What Do Chameleons Eat In The Wild? & Tips For Home

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Chameleons are amazing creatures. They’re unique reptiles in that they catch their food and survive out in the wild.

So, what do wild Chameleons eat?

In this article, we’ll first share a brief overview of what a Chameleon is and where they come from. Then, we’ll discuss what Chameleons eat in the wild and what they eat in captivity, ranging from plants, live food including insects, and even fruits.

After, we’ll explain more about their diet. For example, how they catch their food, how often they eat, and how much they need to eat.

Finally, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions about different Chameleon species and their overall diet. 

What Are Chameleons?

Chameleons are a lizard within the reptile family. They come in over 160 species, such as the Veiled Chameleon, Panther Chameleon, Pygmy Chameleon, and more.

They have scales that can come in a few different colors: brown, yellow, red, black, tan, or green. Their coloring allows them to camouflage in the wild to hide from predators and also hide from prey to catch them easily.

Depending on the species, Chameleons can be big or small. For example, they can grow from 1.1 to 27 inches long and weigh between .02 and 4.4 pounds.

In addition, Chameleons have an average lifespan of about four to eight years. So, with proper care, you’ll have this reptile friend for quite a while. In the wild, their lifespan might be a little less.

Chameleons prefer tropical forests and deserts in the wild, so it’s important to mimic their habitat as much as possible to one of those biomes.

Also, Chameleons can eat a varied diet, depending on their species, but they mostly all eat insects. Some are carnivores, while others are omnivores. In addition, some Chameleons are known to be insectivores because insects are the majority of their diet.

Where Do Chameleons Live In The Wild?

A Chameleon habitat in the wild should be a warmer climate. The warm temperatures help this reptile thrive. So naturally, Chameleons are often found in Madagascar, Africa, Sri Lanka, India, the Middle East, and islands in the Indian Ocean.

Chameleons help keep the insect population under control in these areas since they’re natural predators to insects. But, on the other hand, Chameleons are prey themselves to other animals such as snakes and birds. 

What Do Chameleons Eat In The Wild?

what do chameleons eat and drink
Chameleon eating a grasshopper

Chameleons in the wild eat a wide variety of insects. Of course, some types of Chameleons will eat fruits and veggies, but these aren’t typically common and easily accessible to them in the wild. So, insects it is.

When it comes to insects and live food, what do Chameleons like to eat? Here’s a quick list:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Wasps
  • Caterpillars
  • Locusts
  • Flies
  • Worms
  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Dragonflies

What Do Panther Chameleons Eat In The Wild?

Panther Chameleons are omnivores, which means they’ll see a wide range of live food and plant food.

However, in the wild, Panther Chameleons will eat insects and other live food (such as other lizards) about 98% of the time. If they eat plants or vegetables, it’s mostly because they need the water content for hydration. 

Do Chameleons Eat Ants?

Chameleons can eat ants, but they don’t normally go for them as prey. However, smaller Chameleons, such as a Dwarf Chameleon or Leaf Chameleon, will happily munch on ants.

In fact, these smaller Chameleons will eat many types of ants, including other small insects such as flies, midges, or millipedes.

Do Chameleons Eat Plants?

The short answer is yes. Chameleons do eat plants. Some species of this reptile are carnivores, so that they won’t bother with plants, but some are omnivores and will happily munch on a leaf.

For example, they’ll eat leaves from plants in the wild or various vegetables. 

Can Chameleons Eat Fruit?

Yes, some Chameleons can eat fruit. It depends on their species because most Chameleons are carnivores. However, some Chameleons, like the Veiled Chameleon, will enjoy a piece of fruit now and then. 

For example, some fruit that’s safe for them to munch on in moderation are as follows:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Kiwis
  • Mangoes

How Do Chameleons Catch Their Food?

Chameleons are amazing creatures when it comes to catching their food. However, these reptiles are slow, so you may wonder how they catch their food so efficiently. So, how do Chameleons eat?

First, Chameleons have excellent eyesight. In fact, they can see about 360-degrees around them and can see as long as 10 yards (30 feet) away from them. In other words, they can see insects heading their way long before the insect realizes a Chameleon is there waiting for them.

In addition, their eyeballs can move separately. So, one eye can keep an eye on an insect they’re planning to eat while the other eye can keep an eye out for other insects, predators, or anything else.

Also, Chameleons might be slow when they move, but their tongue is super fast. So they’re able to whip out their tongue and snatch up their prey in the blink of an eye.

Finally, Chameleons are masters of camouflage. They’re green and brown in color, so they easily blend in with bushes, plants, and trees. Most of the time, insects don’t see them, and before they know it, the Chameleon is snatching them up with their quick tongue.

When Chameleons catch their food, they have powerful enough paws to munch on their prey despite their size. In fact, some Chameleons have been known to eat small birds.

It’s hard to tell from the naked eye, but Chameleons do have teeth. They’re so tiny and sharp that it’s hard for us to see, but they’re able to clamp their jaw shut and pierce their prey with their small teeth.

In other words, Chameleons may be slow in movement. Still, between their keen eyesight, color-changing scales, quick tongue, and powerful jaws, they’re strong predators of insects and other small animals. 

How Much Do Chameleons Eat?

Baby Chameleons are still growing and developing, so they eat a lot more than juveniles and adults. Therefore, juveniles will eat less, and adults will continue to eat less than juveniles.

For example, baby Chameleons will eat between ten to 12 insects per feeding with about three feedings per day.

On the other hand, adult Chameleons will eat only about four to six insects at a time.

How Often Do Chameleons Eat?

How often a Chameleon eats will also depend on its age. For instance, a baby Chameleon will eat at least three meals per day.

Then, as juveniles, a Chameleon will eat only one or two meals per day.

Finally, once a Chameleon becomes an adult at the age of one, they’ll only need to eat about two or three times per week. 

Read my full guide to how often Chameleons should eat here.

What Do Pet Chameleons Eat?

So, what food do Chameleons eat as pets? They have a similar diet as pets than they do in the wild. For instance, they enjoy plenty of staple insects. Most Chameleons are carnivores, but some species of Chameleons, such as Veiled Chameleons, are omnivores.

In other words, some Chameleons will eat insects and plant food such as vegetables and sometimes even fruit.

So, what do Chameleons eat in captivity? Here’s a quick list of foods Chameleons can eat.

For example, you can go to your local pet store and buy staple feeder insects such as crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and silkworms. The best food for Chameleon are these items.

To ensure your Chameleon is getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop well, you can also buy supplements for calcium and vitamin A or D. You can sprinkle the supplements on the insects, so your reptile friend will get what they need. 

In addition, depending on the type of Chameleon you have, they might also like a good range of vegetables. For instance, you can try feeding them leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens, endive, or dandelion greens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Jackson Chameleons Eat?

Jackson Chameleons are insectivores, which means they eat mostly insects and will eat a wide range of different insect types.

For example, they’ll eat insects such as crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, fruit flies, roaches, silkworms, flies, and grasshoppers.

For instance, they eat pretty much the same insects as other Chameleons. Jackson Chameleons will also eat a little bit of plant matter here and there. When it comes to what plants do Chameleons eat, you can also provide them with dark leafy greens, such as collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, or sugar snap peapods.

What Do Pygmy Chameleons Eat?

Like Jackson Chameleons, Pygmy Chameleons are insectivores. Therefore, the majority of their diet should consist of insects.

For example, they’ll eat small crickets, fruit flies, and baby silkworms. In addition, they’ll eat house flies.

Feeding these insects should always be gut-loaded with nutrients from vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. 

Do Chameleons Eat Spiders?

Yes, Chameleons can and will eat spiders. They will eat just about any insect they can find, and that includes spiders. For example, they can eat house spiders or jumping spiders.

However, they’ll eat spiders in the wild. So in captivity, it’d be best not to feed them spiders so you can focus on healthier insects, such as crickets.

Do Chameleons Eat Mealworms?

Yes, Chameleons can eat mealworms. However, you want to be sure that you buy healthy ones from a good pet store.

Also, be careful feeding mealworms to your Chameleon. They have a hard exoskeleton that could be hard to digest. So, it’s best you only feed mealworms to adult Chameleons and keep the baby and juvenile Chameleons away from this worm.

In addition, the mealworm should never be bigger than twice the size of your Chameleon’s head. You want to make sure that your reptile friend can eat it easily. 

What Vegetables Can Chameleons Eat?

Chameleons can eat vegetables rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, and calcium. For example, dark leafy greens are the best option, such as:

  • Dandelion Greens
  • Collard Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Kale

In addition, they can also have broccoli or lettuce.

Read more about Chameleons eating lettuce here.

Can Chameleons Eat Stink Bugs?

A general rule of thumb is never to provide wild bugs to your Chameleons. You don’t know where they’ve been, and they could have pesticides, herbicides, and dirt in them.

With that said, Chameleons have been known to find stink bugs in the house and eat them before you notice. However, there have been no reports of the Chameleon getting sick from eating a stink bug, though they might smell for a little while after.

Overall, it’d be best to keep your Chameleon away from stink bugs altogether. There are plenty of other insects to give them that are actually nutritious. 

What Do Chameleons Eat In The Rainforest?

Chameleons eat the same insects in the rainforest as they would anywhere else. For example, some insects that are found in the rainforest may be the following:

  • Locusts
  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Stick Insects
  • Praying Mantises
  • Large Cockroaches
  • Wasps
  • Worms
  • Flies
  • Slugs

In other words, Chameleons will eat just about any insect that they’re able to catch. 

Conclusion

Chameleons will eat anything they can find in the wild. However, the majority of their diet is made up of insects.

They eat a wide range of insects, helping the ecosystem so that insects do not get overpopulated. However, some Chameleons enjoy munching on leaves and other plant food.

Overall, Chameleons thrive from live food through insects. So, they can grow and develop in the wild, whereas, in captivity, you can gut-load the insects to allow your Chameleons more nutrients.

Learn more about Chameleons here and our complete guide to whether chameleons are dangerous or not here. You can also click here to read our guide to what veiled chameleons eat, the best drip system for chameleon or here for our full feeding guide for Baby Chameleons.

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Jason Williamson

By Jason Williamson

Jason is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever he can.