What And How To Feed Chameleons
What do I feed my chameleon? How do I feed? What do I feed my chameleon’s food? Where do I store the food? Are you asking your self these questions? We will cover all this and more!
What do I feed my panther chameleon?
Variety is key is keeping a happy, healthy, and well balanced chameleon. Commercially available food items include crickets, roaches, silkworms, superworms, mealworms, waxworms, hornworms, butterworms, and flies. These food items can be separated into two sub categories. One being staple food items and another being treats (for variety). Staple food items are insects that can be fed on a daily basis. Treats are just that, they offer no real good nutritional value, but offer variety to your chameleons’ diet.
Staple insects include crickets, roaches, silkworms, and superworms. These items are okay for feeding on a daily basis. Crickets and silkworms are the most popular and recommended feeders for a staple diet. Roaches and superworms are also good as a mix with the two above feeders as your daily food items. You can purchase silkworms and roaches at www.CaliforniaSilkworms.com. Treats include mealworms, waxworms, butterworms, hornworms, and flies. These items are recommended for adding variety to you chameleon’s diet or stimulating them to eat.
How do I feed?
There are two feeding options, one is free roaming, and the other is cup feeding. Free roam feeding is just that, the food items are released into the cage and the chameleon is allowed to hunt them down on there own. Cup feeding is done by placing a small deli type cup in the cage (preferably not clear). The food items are then placed into the cup and the chameleon can then eat the items being offered. There are pros and cons for both feeding methods.
Pros for Free Roaming:
1. Keeps your chameleon active.
2. Exercises your chameleon’s tongue.
3. It’s more natural.
Cons for Free Roaming:
1. Feeders can hide.
2. Feeders can eat feces from your chameleon.
3. Feeders can eat through some screen cages.
4. Feeders may escape from the cage.
Pros for Cup Feeding:1. Keeps feeders in one place2. Allows for fast feeding3. Prevents feeders from getting out.
Cons for Cup Feeding:1. Chameleon gets bored of eating from the cup.2. Chameleons may develop tongue issues from eating at the same spot daily.3. Not all food items need to be cup fed, such as silkworms, hornworms, superworms, and files. These items can either not be contained in cups (IE flies) or don’t move much and can be fed with out any problems from the screen of the cage or vines/branches. Also most chameleons will accept there favorite food items from there keepers hands!
What do I feed my chameleon’s food?
It is important to feed your chameleons food well, to keep them longer, stronger, and more nutritious. Each feeder insect will have its own food requirement. Feeding the insects, food before you feed them to your chameleon is highly recommended. This process is called gut loading.
Crickets will need to be fed a high quality dry gut load along with a water source. This would include leafy greens, carrots, potatoes, squash, apples, and oranges… You can buy commercial dry gut loads; just make sure it’s well balanced. You should have a small container of dry gut load and a water source with your crickets at all times. Mixing the water source up is always a plus, food variety is important.
Silkworms have very specific food requirements, which include either mulberry leaves or artificial silkworm food. Either of the two food source are easily accepted by the silkworms. Both offer all the food and water requirements needed to go through their life cycle. Leaves are fed freshly picked from a mulberry tree (after you have washed them). Artificial silkworm food is fed by grating the food over the top of the silkworms. At www.CaliforniaSilkworms.com you can find more info, purchase silkworms, food, and care products!
Mealworms/Superworms need red bran/oats bedding, and a water source. The water source will be the same as used with crickets (superworms like romaine and carrots best). Place the items on top of the bedding; the worms will come to the top to eat the water source. As they do this the worms will bury the water source into the bedding. Superworms are highly cannibalistic, it’s important to maintain a proper water source to prevent them from eating each other.
Butterworms/Waxworms have specific food needs. These items are not a recommended food source other then for variety, so you will not be keeping large amounts around the house. Waxworms can be cultured but due to the high fat content buying them in small amounts for fast feeding will be your best bet. Butterworms are host plant specific; you can not do much for them other then feed them off.
Flies are sold in cultures; these cultures will have everything the flies need in them. If you want to reproduce the flies, buy extra medium from the fly supplier or get instructions from them on how to setup cultures.
Where do I store the food?
There is no one way to store insects, each food item will need a little different setup. Most of the odd food items like waxworms, butterworms, hornworms, and flies come in cups. These cups will be just fine for housing these food items, until you can feed them off. Mealworms can be but in the refrigerator to slow growth down however keeping large amounts is not recommended because they are not a staple (everyday) food item. So really there are 4 different setups for the other 4 food items (crickets, superworms, silkworms, and roaches). Keeping all food items with in 70-80F will be best.
Crickets do best in a vertical position. When buying crickets by the 1000 they come boxed with egg crate which works perfect for positioning vertically. 18 gallon Rubbermaid tubs work great for keeping crickets in. These can be purchased at your local store. You will need to cut an opening on the lid and cover it with screen. Aluminum screen is best; it can not be chewed through by the crickets. You can also add side panels of screen to the tub if needed, however I have not found it necessary. To attach the screen you can use silicone, rivets, staples, hot glue, or duct tape.
Superworms/mealworms need a tub that can hold their bedding and keep the worms contained from crawling out. This can be a simple plastic box with a screen top lid like the crickets just on a much smaller scale, or no lid at all. To a small drawer system that holds more then one tub.
Silkworms are best kept in silkworm keepers; they can be purchased from your silkworm supplier like www.CaliforniaSilkworms.com. For optimal success you will want to keep your silkworms in a dry, warm environment. Other less successful methods of keeping silkworms is in cardboard boxes, and plastic tubs. While these will work, for best survival rates you will want a silkworm keeper such as the one above.
Roaches come in two different climbing types; you have your climbers and non climbers. Climbing roaches can climb just about anything including glass. To contain them, a 3” line on Vaseline around the top of your tub will contain the roaches. The non climbers don’t require any special things to keep them contained. Tubs for keeping roaches are the same used for keeping crickets. See above for cricket boxes. Just remember if you have climbers you need to add the Vaseline to the rim of the tub.
If you follow the simple steps above you should be very successful housing, gut loading, and feeding your chameleon. With proper housing and gut loading it should cut your die offs, and not require extensive time to care for the insects. Happy feeding!