Providing a Varied Diet for Your Chameleon
Eating a variety of nutritious foods is just as important for your chameleon as it is for you. Sadly, long-term failure to provide a healthful and balanced diet is one of the leading causes of premature death in captive chameleons.
In the wild, chameleons are insectivores with widely varied eating habits. In captivity, we’re unable to supply the variety and quality of food chameleons would receive in their natural habitats. To compensate for that, gutloaded feeders and supplements are crucial to proper chameleon care. Read on to learn more about offering your pet chameleon a varied diet.
Offer your chameleon diverse insect choices. This will not only help provide a balanced and nutritious diet, but also prevent your chameleon from becoming bored with his food. Crickets are a readily available staple food, but shouldn’t be your chameleon’s only food source, as they have minimal nutritional value on their own. Other insects for feeding pet chameleons include locusts, roaches, silkworms and hornworms.
To prevent choking, it’s a good rule of thumb to not feed your chameleon insects wider than his head. Also, only offer as many insects as your chameleon should eat in one sitting — this depends on age, gender and species. Finally, be sure to feed your chameleon in the first half of the day to give him plenty of time to bask and digest food properly.
Some chameleons, particularly veiled chameleons, may occasionally munch on vegetation in addition to insects. That’s why it’s crucial to research the plants you’re keeping in your chameleon’s cage to ensure they’re all nontoxic. Leafy greens, sliced veggies, fruit and berries can all be clipped inside the cage or placed in your pet’s feeding cup for easy access to a tasty, nutritious snack.
In the wild, chameleons eat many different kinds of insects, which themselves have widely varied diets. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to replicate that lifecycle in captivity, so to compensate, chameleon owners must properly gutload their pets’ insect supply.
Gutloading is the process of increasing the nutritional value of insects by feeding them a diet that ultimately provides your chameleon with the proper balance of nutrition. This may seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry, you don’t need to become a nutritionist to get it right.
The same dark, leafy greens that are so good for humans are also the best gutloading ingredients. Choose vegetables that are high in calcium and low in phosphorus, including mustard, turnip and collard greens, dandelion leaves, escarole, watercress and alfalfa. Combine these with a mix of fruits and veggies that are moderately high in calcium and other vitamins and minerals: sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, mangoes, butternut squash, kale, apples, beet greens, blackberries, bok choy and green beans.
To prevent illness related to nutrient deficiencies, many chameleon owners rely on calcium and multivitamin supplements, in addition to gutloading, to provide pets with a well-rounded diet.
Just lightly dust insects with powdered supplements before offering them to your chameleon. Once they’re coated, simply pour the bugs into the cage or feeding cup, being careful to leave any unused supplements in the original container.
Just as with any pet, it takes a conscious effort to keep chameleons healthy and enjoying a longer lifespan through a balanced diet. Be sure to do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you have any questions.