The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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It can generally go without saying that you are going to want to make sure that whenever you are caring for a pet, you are giving it the food as close to what it would eat as if it were living in the wild.
After all, especially with pets that tend to live in enclosures rather than roaming freely around your house, it is all the more important to provide as authentic a habitat as you can, and the diet of your pet is no exception to this rule. Take the chameleon and its diet as an example.
Chameleons, by their nature, are insectivores. This means that their diets consist of almost entirely insects, with the exact type of insect depending on where the chameleon is originally from.
Most of the major chameleon species that people keep as pets have close enough of a diet that you can get away with the main structure of the diet being nutritious bugs and insects. The question then becomes a matter of what kinds of bugs and insects you would be feeding your chameleon.
To best understand what you should be feeding your chameleon, the first thing you should do is consider looking up what the chameleon’s natural diet is. Even if you cannot exactly replicate what a chameleon’s diet would be in the wild, it will give you a good sense of what kinds of bugs the chameleon has a habit of going after.
This will help you tailor your chameleon’s diet to be what it needs, allowing you to have a healthy and happy chameleon living in your home.
The Chameleon’s Diet, Both Inside and Outside the Enclosure
In the wild, chameleons are primarily insectivores. This means that they get the majority of their nutrients from insects and that their digestive systems have evolved to get most of their daily nutrients from bugs that they encounter throughout their lives.
There has been some degree of evidence that chameleons will eat small birds and occasionally other small lizards, but these are not going to be the main source of your chameleon’s nutrients. This also applies to the chameleons that tend to ingest plant matter regularly.
Chameleons aren’t built to chase after prey, so insects that tend to flee and move fast aren’t the best insects for you to feed your chameleon that often. They can be the occasional treat for your chameleon, as they do have their trademark tongues that they can catch flying and fast insects with.
For the captive chameleon, though, a fair portion of the diet should consist of nutrient-rich worms so that the chameleon can get the bulk of its nutrients from foods that are fairly easy for your chameleon to catch.
Most of your chameleon’s diet should consist of insects in some form, as this is what chameleons have evolved to consume and draw nutrients from. You may include the occasional treat that isn’t an insect, and your chameleon will likely ingest some plant matter as a casualty of trying to use its sticky tongue to grab certain bugs. Your chameleon’s diet should consist of two parts, the staple insects and the treats.
Staple insects are exactly what they sound like. These are insects that should be of no shortage to your chameleon to try and eat, and they will carry the most nutritional value with them.
It will vary depending on personal tastes from your chameleon and how convenient it will be for you to determine which of the staple insects are going to be the right ones for your chameleon. These insects tend to include crickets, roaches, silkworms, and superworms.
Both crickets and roaches will have some level of stench to them and when in conjunction with a chameleon’s natural musk, this can be rather unpleasant. This may lead you to want to feed your chameleon silkworms or superworms, but the problem with this becomes that many of the chameleon’s treats are worms, and you will want some variety in your chameleon’s diet so that it doesn’t get fussy.
The best way to handle this is to rotate out the staple foods on the regular so that your chameleon will have a regular change of pace and you can still feed your chameleon its favorite butterworms.
Speaking of butterworms, there is the second category of food to consider for your chameleon, which are the treats. Treats are also exactly what they sound like.
These are foods that will be very nutrient rich, but are not necessarily healthy for your chameleon to eat on a regular basis. Foods that are more akin to treats for chameleons include butterworms, mealworms, waxworms, hornworms, and various flies.
Treats are also commonly used to help add variety to your chameleon’s diet as well as getting them in the mood to eat if they are being stubborn about eating their staple bugs.
When a chameleon sees one of its favorite treats, it will begin eating it and this will likely stimulate its appetite enough to go after any other staple food that may be in its enclosure.
What About Butterworms Specifically?
Butterworms can easily be a favorite part of your chameleon’s diet. Chameleons certainly seem to enjoy their butterworms and they appear to be a favorite of most chameleons out there, especially ones that are properly domesticated and enjoy eating from their owner’s hand. The problem with butterworms is that they are almost a little bit too much for your chameleon.
Butterworms tend to have a lot of nutrients in them, and in some ways, there are so many nutrients that it can become unhealthy for your chameleon to eat them as if they were a staple food.
Butterworms should be kept to a rotating group of treats that you can feed to your chameleon either as a treat for simply being a good pet or as a way to begin getting your chameleon interested in eating when it wants to.
One of the dangers of eating butterworms as a staple is that it is going to cause quite a few health issues down the line, which is why you generally want to avoid feeding your chameleon butterworms beyond the point of just giving your little lizard friend a lizard-sized treat.
With the right amount of moderation in what you feed it, your chameleon can certainly be a happy one though, and if butterworms are kept a rarity in your chameleon’s life, it will only increase the amount of surprise and excitement your chameleon will feel when it is presented with a butterworm or two to enjoy.
Aside from this, butterworms tend to be quite healthy for your chameleon to enjoy every so often. If you notice that it has been more than a week since your chameleon enjoyed a butterworm, it might be worth bringing them out again so that your chameleon can get as many of the benefits as it can from being able to enjoy the worms at a discount.
When you choose to rely on butterworms as a gift for your chameleon, you can feel confident in knowing that your chameleon will not only be happy with the wonderful treat that you were able to give it, but you can also rest assured knowing that your chameleon is going to be as happy as possible when you choose to add treats to its normal selection of staple bugs to eat. Offering special treats to your chameleon is a great and effective way to bond with it as well.
Good alternatives to butterworms include other treat worms, including mealworms, waxworms, hornworms, and so on. If you are looking for a worm that you can feed to your chameleon as a staple food, you may want to consider feeding it superworms. These worms have a nutrition profile that is more suitable as a staple food and not something that should be given on occasion.