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Chameleon Nutrition: Supplements

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To maintain optimum nutrition, chameleons need a calcium supplement that contains no vitamin D3, a calcium supplement with D3 and a multivitamin supplement.

For veiled and panther chameleons, calcium needs to be provided at every feed, calcium without D3 twice a month and a multivitamin twice a month. For Jackson’s chameleons, calcium need only be provided twice a week, calcium with D3 once a month and multivitamins once a month.

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 to provide 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 if you have a veiled or panther, and only twice a week for Jackson’s.

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.

Calcium with 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.

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.

However, 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.

Adding calcium to 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.

Over supplementing 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.

It is possible to overdose on D3, which is included in some calcium supplements. While you need to have a calcium with D3 supplement, it should only be used once or twice per month, depending on what species your chameleon is.

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.

Multivitamins

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 their gut at the time your chameleon eats them.

Like with calcium, the best way 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 to provide multivitamins

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 for veiled and panther chameleons, and once a month for Jackson’s.

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 Repcal calcium without D3.

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 a usually 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.

Over supplementing multivitamins

Unlike with calcium, chameleons can overdose on multivitamins. This largely caused by having 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 the swelling goes down and consult a vet.

Jackson’s chameleons are particularly susceptible to edema.

Supplement schedule

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 a similar routine.

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

If you buy a multivitamin that includes calcium with D3, like Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, you can do the calcium with d3 and multivitamin supplementing at the same time.

This means you supplement with the multivitamin that includes the calcium with D3 once every other week for veilds and panthers, and just once a month with it for Jackson’s. There is no need for separate D3 supplementing if you do it this way.

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11 responses to “Chameleon Nutrition: Supplements”

  1. Mika avatar
    Mika

    What kinds of multivitamins should I buy for my panther chameleon? I feed my 1 year old panther chameleon with d3 every 14 days and without d3 every day, what else do I need? Also he does have some burns on his body, they aren’t very bad but I wanna try and help him get better, he has a 6 foot tall cage by 2 feet wide!

    1. Dave avatar
      Dave

      Hello,

      I have answered the question in the article. Your schedule is good you just need to add multi vitamins in every two weeks as well. If you get the multivitamins I recommend in the article, Repashy calcium plus, you will only need to use it once every two weeks alongside your daily calcium as repashy plus has D3 as well. As for the burns I don’t know how serious they are but I advise you take him to a vet to get checked over.

  2. Tiffany S avatar
    Tiffany S

    Hello,

    Thank you for the article, very informative. I have two questions:
    1. whats the difference between repashy calcium plus, and repashy calcium plus LoD?
    2. If I go with your recommendation to use repashy would the supplement schedule be the following:
    Calcium without D3 – provided at every feed
    Repashy Calcium Plus – twice a month

    1. Dave avatar
      Dave

      Hello Tiffany,

      Thanks for your supportive words.

      1. Repashy LoD is the same as calcium plus but it has fewer multivitamins. This is the formulation I recommend for chameleons.
      2. Yes that is the correct supplement schedule for repashy.

  3. Shaina avatar
    Shaina

    Hello, your article was very informative and appreciated. Thank you. I do not own a chameleon at the moment, I have been waiting so I get my facts correct so when I bring my little guy home he won’t be hurt for my lack of knowledge. Anyway I have a little question about the vitamins and calciums. I understand the difference but what has racking my brain lately is that if I use the calcium without d3 all week but one day will be the one with d 3 and then the multivitamin once a month. On the day of using this multivitamin at one feeding do I continue to use the multivitamin on this day for the whole day? Or just once and the other feeding sessions of this day will be the supplement of calcium without d3?

    1. Dave avatar
      Dave

      Hi Shaina,

      That’s a good question. If you’re supplementing with multivitamins you need to only do it for one feed of the day. It’s really only necessary to dust your chameleon’s food for one feed a day with any supplement. I Hope that helps clear up any confusion.

  4. jessica avatar
    jessica

    Hello,
    I have a a Jackson chameleon and just to confirm… I can buy a bottle of calcium without D3 to dust the crickets twice a week and the Repashy Super Foods Calcium Plus Supplement you recommend to dust the crickets once a month and thats it, correct?

    1. Dave avatar
      Dave

      Hi Jessica,

      For a Jackson chameleon yes, that’s the correct supplements and schedule.

      1. Jessica avatar
        Jessica

        Thank you so much for your reply! If I may ask one more question…. I give my chameleon mostly crickets (I live in Hawaii and Dubai roaches are illegal here) I recently purchased meal worms, I know they are okay for the chameleon to eat every once in a while but Im not sure how I should feed them to him. Do I just put them 1 or 2 at the bottom of the cage at a time?

        1. Dave avatar
          Dave

          No problem!

          Meal worms are not a good option for chameleons, even if once in a while. Instead, try and get morio worms (also called suoerworms). Calcium worms are also good. You can try either cup feeding the worms or what I do is place the worm on the screen so when it climbs the cage the chameleon sees it and grabs it.

  5. Jessica avatar
    Jessica

    Thank you so much! I will surely take your advice and get the suoerworms.