What to Feed Panther Chameleons

male furcifer pardalis panther chameleon blue yellow head

Panther Chameleons are carnivorous reptiles and feed on a wide variety of insects in the wild. In captivity Panther Chameleons will feed on a relatively diverse range of commercially available insect prey. It is important that captive (pet) Panther Chameleons are given a well balanced diet that includes a variety of insects. Ideally a captive Panther Chameleons diet would include 5 or more species of feeder insects. At a minimum Panther Chameleon keepers should ensure that no one prey insect species makes up 50% or more of the day-to-day diet.

Many Panther Chameleon keepers supplement their Chameleons diet by capturing periodically available insects from the wild. Wild prey insects should only be collected from pesticide free sites. It is also important to remember that some suitable pesticide free areas are protected by law (e.g. National Parks etc) so chameleon keepers collecting prey insects from the wild should check that there are no restrictions in place forbidding the collection of insects where they intend to collect.

Feeder insects should be suitably housed and provided with a range of their natural food sources. Most Panther Chameleon keepers “gutload” their feeder insects prior to being offered to a Panther Chameleon. Gutloading involves feeding the insects foods fortified with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Another commonly adopted method of supplementing feeder insects is to dust insect prey with commercially available nutrient rich powders specially designed for Chameleons. Supplemental calcium and vitamin D3 are also given by dusting feeder insects prior to them being offered to Panther Chameleons. The commonly available brands of powder supplements differ from one another in terms of what they contain, so it is important to read the label before deciding how often to administer them.

Insect prey species commonly given to chameleons include (in alphabetical order):


Butterworms (Chilecomadia moorei) can constitute up to 20% of a Panther Chameleons diet.


House crickets (Acheta domestica) are widely available, inexpensive, and are easy to gutload. They can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet.

Dubia Roaches

Dubia roaches (Blaptica dubia) can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.

Fruit Flies

Fruit flies (Drosophila sp.) are a good option for baby Panther Chameleons due to their very small size.


Grasshoppers can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.

Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing Cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa)can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload. Adult Hissing cockroaches may be too large.


Hornworms can constitute up to 20% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.


Houseflies (Musca domestica) can constitute up to 30% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Many Chameleons seem to enjoy the process of capturing flying prey, making House flies a good option.


Locusts (e.g. Locusta migratoria; Schistocerca gregaria) can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.


Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) can constitute up to 10-20% of a Panther Chameleons diet. They are relatively easy to gutload but are difficult for Panther Chameleons to digest, so should only be offered occasionally.


Silkworms (Bombyx mori) can constitute up to 40% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.

Stick Insects

Stick insects can constitute up to 30% of a Panther Chameleons diet. Relatively easy to gutload.


Superworms (Zophobas morio) can constitute up to 20% of a Panther Chameleons diet. They are relatively easy to gutload but contain high levels of fat.


Waxworms (Galleria mellonela) are not considered to be a particularly good feeder insect for Panther Chameleons. Most experienced herpetoculturalists (reptile keepers) only offer Waxworms as an infrequent treat.

Gutloading Feeder Insects for Panther Chameleons

male furcifer pardalis panther chameleon tail green orange“Gutloading” is the process of feeding prey insects in a way that provides the nutrition that a Panther Chameleon needs to maintain good health. The process of Gutloading insect prey is more successful in some feeder insect species than others (see What to feed Panther Chameleons).

Commercial insect gutloads are widely available. Many Panther Chameleon keepers have had good success using commercially available gutloads, but it is important to bare in mind that they are not sufficient alone. Ideally feeder insects should be fed a diet of fresh plant material, fruit, and veg in addition to commercially available (or home made) dry gutload. When choosing a dry gutload remember that the food should be higher in calcium than phosphorus, as high levels of phosphorus impairs calcium absorption. Inadequate calcium levels causes metabolic bone disease. Below are lists of good and bad gutloading ingredients, as tried and tested by Panther Chameleon keepers over the years.

  • Wet Gutload Ingredients: Dandelion leaves, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, escarole lettuce, butternut squash, carrots, mango.
  • Dry Gutload Ingredients: Bee pollen, alfalfa (powdered), kelp (powdered), brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, uncooked sunflower seeds, uncooked pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, small amounts of whole grain cereals, spirulina algae, tortoise pellets.
  • Bad Gutloading Ingredients: Avoid incorporating Broccoli, spinach, beets, and parsley, lettuce, cabbage, dog food, cat food, and fish food flakes in to the diet of Panther Chameleon feeder insects.

Fresh gutload ingredients should always be available for feeder insects to feed on. Please remember though that gutloading feeder insects is usually not sufficient on its own to provide necessary nutrition for captive Panther Chameleons. Panther Chameleon keepers also have to consider using powder supplements. More information on using supplements can be found on the Panther Chameleon Supplements – Calcium, Vitamins, and Minerals page.

How Much to Feed a Panther Chameleon

female furcifer pardalis panther chameleon headThe quantity of food required by any given Panther Chameleon depends on the individual animal’s age as well as what species of insect prey are being offered as food.  The following advice should be thought of as a good rule of thumb only, and Panther Chameleon keepers should refine the quantities offered as required by closely monitoring the health and well being of their animals. The following feeding guidelines are for growing juvenile Panther Chameleons, as well as maintaining healthy adults. Please bare in mind that the dietary requirements of Panther Chameleons during reproduction, egg production (females), and brumation are different from the requirements for normal growth and maintenance of health given below.


Panther Chameleon hatchlings require feeding multiple times daily with feeder insects of a suitable size (e.g. Fruitflies – Drosophila sp.). Very young Panther Chameleons just past the hatchling stage should be fed every day ad libitum (insect prey always available, feeding self regulated).

Juvenile Panther Chameleons

Juvenile Panther Chameleons require large volumes of prey insects (relative to their body weight) in order to promote the rapid growth characteristic of this stage of life. The exact number of feeder insects required varies depending on the size of the juvenile Panther Chameleon and the size of the insect prey. A good rule of thumb is to weigh the juvenile Panther Chameleon to be fed every 2 or 3 weeks. Once the juvenile Panther Chameleon’s mass has been established weigh a cup full of appropriately sized feeder insects until the mass of the insects in the cup is roughly equal to 0.3 x the mass of the Chameleon. The number of insects in the cup should then be counted, and this amount of food should then be offered 3 times per week. Alternatively you can offer 0.1-0.15 x the mass of the Chameleon daily. This process should be repeated every 2 or 3 during the juvenile phase of life.

Adult Panther Chameleons

Adult Panther Chameleons should be offered feeder insects every other day, or every day if smaller prey insects are offered in smaller quantities. Fully grown adults (both males and females) can maintain their body mass and reproduce successfully if offered between 30 and 50 medium sized crickets per week. This equates to about 8-12 grams to be offered over the course of a week (1.5g daily or 3g every other day).

How to Feed Panther Chameleons

male furcifer pardalis panther chameleon tongue

There are several factors to be considered when deciding how to offer feeder insects to a Panther Chameleon. A Panther Chameleon needs to be able to feed on prey insects during the morning. This means that they will have time to digest the food properly during the day when a basking light is available. This is important because Panther Chameleons are ectothermic and therefore require fairly high temperatures  (usually regulated by a daylight basking bulb) to properly digest their prey. Also, its important that feeder insects are not able to escape from the enclosure.  Many feeder insects (e.g. crickets, mealworms, superworms) can be offered to a Panther Chameleon in an opaque cup, allowing a feeding station to be established. Some insects (e.g. locusts, grasshoppers) will be able to escape most feeding cups but will provide additional stimulation to a Panther Chameleon by forcing it to hunt them. Its important however to remember that prey insects should ideally be removed from Panther Chameleon enclosures at night in order to prevent the insects from causing harm to the Chameleon. Some feeder insects (e.g. hungry crickets) can injure Panther Chameleons by nibbling their skin. This commonly happens during the night when Panther Chameleons are asleep and defenseless.

Many Panther Chameleon keepers enjoy hand-feeding prey insects. Panther Chameleons can become accustomed to hand feeding fairly easily, although the process can take time and can be fairly time consuming. A major benefit of hand-feeding is that it allows people to observe a Panther Chameleon capturing prey with its tongue.

Panther Chameleon Supplements – Calcium, Vitamins, and Minerals

male furcifer pardalis panther chameleon back green blue redIn the wild Panther Chameleons feed on a huge diversity of prey. As each prey species feeds on a different range of foods, the diet of wild Panther Chameleons provides all the carbohydrate, fat, protein, micro-nutrients, trace elements, and vitamins the animals require. This diversity in prey items and associated “gutloading” is very difficult to replicate in captivity, where Panther Chameleons are generally fed on only a few different prey species. The goal of Panther Chameleon keepers is to replicate (as closely as possible) what their animals would eat in the wild. In order to achieve this, Panther Chameleon keepers employ two main methods. The first method is known as “gutloading“. The second method is “dusting” with supplements, the focus of this article.

“Dusting” refers to the practice of lightly coating feeder insects with a powdered calcium or vitamin/mineral supplement.  The most widely used method of dusting is to drop the feeder insects into a cup with a small amount of supplement powder. Swirl the insects around until they are lightly coated with powder, then place them in the Panther Chameleon’s enclosure (or feeding cup within the enclosure). Once lightly dusted, the feeder insects should be a lighter shade of brown, but should not be dusted so heavily that they resemble little white ghosts.

This is the tried and true supplement schedule recommended by the majority of forum members based on long time enthusiasts’ experience:

  • Calcium (without D3 or phosphorus): Dust feeder insects almost every feeding
  • Calcium with D3 (without phosphorus): Dust feeder insects once every two weeks (weeks 1 and 3 of the month)
  • Multivitamins: Dust feeder insects once every two weeks (weeks 2 and 4 of the month)

The above schedule may not be appropriate depending on the brand of supplement being used (among other factors), but should be though of as a good rule of thumb for administering the most reputable supplement brands as part of a maintenance diet. Other factors that need consideration when administering supplements include:

  • What brand of supplements are being used?
  • What species of feeder insects make up the Panther Chameleons diet?
  • What are the feeder insects being gutloaded with? (a diet characterized by good gutloading in combination with a high diversity of prey insect species may require lower levels of supplementation).
  • How often is the Panther Chameleon exposed to natural sunlight? (Panther Chameleons that spend a lot of time outside in natural sunlight need very little (or no) supplementary D3 in their diet.
  • What type of UVB lighting is being used?
  • What is the Age and Gender of the Panther Chameleon? (breeding females and growing juvenile Panther Chameleons have different nutritional needs than old male Chameleons.

Please remember that supplementing with a calcium and/or multivitamin powder is not sufficient alone to provide proper nutrition for Panther Chameleons. Panther Chameleon keepers also have to ensure that they offer as many suitable prey species as possible, and that feeder insects are correctly gutloaded. More information on gutloading can be found on the Gutloading Feeder Insects for Panther Chameleons page.