Chameleons are colorful lizards that have the amazing ability to change colors. Their unique features make them popular exotic pets. As a chameleon owner, you want to make sure you are feeding your pet the right kinds of food to keep them healthy.

A common question that comes up is whether chameleons can eat mealworms.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, chameleons can eat mealworms in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview on chameleons and mealworms. We’ll discuss the nutritional profile of mealworms, the benefits and risks of feeding them to chameleons, and best practices for including mealworms in your chameleon’s diet.

An Introduction to Chameleons

Species and Habitats

Chameleons are a fascinating group of old world lizards found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, southern Europe, and Madagascar. There are over 160 recognized species of chameleons, each with unique adaptations to their native habitats.

Some of the most popular chameleon species kept as pets include:

  • The veiled chameleon from Yemen and Saudi Arabia
  • The panther chameleon from Madagascar
  • The Jackson’s chameleon from Kenya and Tanzania

Chameleons inhabit a wide range of habitats including rainforests, deserts, and savannas. Their grasping hands and prehensile tails allow them to live in trees, bushes, or even on the ground. Chameleons have excellent eyesight and a long sticky tongue which they use to capture passing insects.

Dietary Needs of Chameleons

In the wild, the majority of chameleons are opportunistic insectivores, feeding on insects, spiders, small worms, and other invertebrates. However, some larger chameleon species may also eat small vertebrates like birds, rodents, and lizards.

Common prey items include crickets, mealworms, waxworms, fruit flies, beetles, grasshoppers, cockroaches, butterflies, moths, and spiders. Chameleons generally ignore plants though some may eat leaves on occasion.

In captivity, chameleons should be fed a varied diet consisting of:

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Roaches
  • Fruit flies
  • Small hornworms

Juvenile chameleons need to be fed daily, while adult chameleons can be fed every other day. It’s important to gut-load feeder insects and dust them with calcium + vitamin D3 powder to ensure your chameleon gets proper nutrition.

Chameleons should also have access to clean drinking water, changed daily. Mist your chameleon and provide a small drinking glass at the bottom of its enclosure.

With proper care and diet, many chameleon species can live 5-10 years in captivity. Their unique features and behaviors make them fascinating pets.

What are Mealworms?

Life Cycle and Biology

Mealworms are the larval form of the darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor). They go through a complete metamorphosis with four life stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Female beetles lay hundreds of tiny white eggs which hatch into worms in 4-19 days.

The worm-like larval stage lasts for 2-3 months, during which the mealworm molts 9-20 times as it grows. When fully grown, the mealworm pupates by forming a protective cocoon around itself for 7-30 days. Finally, the adult darkling beetle emerges to live for several months.

Mealworms are docile, non-venomous insects that spend most of their time crawling around and eating. They have soft segmented bodies, three pairs of legs, and hardened head capsules. Being cold-blooded creatures, they prefer temperatures between 80-90°F.

Given adequate food and proper husbandry, mealworms can live for over 1 year in captivity.

Nutritional Profile of Mealworms

Mealworms are an excellent source of digestible proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. According to a study published on NCBI, mealworms contain about 20-25% protein, 10-20% fat, 5-10% fiber and up to 60% moisture.

The protein has high bioavailability with balanced concentrations of essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, cystine and tryptophan.

Mealworms also provide vitamins like vitamin B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, etc. They are rich sources of dietary minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, chromium and selenium which play vital roles in animal health.

Furthermore, mealworm fat contains beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids along with antimicrobial and antioxidant substances.

Can Chameleons Eat Mealworms?

Mealworms can definitely be a part of a healthy chameleon’s diet, but there are some benefits and risks to consider before feeding them. Let’s explore the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision!

Benefits of Feeding Mealworms

Mealworms contain a good amount of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that support chameleon health and growth. The protein helps build strong muscles and the calcium and phosphorus in the exoskeleton contributes to healthy bones. Mealworms also contain vitamin A, B vitamins and zinc.

Their small size makes them easy for chameleons to hunt and digest.

In moderation, mealworms can help provide variety in your chameleon’s diet. Wild chameleons eat a diverse mix of insects, so offering some mealworms in rotation with other feeders like crickets, dubia roaches and hornworms can more closely mimic their natural diet.

Risks and Precautions

While nutritious, mealworms do come with some risks. Their hard exoskeletons may cause impactions if eaten in excess. It’s important to feed appropriately sized mealworms, no longer than the space between your chameleon’s eyes. Provide freshly molted “soft” mealworms when possible.

Mealworms are high in phosphorus and fat compared to other feeders. Too much can tax your chameleon’s liver and kidneys. They should make up no more than 20% of the diet for adults and less for juveniles.

Mealworms are prone to harbor bacteria like salmonella. Purchase from a reputable supplier and gut load with nutritious foods to dilute this risk. Rinse or lightly blanch before feeding. Discard any dead or decaying mealworms.

Guidelines for Feeding Mealworms

Follow these tips for safely incorporating mealworms into your chameleon’s meals:

  • Offer appropriately sized mealworms no bigger than the space between your chameleon’s eyes
  • Feed softened “white” worms right after molting when possible
  • Limit mealworms to 20% or less of the overall diet
  • Purchase from trusted suppliers and gut load mealworms before feeding
  • Rinse or blanch mealworms lightly to reduce bacteria
  • Discard any dead or decaying worms
  • Avoid feeding mealworms daily and use a diverse mix of feeders
  • Monitor your chameleon’s health and adjust/restrict mealworms if issues arise

While mealworms can offer some benefits, feed them carefully and in moderation. A diverse insect diet, proper supplementation and hydration are key to chameleon health. Monitor your pet closely and adjust the diet if you notice any issues with digestion, urination or activity level.

Alternatives to Mealworms

While mealworms can make a good treat for chameleons, they should not make up the mainstay of their diet. There are several more nutritious feeder insects that can be better alternatives. These include:


Crickets are a great staple feeder insect for chameleons. They are nutritious, providing protein, vitamins and minerals like calcium. Crickets come in different sizes so can be fed at various life stages of the chameleon. Make sure any crickets are gut loaded before feeding out.


Roaches, such as dubia roaches and discoid roaches, also make an excellent nutritious feeder insect. They can live longer than crickets so can be kept easily. They also cannot climb smooth surfaces or fly, making them easy to contain.

Roaches have a better calcium to phosphorus ratio than some other feeders.


Waxworms are high in fat so can be fed more sparingly as treats. They stimulate appetite and provide energy. However, waxworms should not become the main diet as they lack sufficient protein and calcium for proper chameleon health and development. Always gut load waxworms before feeding out.


Superworms, also called kingworms or zophobas, can provide variety to the chameleon diet. They have more chitin and less calcium than some other feeders, so should be fed along with more nutritious staples.

Chameleons may have difficulty digesting the hard exoskeleton of superworms, so feed smaller worms or pre-kill larger ones before feeding out.

When choosing feeder insects, prioritize more nutritious staples like crickets and roaches over treats like waxworms. Provide calcium and vitamin supplements as needed. By varying the diet with different gut loaded feeders, pet chameleons can get all the nutrients they need to thrive.


Tips for Feeding Mealworms to Chameleons

Mealworms can make a great addition to a chameleon’s diet when fed properly. Here are some tips for successfully feeding mealworms to chameleons:

Choose the Right Size Mealworms

It’s important to select mealworms that are appropriately sized for your chameleon. Hatchling and juvenile chameleons should be fed tiny mealworms no longer than 1/4 inch. Adult chameleons can handle larger worms up to 1 inch long. Feeding oversized mealworms can cause impaction.

Gut Load the Mealworms

You’ll want to gut load the mealworms before feeding them to your chameleon. This involves feeding the mealworms nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, etc for at least 24 hours before feeding them to your pet. Gut loading packs extra vitamins and minerals into the mealworms.

Coat with Supplements

Lightly coat the mealworms with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements just before feeding. This helps ensure your chameleon gets enough of these essential nutrients, which they need for proper bone and organ health.

Feed in Moderation

While mealworms make a tasty treat, they should be fed in moderation as part of a varied diet. Aim to only feed your chameleon mealworms once or twice a week. They are high in fat and phosphorus when compared to other feeder insects.

Avoid Superworms

Steer clear of feeding superworms, which are simply mealworms in the larval stage. Superworms have thick exoskeletons that are difficult for chameleons to digest and can cause impactions.

Monitor Your Chameleon’s Reaction

Pay attention to how your chameleon reacts when eating mealworms. Some chameleons eagerly accept them, while others seem disinterested. Never force feed mealworms if your chameleon refuses them.

Stop Feeding Live Mealworms

Live mealworms can bite and injure a chameleon’s mouth and throat. It’s safer to feed dead mealworms to eliminate this risk. Simply place the mealworms in a plastic bag and freeze them for at least 24 hours before feeding.

By following these tips, you can successfully incorporate nutritious mealworms into your chameleon’s diet. Just be sure to feed them in moderation as part of a varied insect diet for optimal health.


In conclusion, chameleons can eat mealworms in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Mealworms offer nutritional benefits like protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, they should not make up the bulk of a chameleon’s diet due to their high fat content and lack of calcium.

Following proper guidelines for feeding frequency and quantity can help minimize any potential risks. Mealworms can be a healthy supplemental feeder insect for chameleons when paired with other feeders like crickets and roaches.

Offering a variety of gut-loaded feeders ensures your chameleon gets the complete nutrition it needs to stay healthy.

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