Swimming pool - can chameleons swim

Can Chameleons Swim?

Can chameleons swim? Seems like this question should elicit a straightforward “yes” or “no” response. The truth, however, is a little more complicated than “yes” or “no” in this case. Can chameleons swim? Sort of…

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching chameleons online, you’ve probably come across videos showing a chameleon swimming. So, it seems like the response to the question, “Can chameleons swim,” should be “yes.”

However, there’s a difference between being designed for swimming and attempting to swim. So before you decide to take your chameleon swimming, there are a few things you should know.

Can Chameleons Swim?

Technically, yes chameleons can swim – or, more accurately, attempt to swim – if their lives depend on it. But their bodies aren’t designed for swimming.

Chameleons are arboreal creatures. Their bodies are designed for life up in the forest canopy. That’s why most chameleons spend the bulk of their lives in the treetops, only descending to search for food or to lay eggs.

Contrary to the videos of swimming chameleons you may have seen, the truth is chameleons don’t like water. They’ll go out of their way to avoid bodies of water – even puddles – and they seek shelter during the rainy season in their natural environment.

There are really only two reasons you’ll see a chameleon swimming:

  1. It fell into the water
  2. It’s trying to escape a predator

How Do Chameleons Swim?

If you see a chameleon swimming, you’re actually witnessing a life-and-death struggle.

Since chameleons are designed for life in the treetops and not life in the water, they aren’t particularly good swimmers. If they end up in the water, their instinct is to get out as quickly as possible.

To accomplish this, a chameleon will puff up its body so that it floats. It’ll then use its feet and tail to propel itself to the nearest shore or solid surface. The propelling, however, is slow and awkward, and if the chameleon doesn’t reach safety fast enough, it risks tiring itself out and drowning.

As cold-blooded creatures, chameleons are also very susceptible to hypothermia while in the water.

So yes, you may see a chameleon swimming, but the chameleon isn’t enjoying itself. It’s struggling for its life.

Should I Bathe My Chameleon?

Ok. So you shouldn’t take your chameleon swimming. But should you bathe your chameleon?

All pets smell, and chameleons are no different. When your pet cat or dog smells, however, you can just give it a bath.

Should you bathe your chameleon if it smells?

No.

Again, chameleons don’t like the water. Bathing your chameleon can actually cause health problems. Bathing your chameleon or taking your chameleon swimming increases its levels of stress. The increased stress weakens your chameleon’s immune system. Bathing your chameleon or taking your chameleon swimming can lead to:

  • Shock
  • Hypothermia
  • Weakened immunity
  • Colds
  • Pneumonia

Believe it or not, chameleons don’t actually need baths. They keep themselves clean by shedding their skin. To help with the shedding process, you should keep your chameleon’s enclosure properly hydrated and at the right humidity levels.

To reduce your chameleon’s smell, you should be spot-cleaning your chameleon’s enclosure daily, and doing a deep clean every couple of weeks.

Do Chameleons Need to Soak in Water?

If you’ve researched other reptiles, like leopard geckos or bearded dragons, then you know there are times when these reptiles can benefit from soaking in water. Leopard geckos in particular benefit from soaking in water – with very close supervision – if they’ve become impacted. And some bearded dragons actually love playing in water!

This isn’t the case with chameleons.

If you suspect your chameleon has become impacted, you need to get it to your reptile vet ASAP. 

Don’t soak your chameleon in water. 

Soaking your chameleon will just cause it even more stress than it’s already experiencing from the impaction, and you risk adding illness on top of impaction.

Takeaway: Can chameleons swim? Yes. But you’ll typically only see this if the chameleon fell into the water or if it’s fleeing a predator. A swimming chameleon is a chameleon struggling for its life. You should not take your pet chameleon swimming, nor should you give it baths.

If you've got questions or feedback, we want to hear from you! Email us at team@dragonsdiet.com

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