Chameleon Water | Staying Hydrated

Chameleon Water – Keeping Chameleon’s Hydrated

Authored by Pete Hawkins Chameleon Network / Bearded Dragons Network / Snake Network / Lizard Network / Amphibian Network


Female Hydrating after egg laying.

Chameleons and Hydration

Even after a long time of keepers having Chameleons in captivity, we still see problems of dehydration in these reptiles. This really shouldn’t be the case at all. It is still one of the biggest Chameleon killers of all. One of the most challenging aspects of keeping a Chameleon, is the fact that hydration can be a problematic. They are almost to the point of being hypersensitive to this, more so than other reptiles kept in captivity. But we really have no excuse to not keep our Chameleons hydrated. There are a few commonly used methods, and all do the task required. It’s ALL about providing the “options for hydration”.


Now, whether you choose to use an automatic misting system, or a manual sprayer, both should be used 3 or 4 times a day if needed. Personally, I feel less for Veiled Chameleons. I have discussed this at length with many people. But this, is a subject I will visit in a future article. Personally, I use the ‘Exo Terra Monsoon’ automatic system, for two of my Vivaria. I’ve had it for many years, without any issues at all. Just a clean of the nozzles every few months seems to keep mine in good working order.

I advise using a water conditioner such as
Zoo Med ReptiSafe Water Conditioner, with ALL tap water.
This will remove the chloramines and chlorine irritants
for your Chameleon’s eyes.Potentially causing possible issues.

Now, there are a number of misting/rain systems available worldwide. All vary in price. But ultimately, all do the same required job. So, there is a choice to suit all budgets. I am one for using the best possible equipment for my reptiles. But here, when they vary in price such a huge amount, yet do the same job, I don’t think it’s necessary.

For my other Vivarium, in another room, I use a manual sprayer one of the pressurized one’s, you pump the lever several time, and it will then spray non-stop, for about 30 seconds. So which ever method here you use, you’ll be wanting to spray so the foliage is wet with warm water. This allows your Chameleon to drink from the foliage, or even the droplets running down your enclosure walls. In the wild they get much of their hydration from morning, and evening dew off leaves and from rainfall in much the same way. This is what we are mimicking when misting.

Chameleons Prefer Warm Showers

I feel it’s important to make sure the water comes out warm to the touch on spraying. This is much less stressful for our Chameleons. To ensure the water is warm with my automatic system, I use an aquarium heater. One of those tube type’s. I’ve done this for years,  it works great. I set it at a toasty 35c (95f). The water will come out nice and warm, around 75f (mid 20’s). For the manual sprayer, it’s much easier. I use cool boiled water. So it’s quite warm still. I found this way, on spraying, it comes out cooler, yet still warm enough not to stress the Chameleon.

Some Chameleons will not enjoy direct spraying. If they try to walk away, don’t spray them. This causes unneeded stress.

The flip-side, is others don’t mind a spray at all, and they take the opportunity to have a drink in the process. Making this hydration option an easy one. The main method here would be the natural capillary action of water running down the ridges on their head, and it being directed into the mouth. Primitive, yet effective.
But again, please don’t worry if your Chameleon is not a fan of getting wet directly. There are plenty of other options.

Reptile Dripper

These are basically a plastic tub/container, that you fill with water and place on top of your enclosure (Or inside at the top if you have enough room). It will have a small valve that you attach on the front, at the bottom, and then attach a flexible tube to the valve. This allows the tube to expel water at a set rate. Often just a couple of drops every few seconds. Or a tub with small holes along the bottom. Again, allowing this to drip on foliage is the idea. Many will then lap up the drop’s on the leaves. Or, even sit under the drop and drink that way as mine do, once they realize this as a water source. Their mouth often open only a tiny amount. It might not even look open. But it’s enough for them to maintain hydration. This is the same for when they a walking through sprayed foliage.

Either way, result achieved.

Reptile Fogger

Many people ask me about a Fogger. Honestly, this is not a good enough method to provide extended hydration. If it’s setup so the fog rolls over the foliage, it can produce a dew on the leaves that are in direct contact with any fog. So to have it come on as the lights come on first thing in the morning, can serve purpose, and a hydration option. Also, it will raise the humidity. Which can be a good thing if you require it. But it’s just not enough. I personally wouldn’t ever use this as the main hydration option.

I am a fan of the Exo-Terra Plant Dripper. With a little modification of putting the base, and the pump, in a lunchbox. Cut a small slot out of the lid, to allow the plant stem to be submerged and stick out the top of the lid. Drill a few holes in the lid, and the water is protected from dirt, and the dripper plant is far more stable. I use these also in ALL my vivaria so they get daily use. Mainly in the morning, an hour or so after the heat and UVB has come on. Chameleons will not readily drink from standing water. It may happen from time to time, as I’ve seen footage in my Facebook group, but it would be a rare occurrence indeed.

Remember – First spray should be at least 1 hour AFTER lights on, so your Chameleon has had time to warm up. Final spray should be at least 2 hours BEFORE light off. The enclosure must dry fully between each misting session.


My male Veiled using a dripper.

Signs of Dehydration

The most common sign of dehydration in Chameleons is “Sunken Eyes”. A Chameleon’s eyes should fill-out the socket, and not be withdrawn at all. Although this is NOT a sure-fire way of telling. As many Chameleon’s will withdraw the eyes when stressed, or even trying to focus. This also tends to be the later stages of dehydration.

Also, like in other reptiles, wrinkled skin is a sign to look for.

A less filled-out and sunken looking Casque is also a major sign.

But the most important thing for me, is to keep an eye on your Chameleons feces/poop;

  • Bright white = All good
  • Yellow tinge = Could do with a drink
  • Yellow/orange = Dehydration

Now, getting fluids into your Chameleon if there are problems, can be a tricky situation. Depending on the severity, methods will be different. For starters, If there is a hydration issue, and you DO provide the hydration options mentioned above, then something else could be going on. So please seek a Reptile Vet’s advice via an appointment ASAP. But a tried and tested method for a Chameleon needing a hydration pick-up, the shower.

This is just a case of placing his/her favourite plant in the shower, and running a Luke warm spray at the wall opposite the plant. This allows a fine mist to land on your Chameleon, and plant, giving the option to drink. This IS a long process. It will often take a good 15/20min before your Chameleon decides to drink. So take your time. It’s worth it.


Humidity is vital for the likes of our Chameleons. Take a look at humidity in their natural habitat, and essentially, try and replicate it the best we can.

I see many people obsessed with humidity readings being to high. Yes, a constant high humidity can lead to problems. But high humidity, within a cage/viv with great airflow is not an issue. And in-fact, amongst a dense tree canopy in natural condition, will aid hydration.

So, its not a huge issue. And good airflow Is vital in a Cham cage/viv, regardless.

One final method, which is often overlooked. Livefood.

If you keep your livefood hydrated, that hydration is passed on to your Chameleon. Simple, huh!

To conclude…

Whatever method works for you, obviously, carry on doing it.
If you have a problematic drinker, try all methods mentioned maybe even the humble syringe or pipette can work wonders.

But most importantly, provide the option of hydration. The more options you provide, obviously, the more chance to hydrate the Chameleon has.

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