How Do Chameleons Drink?

How do chameleons drink? It’s a fair quesiton, and you’ve definitely come to the right place. Did you know that chameleons won’t drink water from a traditional water dish? In fact, they’ll usually die of dehydration before they’ll do so! This isn’t because they’re stubborn or stupid animals. Rather, it’s because chameleons don’t recognize a dish of still water as a source of hydration.

chameleon drinking water
Here’s one of our female yellow-lipped Parson’s chameleon mid-drink.

We all know just by seeing how clumsy chameleons are on flat land that they are arboreal lizards. This means that they spend most of their lives in trees and by extension, drink water while they are in the trees.

How do Chameleons Drink in the Wild?

What happens in the wild is that when it rains, water trickles and drips down upon the leaves and branches in the trees. Chameleons will recognize there is water present based on the moisture they are feeling and the drops they observe hitting the surface around them, and will lap up the water droplets with their tongue.

So, it would make sense that they can’t comprehend that the dish you place on the floor of their enclosure actually contains water. It’s just not natural to them.

chameleon drinking

So, you might ask, if I can’t leave a water dish for my new pet, how do I get my chameleon to drink water?

How do Chameleons Drink in Captivity?

The simplest method is to use a drip system. You can go as fancy or as inexpensive as you want. If you’re on a tight budget, you can simply get a plastic deli cup and puncture a hole in the bottom. Fill it with water, place it on top of your chameleon’s screen cage, and – voila – dripping water! A drip every second or so is a good rate. You don’t want a constant stream of water, or too slow of a drip.

Make sure the drops are landing on either a branch, or a leaf. If you want to spend a bit more money or get something that is specifically made to drip water for reptiles, try a drip system offered by Zoo Med called “Little Dripper.”

We also highly recommend misting your chameleon’s enclosure for added moisture and humidity. You can do this manually with a spray bottle a few times daily (mist until water droplets appear on the leaves), depending on how dry it is where you live, or you can purchase an automated misting system if you want to go the fancy route.

parsons chameleon drinking water
Chameleons have a sticky coating on their tongue that helps catch insects. When they drink and lick leaves and sticks for water, they can get “slobbery,” which is visible in the picture. 🙂

Some species of chameleon seem to drink for long stretches (Parson’s, Jackson’s, Meller’s), while others are like camels, and don’t seem to require as much (Veiled and Oustalet’s come to mind).

Thanks for reading our article about how chameleons drink water. If you have any questions regarding chameleon hydration, feel free to ask in the comments.