how much food


New Member
I am new to chemeleon keeping and have a beginner question. How much does one feed a baby Jackson ( approximately 6in.)? At first my siblings and I fed her two crickets/day, but she looked awefully skinny, so we increased the amount. Little Ivy ate SIX crickets today! Is that too much, not enough, or just right? Thanks in advance.
chameleons won't over eat...a young growing chameleon usually eats between 10-20...make sure you are dusting them with non phosphorous calcium
There are differing ideas on this, depending on who you talk to, what their experience has been,a nd what their agendas/goals happen to be.

Some people will say chameleons do not, or cannot overeat - especially babies.

Ignoring chameleons, for the sake of neutrality, we can look at other herps.
In all other reptiles, captivity affords them conditions they will not see in the wild. Int he wild, they must hunt, and they are dealing with a parasite burden on their bodies as well. Furthermore, food is not always present - they don't get feeding oppurtunities as mucha s captive animals - no matterhow much food is present in the wild, it's not like in captivity. Plus, you have unnaturally high nutrient DENSITY. 10 random wild bugs, hard shelled beetles and grasshoppers, are not going to contain as much protein, fat and overall calories as 10 gutloaded crickets. Just like a wild mouse isn;t goign to be as fattening as a CB mouse loaded with rodent chow.

ALL captive reptiles will grow faster than their wild counterparts. A coworker of mine, a herpetologist for decades, has done studies on various reptiles (real studies, in an accredited zoological institution). Corn snakes, if fed often, will be able to breed at 18 months of age. Wild corn snakes will usually breed at 3-5 years of age. Bog turtles in captivity will breed at 5 years of age. They never found gravid wild bog turtles under ten years old.

This rapid growth is associated with many side affects: earlierability to reproduce, larger clutch size, more frequent reproduction, and in some cases, short life spans.

In some animals, rapid growth has developmental side affects: "pinhead" snakes (a huge bodied snake wiht a tiny little head for its size), pyramiding in turtles and tortises, and increased chances of bone deformity in lizards and crocs. With increasing quantities of food, the animal must have increasing quantities of calcium and other nutrients. Increased growth makes achieving this balance more difficult - and in some cases, IMPOSSIBLE, resulting in inevitable problems.

Overfeeding a baby montane species is going to pose less probelms than some other species. Feeding a veiled a lot of food could result in them becomeing fullgrown at 5 months of age, as opposed to 12 months. With most montane species, that dramatic difference is not going to happen.

Adults will get fat - grossly fat - if allowed to eat their fill in captivity. I have a calyptratus that eats on average, less than 20 insects per week. If allowed to eat his fill, he'd eat more than that per day, in one sitting.

I also have a CB melleri, that could most likely eat 30-40 insects a day if I allowed her to. Instead, she gets 2-3, and is continuing to grow and gain weight.

Most otherwise "healthy' and well cared for chameleons I see die at around 3 years of age. Most of them were being allowed to eat their fill daily. Reptiles get fat, and don't cope wiht it as well as we do - obeciety shortens their lives by a large amount. Veileds can live to be over 10 years old. Fat veileds die in 3-4 years most of the time. For females, it's even worse - they start laying eggs at 4-6 months, and lay clutches every few months (massive clutches) and they die in 2-3 years. My females, kept thin and hungry (but perfectly healthy!), never lay more than 2 times a year.
well i've had about 30 chameleons over the time and never had one that ate everything I put in front of them. Most of my young ones would eat close to 15 a day and if i put 30 in the cage they will have 15 left. My older ones generally come down to only eating 5-7 a day...i put maybe 10 in and there will always be a few not eaten.
Well, what I would do, indtead of going by someone's reccomended food quantity, or some arbitrary number, figure out how many your animal needs to eat to stay healthy, not lose weight, but not get too fat.

Check his body - is his tail base healthy, or is it round and fat? Does he have a lot of swelling on his casque? It should be pooched out a bit, but not too much. Does he have folds of fat behind his head, and around his legs? Are his feet thin and flat, or rounded and swollen with padding?

If he seems to be a bit chunky, cut his food to 3-4 insects per day, with a day or two of fasting per week. keep track of his body condition and weight, and see where he stabilizes at. If he's getting a little thinner than you'd like, throw in an extra bug here and there. Eventually, you'll settle in on the right feeding amount, and you won't have to worry about him gettign too fat.

The food he does eat also matters - superworms, silkworms and waxworms are very high in caloires and fat - too much of them will result in a fat lizard.

In the wild, they're eating al the time, but what they're eating is much less dense than what they get in captivity. Flies, beetles and other crucnhies.

If you look at people in poor countries, where they eat lots of fiberous vegetables and not so much starchy veggies and meat -they eat a TON of food, a lot more poundage than we do. They eat their fill all day, and are still skinny. PArasites are a reasopn for this, but mainly it's nutrient density. If they were to go to golden corral, or CICI's pizza buffet, and eat their fill of THAT stuff, on a regular basis, they'd get horribly fat. Even if they ate thier fill of healthy foods, like lean meat, whole grain bread and vegetables, they'd get fat.

It's a combination of quantiy and quality - If you feed crappy feeders, like superworms and waxworms, you will have a fat lizard, even if they're not eating that much. If you feed healthy gutloaded roaches, crickets and grasshoppers, to a parasite-free, relativly sedentary, chameleon, as much as it wants, it's going to get fat.
While I'm of the firm belief that chameleons CAN be overfed, I don't think that's something you'll have to worry about quite yet. If you could post a picture of your cham, we could hep you determine it's age, but it sounds as if it's still a juvenile. At this point in your chams life, while it's still growing, you'll want to be feeding it as much as it will eat. It's after a cham is about fullsize that you want to worry about overfeeding and body tone. It's not an issue of body fat so much as fatty deposits on the organs that we're concerned about.
Eric Adrignola said:
Check his body - is his tail base healthy, or is it round and fat? ...
This is something I have wondered about for some time. What does the tail base of a healthy chameleon look like? How much muscle tone should be visible? Knowing the visual difference in the tail base of a malnutritioned, healthy, or over-weight chameleon would be very beneficial to new chameleon owners. I have never been certain, but always assumed definite bone/muscle definition below and above the tail bone was a sign of malnutrition. No bone/muscle definition at all would be possible signs of an overweight chameleon. Please correct me if I am wrong. I realize this may vary visually depending on chameleon species, so I am mostly thinking of larger species at the moment.
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