Can Chameleons Swim? [Dangerous]

Probably while roaming through TV channels like Animal Planet or Discovery, you got to know about lizards that can swim. Well, don’t be disappointed but not all the lizards are as good as Marine Iguanas.

But what about the chameleons? Can chameleons swim?

The chameleons can’t swim. They’re not designed that way and trying to make them do something like this will do nothing but cause them serious health issues.

Now the question is, what if they’ll accidentally fall into the water? Will they simply drown or can they somehow manage to survive? Let’s find start scrolling and find that answer.

Can Chameleons Swim?

There’s no doubt that most of the chams are arboreal. So, them living in trees is pretty obvious. Not only do they prefer to stick to the trees but strictly avoid getting on the ground. But as an exception, some species have shown their preference for roaming over the ground. Yes, we’re talking about the Namaqua chameleon that comes from Africa.

Actually, chams are designed to spend their days on the trees. Looking at their physical structure says so, at least. You’ve probably already noticed their prehensile tails that help them on sticking to a branch where the mitten-like feet ease up the climbing.

So, does it mean that they’ll instantly die once they fall into the water? Well, no. It’s true that they’re not built well enough for water but that doesn’t mean they can’t float to survive. But the struggle will be clear as a day. After all, their small legs don’t come in handy when it comes to navigating in the water.

As they’re swimming skill is very poor, they never try to go swimming even if there’s a need for water or moisture. They fill up that need by using the water in tree canopies or on the leaves as they always try to avoid a larger volume of water. Otherwise, they might drown due to having a smaller body size.

Do Chameleons Need to Soak in the Water?

Every living animal in the world needs water and chameleons aren’t anything different. But they need the moisture for something else too and it’s the shedding. After all, they’re also reptiles and like any other reptiles, they get rid of their older skin after a certain period of time.

For smooth shedding, they need perfect humidity level in the first place. Without enough moisture in the air or environment that task gets a bit tough for them. This is where a misconception pops in.

Lots of the cham owners think that when the lizard is struggling with shedding, they think soaking it in the water will make things better. If you’re planning to do something like this, we’d say don’t even think about it.

We won’t be surprised if you’d say that you’ve seen veterinarians suggesting such kind of thing. It’s true that vets at times suggest showering, misting, or soaking to get the cham hydrated. After all, the lizard needs enough hydration for shedding. But that’s only when the dehydration case is on a level of emergency.

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Without such kind of scenario, soaking or making the lizard will simply make the situation worse. If you’ve been owning a chameleon for a while, then you already know how prone they are to stress. Showering them will do nothing but trigger stress in them that can leave a negative impact on their health. Even misting directly on their body too can do that.

So, if you’re really not in the mood to kill your cham, we’d say skip soaking them in water or misting directly on their body. Just let them sit close to the misting system and they’ll get their share of water from there. Letting them get the water drip on their body will also do the trick.

Can Veiled Chameleons Swim?

If you’re going to search for the most popular chameleons, we bet the name of veiled chameleons will be seen among the top three names. These medium-sized reptiles, following the similarity with other chameleons, do not like going into the water.

While looking into the internet, you’d probably find videos where the owners are giving their chams a bath, spraying on them, or insisting them with water in the name of love and care. You might see the same thing in different posts on cham forums too.

Well, we simply count it as a lame move as the whole act is a kind of torture for the lizard. If they really love their pet, they should’ve known that this act will kill their reptile by triggering stress in them.

Can Chameleons Breathe Underwater?

No, chameleons can’t breathe under the water. If you’d look into the web, you’d find no amphibian or reptile that knows how to breathe underwater. They’re just not designed that way. Unlike fish, they don’t have the gills that fish use to breathe underwater. So, for reptiles, it’s nothing but impossible.

Hold on a second! Are you thinking about the argument on crocodiles breathing underwater? After all, they’re reptiles too, right? Well, like we said before, reptiles can’t breathe underwater and that includes the crocodiles.

It’s true that they spend most of their time in the water but they actually don’t submerge the whole body while doing that. They always keep their eyes and nostrils above the water surface while roaming on the water. Clearly, they do that for two reasons – to see their prey and to keep breathing.

How Do Chameleons Swim?

You’re probably wondering if the chameleons can’t really swim, then why are we talking about this topic anyway? Well, every animal in this world tries their best to survive when there’s a life-threatening situation and chameleons aren’t anything different.

If they somehow end up falling in the water, they try to use their legs and tail for swimming through the water. They use their legs to kick back and forth. On the other hand, they use the tail to steer.

Their whole focus sticks to keeping their head above the water as they can’t breathe underwater. There’s no doubt that they get lots of support from their tail while doing so.

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Why You Shouldn’t Get Your Chameleon Wet?

We bet you’re quite clear about the fact that you getting your cham wet is a bad idea. But is there only one reason to stay away from doing such an act? Well, no. Along with putting tons of stress on the reptile, there are also a few reasons why you should skip getting your cham wet.


If you’re asking for the easiest way to get your lizard distressed, we’d say try leaving it in the water for a long period of time. So, from that you can assume insisting them on the water will impact them in a negative way.

Not only that but leaving them in the water will cause a bunch of health issues for the reptile. Clearly, there’s a reason why they avoid water and spend most of their time in branches.

Weakening Immune Systems

In the wild, chameleons make sure that their water intake is precise and well-controlled. They do that because once they put themselves in water, their immune system starts to become weak and eventually breaks down. So, no matter where you’re putting them, whether it’s a tub filled with water or under the shower, they’ll still end up with a compromised immune system.

The logic is quite clear here. Once you’re putting them into the water, they become stressed. This will push them more in enduring the stress and end up in weakening their own immune system.

Developing Pneumonia

Who said only humans can struggle with this disease? Chameleons too can suffer from pneumonia, especially when you’re exposing them to the water for an extended period of time. This can happen from overmisting as well and also from soaking them in the water or bathing them.

Belonging to a Drier Climate

If you’ve already researched over different chameleon species, then you should know that most of them come from a dry climate. In those places, rain is simply one of the rarest incidents. It’s so rare that the lizards don’t get the touch of rain more than a few times every year. Clearly, this makes the atmosphere hot and dry.

So, in the dry atmosphere, they adapt with the condition and make their body suitable enough to sustain without much water. This is the reason when there’s too much moisture around for a longer period of time, the reptiles get sick and develop major health issues.

Arboreal Nature

We’ve mentioned it first that these animals are arboreal. So, like any other arboreal species, they spend most of their time in the trees rather than the ground, except for a few of them of course.

This nature has made them more dependent on the water on tree leaves instead of the water source on the ground. Clearly, that has snatched their habit of getting closer to water on the ground and also their ability to survive in the water.

Do Chameleons Like Being Sprayed?

There’s a whole list of things that chameleons hate. If you’re going to look closely, you’d find the name of ‘direct spraying’ on that list. So, the answer is No, they’re not a fan of direct spraying as that gets them stressed. But that doesn’t mean they won’t like if you’d spray their enclosure.

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When it comes to spraying method, for chameleons it’s mostly known as ‘Misting’. It helps the owners to make the enclosure more like the lizard’s natural habitat. This method replicates the feeling of rain for chameleons and helps them get hydrated.

In the rain, the wild gets all wet and so do the trees. It allows the chams to take in the necessary water for their hydration. They just lick the leaves and drink water from them. They can also do that from trees and branches.

As they count rainwater as a reliable flow of water, they feel comfortable with the process of misting as well. If you’re feeling like you need to more about this, then feel free to click here.

Should You Ever Give Your Chameleon A Bath?

Who doesn’t want their pet clean? We bet you’re on that team too. After all, when it comes to chameleons or any other pet kept within an enclosure, they start smelling after a certain period of time. This happens usually due to the pet’s waste, uneaten food, and of course, poor air circulation.

But most of the chameleon owners believe that giving their lizard a bath every week will be enough to keep them clean. So, what they do is take a bucket filled with water give the cham a bath. But doing that is simply harmful for the lizard.

If under special reasons, where the bath becomes mandatory, you can just shower them with water. It’s the best way because shower is more or less mimics raining which they usually get in their natural habitat. Still, do that when the vet suggests you to. Otherwise, you’ll trigger the stress in your lizard and make it sick.

Why It’s Better to Avoid Artificial Waterfalls?

When you’re putting an artificial waterfall in your chameleon’s enclosure, that surely is going to enhance the aesthetic vibe there. But the problem is these waterfall can turn into a storehouse of germs and bacteria. Clearly, they’re not going to do any good to your lizard.

The thing is, these waterfalls are constantly pumping the old, dirty water again and again. This water can contain the feces of your cham or the dead insects. If somehow the water manages to soil in it’s going to let the germs and bacteria come in touch with your reptile which we believe is a threat to your pet.

When you’re putting water in a bowl, you can see the defecation. But with running water from the waterfall, it’s kind of tough. So, if you were planning to install any waterfall in your chameleon’s enclosure any sooner, we’d say it’s better to drop the plan.

Final Words

Water is always a risky element for arboreal animals and the same goes for the chameleons. So, if you’re lucky enough to own a chameleon, we’d say keep it away from the water as much as you can. As now you know can chameleons swim or not, we hope maintaining that distance between your cham and water is not going to be a problem for you.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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