Many people are misinformed on how or what to feed their veiled chameleons. This section will go into more depth on their needs and requirements in deferent stages of their lives. Just like humans and other animals, depending of if they are growing, developing eggs, or having health problems, their dietary need will change. Nothing is set in stone, and not all species require the same diet. What is provided here are general nutritional advice. If your chameleon has problems, you may wish to discuss it’s diet with your vet and see if he/she recommends any extra supplements.
The staple diet of all captive chameleons should be crickets. The size of the crickets you use will depend on the size of your veiled chameleon. You should feed it crickets no bigger then the width of it’s head. Other insects such as superworms, waxworms, moths, and other insect prey, should be given as treats to keep the chameleon from getting bored with eating the same foods day after day. Many who are fed only crickets, eventually go off eating and need to be stimulated into eating them again. (Not an easy task once they get sick of crickets.)
Crickets are the main food source because they are easy to “gut load”. Gut loading means that they are fed a special diet which has the nutrition your chameleon will need. Remember the old verbiage: “You are what you eat”? Well this holds very true with our chameleons and the food they eat. If the crickets are fed on dog food, then they will not have the vitamins and minerals the chameleon needs to remain healthy. Crickets fed a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will be nutritious and more tasty to your chameleon.
Prepared Cricket Food
Most cricket chow or cricket food has been evaluated heavily by other people in the veiled chameleon field. Most of these man made products are not good for the chameleons, they have too much protein and other vitamins minerals which can lead to long-term health problems such as edema, hypercacalcemia and heart problems if used regularly. It is best to read the labels, ask questions, and be armed with knowledge before using one of these products. One that has been tested and comes highly recommended is the Walk About Farms invertebrate food. This can be fed to crickets, mealworms, superworms and many other insects you use to feed your chameleon.
Making Your Own Gutload
Many chameleon keepers do not use a pre made product to gutload their insects with. Many choose to use natural fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items to feed to the insects. Doing so allows you to know that the chameleons are getting the best nutrition and a little more control over the vitamins and minerals it needs. If a veiled chameleon is sick, it may need extra zinc in it’s diet, you can add foods high in zinc to the feeders diet to help your chameleon to get what it needs. A gravid chameleon needs a little extra calcium, you can also control the calcium intake with natural food products.
Below is a list of food items which should be used in gut loading your crickets and insects. Note that some foods are not used daily.
- Mustard Greens
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Broccoli (Do not use daily)
- Green Beans
- Yellow Summer Squash
- Carrots (Do not use daily.)
- Yams or Sweet Potato
- Apple Slices or Applesauce
- Orange (Do not use daily.)
- Mango and Papaya
Other Food Items
- Oats or Oat Grains
- Wheat Germ
- Corn Flour
- Gerber Bay Rice Cereal
- Powdered Milk
- Sunflower Seeds unsalted
- Bee Pollen
AVOID FEEDING THE INSECTS THE FOLLOWING:
- Dog Food
- Cat Food
- Iceberg Lettuce
Using Vitamins & Calcium Supplements
If your veiled chameleon is on a good diet of gut loaded insects, then you will not need to use vitamin and calcium supplement dusts on the insects as often. Each animal varies in it’s needs and we cannot advise you in general how often your chameleon should be supplemented with additional vitamins or calcium dusts.
The use of calcium is important especially in growing and gravid chameleons. Their bodies need a little extra calcium to help build strong bones and develop properly. Using the right calcium supplement is important as well. If you supplement the veiled chameleons diet with too much calcium, then you will end up with Hypercalcemia which can lead to many health problems and even death.
If you are using the food items listed above daily to feed to your insects, then you will not need to supplement with calcium more than once every 10 or so days. Some breeders of chameleons will use calcium supplements on their females who are developing eggs about once every week. Too much calcium in the case of gravid females can cause them to develop eggs which are too hard and thick for the babies to break through when the time comes to hatch.
Do not use a calcium supplement which has phosphorus in it. Read the labels of the calcium supplements before buying to make sure it is going to be the right one for your veiled chameleon.
General Vitamin Supplements
Again, if your insects are well gut loaded, then the use of additional supplements are not going to be needed as often. If you are using the Walkabout Farm products for gut loading the insects, then I would recommend only giving additional vitamin supplements once a week or once every two weeks depending on your chameleons growth and health.
Other Insects & Cultures
Crickets should always be the main source of food prey for your chameleon. They can be easily gut loaded with the proper nutrients for your veiled chameleon. You will need to provide other insects to keep your chameleon healthy and happy. If you feed your chameleon crickets all the time, they often will get bored with the same food prey and go off feeding. This can be quite troublesome to get them back to eating crickets again. Avoid this by offering other insects which are good for the chameleon as snacks on a daily or every other day basis.
Other insects which veiled chameleons love and are safe to feed are listed below:
- Waxworms (Limit the number given as these are fatty.)
- Pill Bugs
- Flies and Fruit Flies
- Stick bugs
- Various worms (Check to make sure they are safe, tobacco horned worms for instance can be toxic.)
- Land Snails
The above list of insects give you an idea of what type of insects you can use to feed your veiled chameleon to provide a variety of taste and nutrition.