How To Feed a Chameleon: The 5 Best Ways

Like any responsible chameleon owner I wanted to make sure I’d be feeding him the right types of food with the right levels of supplementation and getting the correct frequency of feeding so as not to over or under nourish him.

This wasn’t too difficult to research but finding out how to feed my chameleon was a little trickier.

So, how to feed a chameleon? Chameleons can be fed by using a cup, Free range, by hand or a modified cup. A combination of these methods will most likely be what you end up using, but you may only want to pick just one or two depending on what suits you and your chameleon best.

Putting a worm on your tongue and feeding your chameleon like the crazy kid above is one way but I wouldn’t recommend it! Here’s 4 other ways I do:

Cup feeding a chameleon

To begin with, you’ll probably want to cup feed while you get used to supplement dusting, handling creepy crawly insects and seeing how your chameleon eats.

Personally I used a variation of this which I’ll come on to shortly but cup feeding is how most people begin feeding their chameleons.

How to:
  • First of all, you need to get a deli cup like the one pictured below. Try and get a compostable one instead if you can as they’re better for the environment. It’s best to get a tall one as they prevent any jumping insects from escaping.
  • Place how ever many insects you require into the cup, sprinkle with any supplement powders then place your hand over the top of the cup and give it a little shake in order to cover the insects with the powder. You can also do this first in a plastic food bag and then pour the insects in afterward.
  • Secure the cup to the side of your screen enclosure by threading a cable tie through the screen, wrapping it around the cup but not too tightly and then threading it through the screen the other side and fastening the tie. You can skip this step if you like but securing it this way prevents the chameleon from knocking the cup over.
  • Make sure you place the cup near the bottom of the enclosure below your chameleon’s eye line. That way your chameleon will be more likely to approach from the top. If it approaches from the side it will shoot its tongue but only hit the cup as it doesn’t know there is a see through barrier there.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up in the enclosure
  • Easy to handle insects
  • Easy to administer supplements
  • Easy to clean up
  • Less risk of escaping insects

Cons:

  • Can confuse chameleon if it approaches cup from the side
  • Can fill with water and get messy if left in the enclosure during misting

Free ranging to feed a chameleon

This to me is the most fun way of feeding a chameleon because you get to watch it move around the enclosure at varying speeds, hunt down its prey and ultimately use that super cool long tongue that makes chameleons so spectacular to watch.

How to:

  • Choose how many feeder insects you require from the ones you gut loaded the night before.
  • Place them in a plastic food or ziplock bag, sprinkle them with the required supplement powder and gently shake them until covered with the powder.
  • If using crickets or Locusts simply tip the contents of the bag out on to the bottom of the cage floor or over a plant. Your chameleon, especially if it’s older, should see them pretty quickly and start hunting. If not these sorts of insects hide less and will move around the enclosure mainly in the open making them easier to spot.
  • If using roaches or morio worms I recommend picking them up by hand or with tweezers and placing them on to the side of the enclosure. That way they are likely to crawl upwards so your chameleon can see it easier. Placing them on the floor means they will hide under plant pots, your chameleon won’t see them and, in the case of morios, will pupate into beetles which your chameleon won’t eat.

Pros:

  • Easy to put in enclosure if using crickets or locusts
  • More interesting to watch your chameleon hunt
  • Gives chameleon more exercise

Cons:

  • Increased risk of insects escaping
  • Increased risk of insects turning into beetles or dying before chameleon eats them
  • Supplement powder can fall off before being eaten
  • Can bother chameleon at night time if left over insects aren’t removed
  • Time consuming when placing individual worm/roaches onto screen

Hand feeding a chameleon

Of all the methods of feeding your chameleon this was the one that I used the most. Hand feeding means exactly that, picking up a feeder insect and offering it by hand or, if you’re squeemish about insects, a tweezer to your chameleon.

How to:

  • Choose how many feeder insects you require from the ones you gut loaded the night before.
  • Place them in a plastic food or ziplock bag, sprinkle them with the required supplement powder and gently shake them until covered with the powder.
  • If feeding roaches, crickets or locusts pick the insect up between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Try and pick it up by the body otherwise it’s legs will come off and the insect will get away if you pick it up by the leg. Don’t hold it too tightly either.
  • If feeding morio worms pick one up in the same way but try and pick it up closer to the head because these are very squirmy and they ‘windmill’ round and round making it more difficult for your chameleon to catch. They also sometimes spit a liquid as a defense mechanism. This is harmless and barely noticeable but sometimes you feel it when hand feeding morios. These are better off being cup fed.
  • Hold the insect where your chameleon can see it and wait for it to either move nearer if necessary and fire its tongue. You should be holding it loosely enough that when your chameleon grabs it comes away automatically but if there’s a little snag when your chameleon pulls its tongue back just let go, your chameleon will have a firm grasp of the insect.
Take note of how the second and third insect is offered

Extra Tip:  When hand feeding hold one arm out straight and with the other hold the insect a little way up your arm. As your chameleon moves closer slowly move the insect further up your arm, when it gets closer still move it away again. This way your chameleon will walk onto your arm without realising.

While I don’t recommend holding your chameleon very often this is a great way for getting you used to holding it when you need to and making him a little more comfortable around you.

Feeding a chameleon with a modified cup

I used something similar to this when I first had my chameleon. It seems to be a great way of combining free ranging and cup feeding into one method because you can use any type of feeder in it and you don’t have to carefully place any morio worms on the screen or worry about them hiding under any plant pots.

This video explains the concept perfectly:

Pros:

  • Is a permanent fixture in the enclosure
  • Easy to add insects
  • Less risk of escaping insects
  • Easy for your chameleon to hunt
  • Great for leaving chameleon whilst on vacation

Cons:

  • Supplement powder could come off if not eaten quick enough
  • Would have to be careful when misting not to drown any insects or fill the cup up with water

So there you have it. If/when I get another chameleon I would definitely use the modified cup as it’s a good combination method and works well for when you’re out of town.

There is a way of connecting the modified cup method to a cricket keeper that makes feeding virtually automatic but it’s a little complicated and not recommended for a beginner.

I’ve also read about people considering using an automatic dog food dispenser as a possible auto feeder but I wouldn’t recommend trying this. As yet no viable automatic feeding solution exists but if I hear of one I will add it to this article.

I hope you found this useful. Any comments or questions please leave them below and I will try my best to answer them.


  1. Could I place my Senegal Chameleon in another, smaller, terrarium for feeding? Like a carrier with substrate and plants, but large enough that he could find and catch the insects? I don’t really want to feed him in his terrarium because if he doesn’t eat them they will die and stink up his cage….

    1. Hi Chloe,

      Thanks for the question. You could do that with your Senegal Chameleon but I think it is largely unnecessary. I also feel it would be stressful for him to be moved in and out of different cages every time he needs to be fed. Your chameleon will have no problem finding insects in his terrarium. If he doesn’t eat the insects then yes, they will eventually die but they would have to be left in there for a week or more before they start to stink up the place. Daily spot cleaning should be part of your care routine for him so any dead insects will be picked up in time. Read my article about cleaning a chameleon cage for more info. If you’re still not sure about this feeding method then you can always try cup feeding or hand feeding. That way you’ll know for sure the insects will be eaten or not. I hope this helps.

  2. My Veiled has sworn off crickets for some reason. Right now he only wants worms. I have been using the super worms and feeding them apple, carrot, potato, as well as doing the dusting of the worm. Will he remain healthy on worms along?? I do rotate in other worms (butter,calci,wax)

    1. Hi Abby, Super worms are OK as a secondary feeder but shouldn’t be his main staple. Butter worms and wax worms should only be used as treats. Calci worms are ok too but you need to mix things up though as chameleons need a variety of feeders. Try offering roaches and locusts as well as crickets.

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