 degrees F. UV light is preferable because it assists in producing vitamin D to boost the chameleon’s metabolism.
If the habitat temperatures are not adequate, your chameleon will likely become ill and malnourished.
Chameleons also don’t eat every day. They can be offered food every other day but you can offer sufficient foods on the days that you do choose to offer food.
How much do chameleons eat?
The amount of food you offer depends on the insect size, the age of your chameleon, and the species.
Smaller and younger chameleons cannot consume quite as much as larger species. They will also consume much more insects when these insects are rather small.
Vets recommend you feed adult chameleons 12 crickets or 5 super worms in a single feeding. It is best to add only a few bugs to the enclosure at a time after which you can offer single insects at a time to see if the chameleon is still hungry enough to take it.
What do baby chameleons eat?
These reptiles are independent of the moment they hatch from their eggs. They are agile hunters from day one. Baby chameleons can consume the same food types as adult chameleons but their mouths are much smaller and as such, they will need insects that are much smaller in size.
Most pet owners will offer juvenile chameleons pin-size crickets. They can eat 12 – 20 of these small insects a day and you can choose to offer alternative insect types like small ants, worms, and more.
Baby chameleons may also choose to feed on some plants. They sometimes enjoy eating turnip greens but it isn’t very common for them to enjoy these foods. They, like adult chameleons, do prefer live insects.
What do wild chameleons eat?
Wild chameleons will catch and consume just about any insect that crosses their path. They usually seek out clever hiding spots high up in trees close to flowers or fruits or in areas close to the ground where lots of crawling insects are likely running bout. Their ability to change color allows them to blend in with the environment perfectly.
In the wild, chameleons will catch a huge variety of insects every time they eat. This mixture of diverse foods enables them to absorb all the needed vitamins and minerals they need to survive.
In the wild, these reptiles will seek out sunny spots so they can bask while their food processes.
Basking allows the body to absorb the needed nutrients and encourages healthy growth.
What fruits and vegetables can chameleons eat?
Chameleons are not likely to consume fruits and veggies. They enjoy the chase of a live catch and they rely on instincts to launch an attack on their prey.
Pet owners who don’t have access to the variety of insects chameleons need to survive, will supplement their chameleons with fruits and veggies. These plant foods are however not offered to the chameleon but are offered to its prey instead. When insects consume healthy fruits and veggies, they will transfer these needed nutrients to the captor when they are digested.
To keep your pet chameleon healthy you can feed your insects on nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens, apples, oranges, broccoli, carrots, collards, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
What do you feed a chameleon?
Chameleons are insectivores. You can only feed them on fresh and healthy insects. It is important to offer these foods alive because the chameleon relies on instincts to attack and catch the prey. You can choose to offer a huge variety of insect types such as moths, house flies, roaches, crickets, and many types of worms to your chameleon.
Can chameleons eat lettuce?
Some pet chameleons will munch on plants found in their tank. They enjoy leafy greens like dandelion leaves, romaine lettuce, kale and more. They can also eat vegetables like broccoli, alfalfa, zucchini, carrots, cooked peas and more. It is however not too common for chameleons to eat greens. In most cases, pet owners offer these foods by gut loading insects before offering them to the chameleons.
Do chameleons bite you?
Chameleons are not likely to bite you. They are however very likely to hiss and puff up to intimidate you if they feel threatened.
They are slow-moving reptiles and they don’t have teeth which makes them vulnerable to various predators.
When chameleons feel stressed and afraid, they can hiss and launch out or even bite. The bites are usually not too painful and they are not poisonous.
What are the enemies of the chameleon?
These lizards are quite defenseless. They are not poisonous at all, they are not particularly fast and they do not have teeth or sharp claws that can be used to fight off predators. In most cases, chameleons rely on their ability to blend into the environment to elude predators.
Being such a vulnerable creatures, these lizards do have many predators. One of the biggest enemies of the chameleon is man. These creatures are often targeted because they are vulnerable and many pet owners do not take the time to properly care for chameleons before deciding to keep them caged which can result in their death.
Other predators that feed on chameleons include snakes, birds, and mammals. Domestic animals like cats and dogs are also very likely to catch chameleons even when they have no intention of eating these reptiles at all.
Are chameleons easy to feed?
Chameleons are not very easy to care for. Their enclosures need to be wet regularly so the chameleon will have droplets of water to consume. They also need to be fed on healthy and live insects which are not always too easy to catch or to buy from pet stores.
To top it off, you also need to monitor your chameleon’s diet to ensure that he stays healthy.
These animals need to be offered a versatile insect diet and many insects you offer need to be gut loaded with nutrient-rich foods before the chameleon catches and consumes the insects.
They also require a very unique enclosure. Their cage should contain a leafy tree that they can climb or use to obtain moisture.
The enclosure should be kept around 75 degrees F but there should also be a basking area of around 90 – 100 degrees F or your chameleon won’t be able to digest the foods it consumed properly.
Foods that can be dangerous to chameleons
Many food types can be harmful to your chameleon. One of the biggest risks domesticated chameleons have is toxins inside homes.
When they roam free around the house they will consume lots of insects that might have been exposed to pesticides inside the house. These insects can be very toxic to your pet. Always source your chameleon foods from healthy and organic sources and environments.
Chameleons are not the easiest reptiles or pets to keep. They are certainly not a good idea for first-time lizard owners. These beautiful creatures are quite delicate and they require the right habitat and care methods to help them maintain optimal health.
A stressful environment, cold temperatures, and insufficient food can cause your beautiful chameleon his or her life.
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