How Do Chameleons Drink Water?

When it comes to unique behavior in reptiles, it’s kind of tough to beat chameleons. From hunting to drinking water, you’re going to see that everywhere. You already know how they hunt or eat. But how do chameleons drink water? 

Well, chameleons drink water from leaves by licking off the droplets on them. Compared to the other reptiles, they need more water in order to stay hydrated. In the wild, the prime water source for them is the rainfall, and in captivity, it’s the misting sessions. 

What if there are no leaves around to get the water from? How will they drink the water then? And how would you know if your reptile is not getting enough water and becoming dehydrated? Well, it’s time to find all of that out.

How Chameleons Drink Water? 

Being unique is nothing new for chameleons, and their behavior often speaks in favor of that. Even their water-drinking method goes on the same way. Rather than submerging their mouth in the water and taking a sip, they simply use their tongue to grab the water droplets from the leaves. 

The first thing a chameleon will seek out is a leaf or a puddle when it needs to quench its thirst. Thanks to the vacuum created by its tongue, the water droplets will be drawn to its mouth easily. In case you’re wondering how then we guess you already know that a chameleon’s tongue can extend itself up to 1.5 times the reptile’s body.

When the chameleons get water droplets on their tongue, they pull the tongue back into their mouth and press it against the roof. Because of the resulting pressure difference, the water is sucked straight into the reptile’s mouth.

By the way, that’s not the only interesting aspect of their drinking method. Along with taking the water in with their mouth, they can absorb moisture through their skin as well. All they have to do is just sit on wet branches or leaves. While staying in captivity, letting the water drop on them while misting will also do the trick. 

Some of the chameleon owners even claim that their reptile drinks from a water dish. Well, that’s a rare case, but nothing impossible. In such cases, it’s better to get them fresh and clean water. After all, any water from a random source can make them sick.

But this method is nothing like what most of the breeders suggest in the first place. If so, what’s the right way to get your chameleon hydrated? Well, that’s what we’d be telling you soon.

How Often Do Chameleons Drink Water? 

Letting the chameleons have water once a day is enough, but it’ll be better if you could let them have it twice. But the frequency will entirely depend on the surroundings and atmosphere of the reptile or where you’re keeping it. 

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If the environment is too hot for the chameleon that dries pretty fast, there’s a high chance of your reptile getting dehydrated quickly. After all, in such kind of atmosphere, they might even don’t get the scope to drink enough water before it evaporates in the air. We bet that definitely won’t happen in any cooler atmosphere. 

As proof of that, breeders who live in a cooler climate have claimed that misting the enclosure once was enough to keep their reptiles hydrated. It’s not that they always had to stick to the same frequency, but most of the time, it was once a day. 

How Much Water Do Chameleons Need? 

There are a bunch of factors that influence the amount of water intake of any reptile, including chameleons. Usually, factors like age, size, activity level, humidity, and temperature of the environment determine how much water your chameleon is going to need. 

The bigger a chameleon is, the more water it’s going to need. Plus, an inactive chameleon doesn’t need as much water as the active one. So, if you’ve got a reptile that loves roaming from one branch to another, then there’s a high chance that it’ll get thirsty comparatively faster. 

But finding out how much the reptile actually is kind of tough. One of the major reasons for that is they absorb moisture through their skin as well. So, hydration is not always entirely dependent on how much water they’re taking in orally. 

What Are the Ways to Hydrate a Chameleon? 

Hydrating a chameleon involves no rocket science. There are a whole bunch of ways you can try to pull off the job. But you need to be sure which one is the best one for your reptile. Depending on the situation, you might even have to go for more than one of the following ways.

1. Misting

No matter wherever you go in the globe, nothing can hydrate your reptile better than misting. Not only it covers the whole enclosure, but it also mimics the natural atmosphere chameleons get in the wild. On top of that, it’s quite helpful in encouraging the lizard to drink along with maintaining humidity levels. Plus, it cleans up the reptile’s skin and eyes effortlessly. 

The frequency of misting should be determined by the humidity levels of the enclosure and, of course, the chameleon’s specific requirements. There are variations in misting methods as well. It can be done manually with a hand spray and also with an automated misting system. We suggest going with the second option as that cuts off most of the hassles. 

2. Dripper

Drippers are another option that you can try for keeping chameleons hydrated. The enclosure can be fitted with a drip system to supply water via a slow, constant trickle. Keep it in a convenient or easy-to-reach spot that the reptile can see from its basking spot. 

If your chameleons are failing to get sufficient water from misting or if they prefer to drink from a flowing water source, we can’t think of a better solution for you than this one.

3. Water Bowls

Let’s call it the ‘easiest but not always applicable’ method. That’s because, apart from the exceptional ones, chameleons usually don’t use this one. But if your reptile is okay with it and prefers drinking from the bowl, this one surely is one of the safest methods. 

You need to make sure that the water you’re putting in there is pure and uncontaminated, as stagnant water is a breeding ground for germs and parasites. By the way, in case you’re wondering why chameleons are not a fan of a water bowl, it’s because chameleons seldom drink from still water in the wild, they fail to realize that the bowl of water is a drinking source.

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4. Gut-loading Insects

The insects that chameleons eat can provide a significant amount of the water they need to survive. It is possible to boost the lizard’s water intake by feeding it insects that have been pre-loaded with water-rich fruits and vegetables. Count this strategy highly effective if you’re planning to use it with misting or other hydration methods. 

Why Misting is the Best Way to Hydrate a Chameleon?

If you’re asking for the best method to hydrate your chameleon, we’ll say it’s nothing but misting. But why? Well, for the following reasons of course. 

1. Mimics the Natural Environment

In order to survive, chameleons have evolved to the high humidity found in tropical areas, where they usually survive by drinking the mist, dew, and rainwater. So, clearly, if you’re asking for the best hydration method for chameleons, we can’t think of a better name than misting. After all, it’s the best technique that mimics their natural habitat and makes them drink water at the same time. 

2. Manual and Automatic

One of the best things about misting are it’s open in both ways – manual and automatic. When it comes to manual mode, you can go for both hand spray and electric mister. But we usually don’t suggest the first one as it takes tons of time and gets the user exhausted.

So, the best thing you can do is use an electric mister. But make sure that you’re getting one with a timer. That’s because a mister without one will ask to turn it on and off manually, which we bet won’t be possible for you always. But that one with a timer can run the misting session right on time, whether you’re there or not. 0

3. Encourages Drinking

Misting is a great way to get these reptiles to drink water. First of all,  Chameleons need to see water droplets on the leaves around to feel like they are drinking water. And what else can put water on the leaves better than a perfect misting session?  

This behavior is nothing but instinctual. After all, in the wild, they don’t have much of an option but lick off the water droplets from the leaves and branches to keep themselves hydrated. So, misting their habitat is the best way to give them access to water as it gets water on leaves effortlessly.

4. Prevents Dehydration

Isn’t it what you need misting for in the first place? Without sufficient water, major diseases can hit these reptiles, including kidney problems and constipation. And the worst case scenario? Dehydration can simply kill the chameleon. But misting works like the perfect solution here as it rains over the enclosure from time to time and lets the reptile have as much water as it needs. 

5. Maintains Humidity Level 

Because of their complicated respiratory and digestive systems, chameleons can only survive in environments with higher humidity. The optimum humidity range for a chameleon is between 50 and 70%. 

Any drop in there can lead to difficulties breathing and even can cause trouble in shedding. So, in order to keep them healthy, it’s important to hold the humidity levels in their cage at a constant level, and with misting, pulling that off is easier than ever. 

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6. Cleans Skin and Eyes

In a sense, misting is as good as bathing. After all, this can clean up the reptile’s skin and eyes better than anything. The thing is, when a chameleon’s eyes get dry or when material collects around its eyes, there is a chance of an infection popping up. 

But if you’re keeping their eyes clean and moist with mist, that chance of eye infections can surely go down. On top of that, misting works well in washing away any dirt or debris sitting on their skin, which again promotes better hygiene.

How To Know That Your Chameleon is Dehydrated?

It’s not that your chameleon roam with a loud speaker and shout saying that it needs water. You need to read the signs for that which will say that your reptile is dehydrated. But what are they? Well, here’s the list. 

1. Sunken Eyes

Sunken eyes are among the most obvious symptoms of dehydration in chameleons. The eyes of dehydrated chameleons can seem really small and placed deeper in their sockets. On top of that, they might also have dry-looking skin around their eyes and less-shiny eyes, which you usually notice in a hydrated reptile. 

2. Reduced Appetite 

In extreme cases, a dehydrated chameleon simply minimizes its food intake and can totally stop eating. The thing is, these reptiles face trouble in digesting their food when they are dehydrated. And guess what?  This same issue triggers a ton of other health issues in them as well, especially the ones related to their digestive system.

3. Lethargy

When a chameleon is dehydrated, it may seem lethargic and will make a move way less often than it normally does. You’ll also probably see them spending time sleeping or resting for longer periods than usual.

4. Wrinkled Skin

If your reptile hasn’t been drinking enough water, there’s a high chance that it might start to develop wrinkles or dry skin. This happens when their skin stop being plump as they lose too much of their inner moisture.

5. Abnormal Coloring 

The skin of a dehydrated chameleon may take on an unnatural sheen and even take on a grayish hue. It’s because their body is trying to conserve water by making less pigment than usual.

When Does A Chameleon Stop Drinking?

It’s obvious that a lack of water will make a chameleon dehydrated. But what if it stops drinking water on its own? 

1. Incorrect Environment

If the humidity level in the chameleon’s habitat is too low, the reptile may not be getting enough to drink. So, the best thing you can do here is to maintain a humidity level of 50-70 percent by misting the enclosure several times a day.

2. Water Quality

Because of their sensitivity to water quality, these reptiles might refuse to drink from a dirty or contaminated source. So, you better change the water every day to keep it clean and fresh.

3. Stress

Stressful situations for chameleons are those in which they are unfamiliar or feel threatened. If your chameleon somehow feels stressed, they stop eating or drinking. So, make sure that no other animals or potential dangers are putting your reptile in that situation. 

Before We Go…

Lots of chameleon owners fail to recognize that their reptile is dehydrated. When they find out, some of them can think of spraying the reptile and let it be that way. But should they actually do that? Well, to find that answer, you can check out our blog – Can I Spray My Chameleon With Water?

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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