Chameleons are primarily carnivores, whose diet mostly consists of insects. In their natural habitat, these lizards normally live in the treetops of tropical rainforests, and use their long and fast tongue to grab a variety of insects from their surroundings, including moths, caterpillars, worms, beetles, etc.
Besides insects, a few species eat smaller reptiles and certain invertebrates too. Some species are also known to eat smaller chameleon varieties on a regular basis. Chameleons may eat plant leaves as a source of water when it is not raining. Around half of the chameleon species of the world can be found in Madagascar, while the rest live in the tropical areas of Asia and the Middle East. The various sizes and geographic of these reptiles means that the variety of food available also differs a lot.
While it is not possible to give the diet that is available in the wild, since it is so varied, one can follow certain guidelines to ensure that pet chameleons thrive. It is highly recommended that chameleons in captivity should be fed with a wide variety of foods, rather than just one type.
Insects: Chameleons love to hunt and prefer live food. Some species do not even touch dead insects. One can easily find live feeder insects in specialty stores or while shopping online. It is important that you do not feed insects that you have caught around your home, as they might be contaminated by pesticides. Also, it is recommended that one should feed gut-loaded insects, i.e., insects fed with nutritious food, as the nutrients will then get passed on to your pet. Alternately, you can dust the insects with calcium and vitamin supplements before feeding them to the chameleon. The best live insects for chameleons are crickets, grasshoppers, hornworms, silkworms, waxworms, mealworms, and certain types of cockroaches. If possible, it would also be a good idea to breed these insects at home, and save yourself some money on these purchases.
Fruits and Vegetables: Besides insects, many varieties of chameleons also like feeding on fruits and vegetables in small quantities. You can feed fruits such as bananas, papayas, and apples, along with leafy vegetables like collard, dandelion, and mustard greens, and other vegetables like grated carrots, watercress, etc. You can also try feeding your pet some oats and bran.
Water: Water is a very important part of the diet, and while chameleons may find drinking water from a bowl a little difficult, there are many other alternatives which you can use. The easiest way is to use a spray bottle to spray water on the insides of the tank, so that the chameleon can lick it off. Alternately, you can also buy an artificial waterfall, which can be expensive, but will add to the aesthetic appeal of the enclosure.
- You should feed adult chameleons on alternate days, with a mix of insects and greens. The amount of food you need to feed will depend on the size of the insects and the size of the chameleon.
- Baby and juvenile chameleons have to be fed twice a day, but it is important to feed only those insects that small enough to be swallowed easily.
- It is highly recommended that your chameleon's enclosure is well equipped with UV and heating apparatus, as these reptiles require warmth to digest their food. The temperature of the basking should be maintained between 90 - 100 degrees F. The UV light will help your pet process Vitamin D and calcium to have a healthy skeleton.
- The enclosure should be cleaned regularly, and any food that is not eaten by the chameleon should be removed.