Pets lizards list
If you plan to keep a chameleon as a pet in the near future, you've got some homework to do. These lizards are beautiful and interesting, but they're also a challenge to keep in captivity. In this lesson, we will talk about chameleon feeding in particular, because it's a subject that confuses many first-time cham owners.
Question: What does a pet chameleon eat in captivity? Answer: You should feed it as many different kinds of insects as possible, but within a certain "menu." Variety is the key to all of this. Think about the way a chameleon eats in the wild. These highly specialized lizards generally dwell in the treetops of subtropical or tropical forests, zapping a wide variety of insects from the air and trees all around them. You can never hope to duplicate these conditions exactly, but you can get as close as possible.
The Chameleon Menu - Insects They Can Eat
It's worth repeating. Variety is the key to a proper chameleon diet. Your pet will get more nutritional value from a diet of four or five different insects than a "crickets only" type of diet. So how do you provide them such variety? To get you started, here's a list of things these lizards can eat in captivity:
- Crickets — These insects are a staple of chameleon feeding, because they are easy to obtain and easy to "gut load." By gut loading, I'm talking about feeding the crickets certain high-vitamin foods so they can pass that nutrition along to the lizard. Do not feed the crickets dog food, as many keepers do. This is a missed opportunity to add nutritional value, and dog foods have artificial additives that can be harmful to your chameleon. Instead, feed the crickets dark green vegetable matter, such as broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens (they are voracious and will eat whatever you give them). You can store them in a Rubbermaid tub with a tight screen lid, and feed them to your chameleon as needed.
- Grasshoppers These insects are found within the natural range of most chameleon species, so the lizards will instantly recognize them as a preferred food source. They are larger and "meatier" than crickets, so they provide a lot of nourishment. The only trouble is, they are much harder to find than crickets. So you might have to skip them altogether. No worries though - there are plenty of other feeders on this list that are readily available.
- Flies — I'm not going to talk about flies much in this article, because you might be better off without them. But chameleons eat them in the wild, so I wanted to at least mention them here. They don't offer as much nutrition as other insects on this list, and they present a certain handling challenge. You would buy them in bulk as maggots, and then let them pupate to become flies. For most keepers, the hassle is not worth the "rewards." So, on to the next item.
- Tomato Hornworms — There are actually two kinds of hornworms that can be used for chameleon food: the tomato and the tobacco hornworms (they are named for the plants they feed on). You can have them shipped to you live, in little plastic containers. Then you would feed them and let them grow into large worms. If you let them pupate, they will turn into hawk moths. I recommend saving one or two of the worms for this purpose (and offering the rest in worm form). Your chameleon might chase the moth down and devour it, as I have seen happen many times.
- Silkworms — I highly recommend making these plump and juicy worms part of your feeding mix. They can be shipped to you in egg or hatchling form, inside of deli cup containers. The company will send you some silkworm "chow" (ground mulberry leaves) so you can feed the worms daily. Then, when they're nice and large, you can feed them to your chameleon pet. You can also let some of them pupate into moths, and feed those to your lizard as well. Aside from feeding the worms to grow them, this is another easy food source to provide.
- Waxworms You can probably buy waxworms at your local big-name pet store. They are a type of moth larvae. Waxworms are used as feeder insects for a wide variety of reptiles, fish and birds (same goes for mealworms, mentioned below). These are plump and waxy worms, and most chameleons enjoy them as a nice treat once in a while. They should be used to add variety to the diet, but not as a main staple. They are not as nutritious as the other items on this list. They can be lightly dusted with a vitamin powder to increase their nutritional value.
- Mealworms Many pet stores sell these in little plastic tubs or deli cups. They are beetle larvae. They can be gut-loaded to increase their nutritional value, and they can be easily stored in a refrigerator, which prevents them from pupating and turning into beetles. The so-called "giant mealworms" are large specimens that can bite, so be careful how you handle them. Some people believe you need to squish their heads just before feeding them to your chameleon, to prevent the worm from biting the lizard's mouth or stomach. But in my experience, chameleons chew these worms thoroughly before swallowing them, which eliminates such biting risks. Here's a good guide to raising mealworms, if you're interested.
- Cockroaches As with most of the feeder items on this list, you can buy cockroaches online and have them shipped to your door. Certain species (like the Madagascar hissing cockroach) cannot climb glass or plastic walls, and these are the ones you should purchase. If you provide them with food and water, they will breed quickly to create a constant food supply for you. My advice is to offer a few to your chameleon first, to see if the lizard will eat them. If it does, then you can grow your "colony." Like crickets, cockroaches are easy to gut load. You can even feed them vitamin and calcium-rich "cubes" such as the ones made by Fluker's.
Pet chameleons can obviously eat more than this, as they do in the wild. But for the sake of our discussion, we are going to stick with the menu items listed above. There are two reasons for this. First, you can only deal with so many insects at a time, from a logistical standpoint. Secondly, the insects listed above are enough to provide all of the nutrition a chameleon needs. In truth, if you can get your pet to eat half of the items on this list on a fairly regular basis, you're doing well.