Chameleons are interesting little creatures and make great reptile pets! They may be small, but they are pretty resistant. You might be reading this article because you’re thinking about leaving your chameleon to fend for itself for a few days.
Chameleons can go for around 2 weeks without eating and 1 week without drinking, depending on the species and factors such as age, the environment, activity level, health status, and gravidity.
In this article, we’ll explain how long chameleons can go without
- What affects a chameleon’s ability to survive without
- When should chameleon owners start to worry when their chameleon refuses to eat?
- Is it possible for a chameleon to starve itself?
Table of Contents
How Long Can Chameleons Go Without
Chameleons can survive for around 2 weeks without
Wild chameleons eat when they are hungry and when they find suitable
Although chameleons physiologically can go for longer periods than other animals without eating or drinking, it’s not to be encouraged.
If you need to leave your chameleon, it’s better to ask someone to come and feed them and give them water rather than leave them alone.
Aside from needing to eat, your chameleon will benefit from someone checking on them and cleaning their
It might seem a bit of a hassle, but it’s the best thing for everyone involved. This way, you won’t worry whether your chameleon is okay, and they will get checked regularly.
Coming home after a trip to find your chameleon sick or in poor condition is not ideal.
Chameleons who don’t eat or drink enough have increased susceptibility to conditions such as:
Tip: You can read more about chameleon diseases in our article 7 signs your chameleon is dying.
How Long Can Chameleons Go Without Water?
Most chameleons can go around one week without drinking water.
When it comes to water, chameleons are pretty interesting. Rather than drinking from a water dish, they prefer to sip water from plants.
For pet chameleons, this means you need to mist their enclosure regularly and provide them with a drip system for water.
If you really want to, you can provide them with a water bowl. However, it’s unlikely they’ll use it because chameleons prefer to drink from ‘moving’ water supplies such as drip systems or from plants.
If you put a water dish in your chameleon’s tank, make sure that it’s not too deep and that they can crawl out easily if they fall in. A good way of doing this is by putting a branch as a step or bridge from the dish to the outside.
Chameleons who don’t drink enough are at risk of becoming dehydrated. We’ve listed some signs of dehydration in chameleons below:
- sunken eyes
- dry or dull-looking skin
- abnormal appearance of urates
- decreased activity.
If you’re not sure whether your chameleon is dehydrated, you can try to perform the skin fold test. This involves gently folding your chameleon’s skin and seeing how long it takes for it to return back.
If your chameleon is dehydrated, the skin will move back into place slowly. If they are hydrated, it will move back pretty quickly.
If you think your chameleon isn’t drinking enough water and you’re not sure what to do about it, read our article How to get your chameleon to drink water.
Don’t forget, chameleons get some of the water they need to stay hydrated from their
food. This means that if they are eating less, they are also at risk of becoming dehydrated.
What Affects a Chameleon’s Ability To Survive Without
Food Or Water?
In this section, we’ll explain the factors which affect how long a chameleon can survive without
Young chameleons who are still developing, are unlikely to survive as long as adults without
Young chameleons, like any other species, who don’t have access to
This means they are often smaller or weaker. In the wild, these individuals are easy prey for predators as they are less able to escape.
In captivity, pet chameleons who didn’t get enough water or
This is one of the reasons why it’s especially important to get your chameleon from a reputable breeder.
Adult chameleons can survive longer than younger chameleons without
For the species of chameleon that give birth to live young such as Jackson’s chameleon, pregnancy can affect how long they can go without
Any animal that is pregnant has higher nutritional requirements than other individuals because they need extra nutrition to help their young develop normally and healthily.
If a chameleon who’s carrying young offspring inside doesn’t eat or drink enough, the offspring may die before or soon after birth.
Even if the offspring do survive, they will probably be underdeveloped or weak, so are unlikely to survive until adulthood.
Chameleon species who lay eggs instead of giving birth, physiologically reduce their
A more active chameleon, won’t be able to go as long without water or
A healthy chameleon can survive longer without food or water compared to one who has a disease or health condition.
This is because when your reptile pet is unwell, they have an increased need for
When the temperature is low or high, chameleons can be prompted to reduce their
To be able to digest their food properly, a chameleon needs to have an appropriate body temperature. If their body temperature is not sufficient to help with this process, they may reduce their
An example of this is during brumation, which we’ll talk about later.
If the temperature is high, then a chameleon will become dehydrated faster than usual.
Chameleons don’t actually sweat, so don’t be fooled into thinking that sweating in warm environments might affect their ability to go without water.
If the temperature is lower than the optimum, they may last longer without water. If it is higher, then chameleons will be able to go for less time without water.
Temperature and humidity usually act together when it comes to
A chameleon in a more humid environment will last longer without
This is because they will get more water from the air saturated with water. Additionally, in more humid environments their skin is less likely to dry out.
As we mentioned, humidity acts together with temperature in affecting a chameleon’s ability to last without water.
We’ve ranked the combinations of temperature and humidity and their effect on how long a chameleon can go without water and
- High humidity and low temperature
- Low humidity and low temperature
- High temperature and high humidity
- High temperature and low humidity.
When Should Chameleon Owners Start To Worry When Their Chameleon Refuses To Eat?
If your pet chameleon hasn’t eaten in a few days, no matter their age or sex, it’s probably best to contact a reptile veterinarian in case the reason for them refusing to eat is an illness.
Don’t forget, chameleons get lots of water from their
Possible diseases which can cause chameleons to eat less include:
- Impaction (blockage in the gastrointestinal system)
- Injury to the mouth
- Infections such as mouth rot
- Infections with parasites.
If you can’t get to a reptile veterinarian straight away, there are 3 things you can try to help your chameleon:
- Offering them a different type of
fooditem – it’s possible for a chameleon to become bored of eating the same foodall the time
- Mist their enclosure – to decrease the chances of them becoming dehydrated from lack of
- Check and correct all the environmental parameters in their
tank– if the external environment isn’t optimal for your chameleon, they could go off their food.
You can read more about the correct
If none of the above points help your chameleon start eating or you spot other signs of disease, it’s especially important to contact a reptile veterinarian.
We’ve listed some signs of disease in chameleons below (source):
- Weight loss
- Abnormal movement
- Swellings or lumps
- Changes in color
- Material exiting or surrounding the eye, nose, or mouth
- Changes in activity level (lethargy)
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Evidence of parasites on the skin or in their poop.
Even though you may be worried, try to keep calm and tell your reptile veterinarian as much as you can about the circumstances surrounding your chameleon’s
Tip: You can read about how to assess your chameleon’s body condition in our article: Is Your Chameleon Too Skinny?
You can read more about decreased appetite in chameleons in our article 15 Reasons Why Your Chameleon Is Not Eating + How To Help.
Is It Possible For a Chameleon To Starve Itself?
In some situations, a chameleon may decrease their
Since we’ve already mentioned a few diseases which can cause a chameleon to lose its appetite, in this section we’ll focus on non-infectious causes of reduced appetite.
Female chameleons can lay a clutch of unfertilized eggs every 3 to 6 months regardless of whether there is a male chameleon present, depending on the environment, species, and health status of the female.
When female chameleons are ready to lay their eggs, it’s not uncommon for them to stop eating, however, they will still drink normally.
You may notice them scratching in the
You can read about how to help your chameleon if she’s laying her eggs in our article How to make a lay bin for your chameleon.
Many reptiles brumate when the weather becomes cold (or more dry), as a survival adaptation to help themselves save energy at a time when
Signs that your chameleon is brumating include:
- decreased or absent movement
- less bright skin color
- reduced eating and drinking
- reduced or absent urate and feces.
When a chameleon is preparing to shed, or shedding, it has been frequently observed that they decrease their
Signs that your chameleon is preparing to shed include:
- Less bright skin compared to usual
- Rubbing on their
tankor items within it
- Puffy appearance of eyes.
Did you know? Most fully grown chameleons normally shed around every 2 months.
If a chameleon is always fed the same type of
Another reason to vary your chameleon’s diet is to decrease the chances of them getting a deficiency disease.
Just like some of us humans, when a chameleon gets stressed, they may have a decreased appetite or stop eating altogether. In this case, it’s important to look for potential stressors and remove them to get a chameleon eating again.
Examples of things which can cause a chameleon to feel stressed include:
- Loud noises near their
tankenvironment (lighting, humidity, temperature)
- Changes in their
- Being housed with another chameleon (chameleons prefer to live alone)
- Close contact with other pets
- Not enough objects for climbing in their
Signs of stress in chameleons include frequent color changes, puffing themselves up, and scratching at the glass in their
Compared to other species, chameleons have an interesting ability to go for longer periods without eating or drinking. If you notice your chameleon hasn’t eaten or drunk in a while, it’s best to investigate the cause.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to check your chameleon’s condition, read our article 25 signs your chameleon is happy and healthy.