Every animal has its way of drinking water. Elephants have long trunks to suck up water from rivers or other bodies of water, and then spray it into their mouths. Kangaroo rats extract water from the dry seeds and vegetation they eat, and can survive for long periods without drinking any additional water.
In general, chameleons do not drink from water bowls. An occasional chameleon like this one does that, but it’s very rare.
How Not To Give Chameleons Water?
Don’t try to feed water to a healthy chameleon by bathing, showering, or through a water bowl. Chameleons are shy predators who spend most of their time hiding in trees and branches.
So they rarely get soaked in water in the wild. Showering and bathing are most likely to just stress them out. Similarly, chameleons simply won’t drink standing water. They have evolved to drink only water running from leaves and branches. So, trying to feed them from a water bowl will simply not work.
How Do Chameleons Drink Water In The Wild?
Chameleons form a tube with their tongue and use it to draw in water droplets. Chameleons in the wild get water through a variety of methods, depending on the species and the environment they live in.
One of the most common ways that chameleons in the wild obtain water is by drinking rainwater. When it rains, chameleons will often position themselves to catch the falling droplets of water on their skin or the leaves of plants. They may also drink water from puddles that form on leaves or the ground.
In addition to rainwater, chameleons also get water from sources such as dew, morning mist, and fog. In the wild, they will get to drink only during the early morning and evening when dew forms on the leaves from condensation.
Many species of chameleons have hooded or veiled heads. The hood helps the chameleon collect water. This is common in chameleons who live in dry climates. After dew collects in the chameleon’s hood, it eventually slides down the sides of the hood into the corners of the waiting chameleon’s mouth.
Some species of chameleons are known to obtain water by drinking from streams or other bodies of water. While others may get their water from the plants they eat. Chameleons also get water from the insects they consume, as many insects contain a significant amount of water.
In captivity, their owners try to replicate these conditions to keep them hydrated.
How Should You Feed Water To Your Chameleon?
There are two things you need to keep in mind while feeding water to your chameleon:
- The water needs to run off the branches or leaves so that it captures the chameleon’s attention and it gets triggered to drink it. After several minutes, the chameleon will open its mouth to start drinking it.
- The water should keep running off well till the reptile stops drinking it.
Here are the right ways to feed water to your pet:
#1 – Spray bottles
One of the simplest ways to provide water to a chameleon is by misting its enclosure with a spray bottle. This simulates rain or dew and allows the chameleon to drink water droplets from the leaves or other surfaces in the enclosure.
#2 – Drip systems
Another method for providing water to chameleons is a drip system. This involves using a device that drips water slowly into the enclosure, allowing the chameleon to drink from the droplets as they form.
This method can be particularly useful for chameleons that are shy or may not drink from a spray bottle. You can even DIY one yourself. It’s as simple as making a pinhole at the bottom of a deli cup to allow the water to drip out. Then simply fill it with water and place it on the top of the enclosure.
#3 – Waterfalls
You can find a good one in a pet store or here on Amazon. They are quite popular because of the beauty they add to the chameleon enclosure. But there is a drawback. They may cause potential hygiene problems by being a breeding ground for bacteria. This is especially true if the insect feed accidentally drops in them or your chameleon defecates in the waterfall.
#4 – Ice Cubes
This is more of a quick fix than something you can do regularly. It is similar to the DIY dripper, except that you place ice cubes on the top of the enclosure. Better yet, place it on a branch to imitate the natural habitat. As the ice melts, it will drip onto the leaves and the chameleon can drink it. But it won’t be a continuous drip and just some splashes down at random intervals. So your chameleon might miss it.
#5 – Hamster Bottles
The jury is out on this but some people have used it successfully to feed water to their chameleons. So the hamster bottle goes on the side of the enclosure and a water drop will form at its tip. When a chameleon sees the water drop, it will most likely lick it. When it does, another drop forms.
To get results, place the tip of the straw of the bottle on a leaf so that the water drop appears on the leaf.
#6 – Foggers
Foggers function by spraying the cage with a fine mist of water at regular intervals. Unless it’s an automatic system, this means doing it manually. If you are planning to use a fogger like this, spray for at least a few minutes to allow the mist to accumulate into water droplets inside the enclosure. For best results, do it in the morning before the enclosure’s lights come on. This way there is less evaporation and it mimics the natural conditions of morning dew.
#7 – Automated Watering Systems
This is the most efficient and the most expensive option on the list. The system provides the right amount of water, at the right time- without any manual intervention. All you have to do to use it is to put water in the reservoir, set the timer, and let it work. Perfect for busy bees! It often comes with a pump and a reservoir that can be mounted to the side of the cage or the top of it.
A great way to improve the above methods is by adding real live plants to the enclosure. Real plants hold water for a longer duration than synthetic ones. This improves your chameleon’s chances of drinking water. Here’s a guide on plants that are safe for chameleons. Another advantage is that real plants improve their overall health too.
How Much and How Often Do Chameleons Need To Drink Water?
The amount and frequency of water that chameleons need and drink can vary depending on the species, age, size, and overall health of the animal, as well as the conditions of its environment.
There is no right quantity of water we can recommend. In general, chameleons should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. They typically need to drink water daily, at least once or twice a day.
You can tweak this based on your location and climate. In hot, tropical climate areas, the water will dry up fats because of evaporation. So you need to increase the quantity. Maybe mist their enclosures every couple of hours.
In colder areas, water will take longer to evaporate from the leaves. So you can decrease the frequency.
It’s important to note that chameleons are not always observed drinking, even when they have access to water. This is because they may prefer to drink when they are alone or feel safe, and they may also get water from the food they eat.
In addition to drinking water, chameleons also get water from the food they eat. It’s also very important to maintain proper humidity levels in their enclosure.
Remember that proper hydration is vital for pet chameleons. Experts recommend lots of water for a prolonged and healthier life. Dehydration in chameleons can lead to kidney failure and gout and ultimately death in severe cases.
What To Do If Your Chameleon Is Not Drinking Enough Water?
Dehydration is a common problem in chameleons, and it can be caused by a variety of factors such as high temperatures, low humidity, illness, or lack of access to water.
Here are the 5 signs of dehydration in chameleons:
- Sunken eyes,
- Yellow to Orange Urates
- Excessive wrinkled or folded skin, and
- decreased appetite.
To learn more about dehydration in chameleons, read this.
If you suspect that your chameleon is not drinking enough water, there are several steps you can take to help them stay hydrated:
Step #1 – Misting
The first step is to mist your chameleon’s enclosure. You might need to increase the duration and frequency of misting depending on your chameleon’s condition. Or you can put several drops of water on a specific leaf near the chameleon and then track how much it drinks.
Step #2 – Showering
If your chameleon is more than 5 months old, you can give them a 30-minute shower. You have to place the chameleon on a leaf near a wall in the shower. Then direct the shower head on the wall (not on the chameleon or the leaf) and let fine drops of water bounce back on it.
This can be done daily or on alternate days, depending on your chameleon’s symptoms. Make sure the water is lukewarm and free of any shampoo and soap.
Step #3 – Giving Water-rich foods
Some fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, grapes, sweet melon, and cucumbers, have a high water content and can help keep your chameleon hydrated. Remove all seeds, stems, and pips from the fruits. Never feed tomatoes, avocados, and citrus fruits to your chameleon.
Always offer the right size of fruit pieces. The thumb rule is that the piece should not be larger than the space between your chameleon’s eyes.
You can also offer electrolytes like coconut water or watermelon juice for quick hydration. But these should not have any added sugar.
Step #4 – Dropper Feeding
As the last resort, you can try feeding water to your chameleon with a small plastic dropper. Offer water droplets slowly and carefully to not choke them. It is advised to not use a syringe for squirting the water into your chameleon’s mouth.
If your chameleon is showing signs of severe dehydration or does not respond to these measures, it’s important to seek veterinary care. Your veterinarian can provide additional treatment such as fluid therapy to help rehydrate your chameleon and address any underlying health issues.
Can Chameleons Drink Water From A Bowl?
From a chameleon’s perspective, standing water is not water. They will only get triggered to drink by running water or water droplets. So, it is usually not possible to train them to drink from a water bowl, even if you try it when they are babies.
How Long Can Chameleons Go Without Water?
The answer is that it depends on the species of chameleon and its environment. Some chameleons can go for months without drinking any water, while others will only last a few days (depending on temperature and humidity conditions). It’s wise to not leave your pet chameleon thirsty for more than 2 days.
Can Chameleons Drink Tap Water?
Yes, chameleons can drink tap water. But it also depends on the source of water. One way to be safe with the water is to use a water filter. You can simply leave the water overnight in an open container. Most common chemicals should get oxidized or sink to the bottom of the container.
There are also reptile water conditioners like this available to make water safe for chameleons, regardless of the source.
Chameleons have strange drinking habits in the animal kingdom. The common mistakes pet owners make are either giving too little water through insufficient spraying or providing water in the wrong manner. In short, chameleons need daily access to adequate, clean dripping water. The key lies in selecting the right technique from the ones mentioned above, which fits your schedule.