When owning a pet chameleon you don’t just need to know what to feed it you also need to know what supplements they need. Supplements are critically important for maintaining good health in captive chameleons.
What three supplements do pet chameleons need? Chameleons need a calcium supplement that contains no vitamin D3, a calcium supplement with D3 and a multivitamin supplement.
Why do chameleons need calcium supplements?
The amount of supplements required by chameleons and when they need them is a continuously evolving debate in the world of keeping chameleons. What’s no longer debated though is their need for calcium.
Calcium is absolutely essential for the maintenance of bone and organ health in chameleons. If too little calcium is provided then chameleons can get sick pretty quickly and this mainly shows up in the form of metabolic bone disease.
In the wild chameleons get calcium by eating an abundance of insects and some plant life.
As it is difficult to provide this abundance in captivity it’s necessary to supplement their live insect food with calcium.
How do you supplement a chameleon with calcium?
Calcium supplements are used as a type of insurance policy in case your chameleon isn’t getting enough from their main food source.
The starting point to make sure your chameleon is getting a good supply of calcium is to feed its feeder insects food rich in calcium. This is best achieved by feeding them collared greens.
To supplement a chameleon with calcium you need to lightly sprinkle calcium powder onto the feeder insects and this needs to be done every time you feed your chameleon.
The powder you use needs to be one that doesn’t contain vitamin D3. Repcal is the best choice for this because it’s high quality and phosphorus free.
Calcium powders need to be phosphorous free because a chameleon’s food needs to be two parts phosphorous to one part calcium. Most feeders used in captivity, particularly crickets, have high phosphorous content so phosphorous free calcium provides that balance ratio.
Why do chameleons need calcium without D3?
Vitamin D3 is manufactured naturally in a chameleon’s body using the rays of the sun. We do the same in our bodies.
Vitamin D3 is what a chameleon’s body uses to extract calcium from the digestive system and send it to the chameleon’s bones.
However, it is easy for a chameleon to overdose on vitamin D3 leading to dire health consequences. This is particularly true in captivity with highly efficient artificial UVB lights.
Conversely, though you need a pot of calcium with D3 as an insurance policy in case your chameleon isn’t getting enough vitamin D3 from your lighting setup.
I’m aware that this may sound a bit confusing at the moment but don’t worry I will talk more about how often to supplement later in the article.
Can you put calcium in a chameleon’s water?
This is an unnecessary and ill-advised thing to do. Calcium supplements for chameleons are designed to stick to live insects so supplementing them with calcium at every feed is all you need to do.
Using calcium in water and misting the cage with it risks getting calcium in your chameleon’s eyes, which is a bad idea. It will also leave calcium deposits all over the cage and plants meaning an unwanted cleanup job for you.
Can you give a chameleon too much calcium?
A chameleon cannot overdose on oral calcium either from food or supplements. Any imbalance of calcium is associated with the phosphorous calcium ratio. Extra calcium is simply excreted from the body through feces.
Sometimes a white substance is excreted from a chameleon’s nose, particularly in young chameleons, and this is often mistaken for excess calcium but it’s not. Instead, it is salt crystals and is similar to sweating in humans.
Why do chameleons need vitamin supplements?
Chameleons need these for the same reason they need calcium supplements. They eat a vast array of insects in the wild but in captivity, it’s more difficult to provide that variety.
Furthermore, insects alone are not a very good source of vitamins and instead it’s more about what food is undigested in the gut at time of eating.
Again, a good starting point to get a good supply of vitamins into your chameleon is by feeding their insects with healthy foods like collared greens mentioned earlier and foods like sweet potato.
How do you supplement chameleons with vitamins?
In the same way you do with calcium but not as frequent. For multivitamin supplements you should sprinkle a light coating on the feeder insects once every two weeks.
I recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD because it has calcium as well as multivitamins and vitamin D3 so you only need to get this and the calcium without D3 that I mentioned earlier.
Whatever brand you buy make sure you buy one that has vitamin A listed on the ingredients. Some brands list beta-carotene in their ingredients and this is usually a great source of vitamin A.
However, a study showed that panther chameleons do not convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. While this has only been shown in panther chameleons it is assumed this is the case across all chameleon species.
This doesn’t mean you can’t buy a supplement that has beta-carotene and vitamin A in, just make sure the words vitamin A are listed on the bottle. This is my main reason for recommending the Repashy brand above.
Can a chameleon overdose on vitamins?
They certainly can and this is usually as a result of too much vitamin A.
A chameleon will respond to vitamin A overdose by retaining fluid. This is what causes edema, little sacks of fluid that occur mainly under the chameleon’s throat, on the neck or chest. If you see this in your chameleon, reduce vitamin supplements until they reduce.
Jackson chameleons are particularly susceptible to edema.
So what’s a good chameleon supplement routine?
Now you’ve read about what supplements chameleons needs I’m going to give you an easy schedule to remember. This applies to the most popular kept species of chameleon. Other species will require something similar though.
Veiled and panther chameleon supplement schedule
- Calcium without D3 – Should be provided at every feed
- Calcium with D3 – Every other week
- Multivitamins – Every other week
Jackson chameleon supplement schedule
- Calcium without D3 – Should be provided twice a week
- Calcium with D3 – Once a month
- Multivitamins – Once a month
Remember if you buy a multivitamin with calcium and D3 you can do the calcium with d3 and multivitamin supplementing at the same time.
Discussions about chameleon supplementation, the levels of each vitamin they need can get very technical and understandably so. Chameleons are not the easiest animal to care for and they need a fine balance of nutrients.
Hopefully, I’ve made the process of supplementing your chameleon a simpler one and answered any questions you might have.
If you have any questions or concerns about supplementation or any other issues that are not answered here you can have a 1to1 consultation with a fully qualified reptile vet on our partner site, justanswer.
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