You can bathe a chameleon, but I strongly recommend you don’t because it is completely unnecessary to do so and is also very stressful for them. Instead, it is best to provide them with showers for rehydration reasons only.
Do chameleons need baths?
Chameleons don’t need baths because they don’t clean themselves this way. They also don’t need baths because, except for a few species, they don’t go anywhere near standing water in the wild, and they can’t swim.
Bathing a chameleon will be extremely stressful for them and also dangerous, especially for baby chameleons, who can very easily drown in even the shallowest of water.
How chameleons keep clean
Chameleons do not need any input from us humans on how to wash. They’ve been around on this earth far longer than we have, and in that time they’ve figured out how to keep themselves clean.
Chameleons don’t really get dirty in the first place. Sure, a bit of mud here and there, but nothing a bit of rain won’t take care of in the wild.
As for dead skin? They simply get rid of it by shedding it all off.
You may think if there’s a bad smell coming from your chameleon that they need a bath. They won’t as it is more likely the smell is to do with the enclosure itself and not as a result of your chameleon being unclean.
Bathing to help with shedding
For various reasons, a chameleon will sometimes have trouble with shedding. Warm water and keeping the humidity up will sometimes help with removing any stuck shedding.
Again, logically you may think a warm bath is a good solution for this, but it’s not. A chameleon will be more stressed by a bath than helped by one for shedding.
A much better solution for helping a chameleon having trouble with shedding is by increasing misting sessions with warm water. This can further be helped by giving a chameleon a shower.
Bathing to help with hydration
Bathing will not help with hydration either. I see questions about hydration in social media groups, and I nearly always see at least one answer that perpetuates a dangerous myth about bathing chameleons.
The dangerous myth I’m talking about is the one that says chameleons absorb water through their skin. This is completely false, and I do wonder how many problems this myth has caused for chameleons and well-meaning owners being given bad advice.
Chances are all that will happen if you give your chameleon a bath is they will just sit there, feel stressed, show stressed colors, and they will just want you to put them back in their cage where they can dry off.
Chameleons love water, right? I’ve seen videos
No, you’ve seen videos of chameleons where the owner thinks that the chameleon is loving water but in reality, they just tolerate it.
If you look on social media, you will be able to find videos of chameleons taking baths. I won’t post them here, but if you take a look, you will see those chameleons really don’t want to be in water like that.
You’ve also likely seen videos like this. Which yes is really damn cute, but no, the chameleon is not washing his hands. To him, the solid flow of water looks like a branch, and he is likely utterly confused as to why he can’t grab it!
Chameleons are bad at recognizing when water is present. It’s the main reason they’re more difficult to hydrate than most other pets.
They hate being sprayed directly with water, they can’t swim, and they don’t recognize standing water. Bathing chameleons is a pointless exercise.
These are very useful, but only in certain circumstances and only when completely necessary.
If your chameleon is having a bit of trouble getting rid of a bit of stuck shed skin, a shower can come in useful for dislodging it.
A shower can also help with getting a bit of extra water into your chameleon if they’re dehydrated.
To shower your chameleon, put them on a large plant in your shower. Set the shower to a warm, but not hot, temperature and aim the flow of water at the wall. This way, the droplets will bounce off the wall and create a spray.
Never directly spray your chameleon with water from a shower, as this stresses them.
Also, never shower a baby chameleon. I put this is bold, as it’s really important. Baby chameleons are far too small for showers and can in fact drown. Although this is rare, it’s really not worth the risk.