Chameleons At Night


Humans and chameleons have much in common. Especially those of us who like them and keep them and/or study them.

The most evident of our common think is probably:

- we both are diurnal,

- it means our activity is limited to daylight.

The problem is, when we humans sleep, we are inactive, this part of our lives like if it would not exist - or merely in dreams. And we do nothing... Do we?

And this is the problem. We live in a fake believe that it is important to arrange everything for the chameleons at daytime: space, plants, lights, misting, you name it. And for the night?

Well, nothing, they do nothing, so we treat them often like if they would be dead...

But we are mistaken. Same, as we are mistaken in the case of our nighttime...

We live at night! Almost half of our lives happens while we are sleeping.

Same in the case of chameleons.

They are not dead at night!

They are alive!

And, they do lots of very important things!

Chameleon nighttime activities:



Rest, recovering


Sensing light



Yes, I Chameleons sit during the night and do not lay relaxed on a bed like humans. They do not move, but their "not moving" is special: they firmly grip the thin branches and keep that position regardless any shaking by wind, even a strong one. It is possible due to their special microscopic structure of the muscles, with predominant static fibers. However efficient this mechanism is, it costs energy and they have to deliver it.


Despite of some confusing recommendation (eg CF) to feed the chameleons in the morning hours only, the Yemen Chameleons (and almost all other species) eat the whole day long, majority of food in the afternoon. So, at night, the temperature drops down and metabolic processes become slower, they need to continue digesting with a slower speed. They however never defecate at night but often do in the morning.

Rest, recovering

At lower temperatures In the nighttime, tyÿhe chameleons slow down metabolic processes and rest and recover for the coming day, to be able to be active again.


Chameleons are not dead at night, so they breathe. They're breathing lowermintensity than at the daytime, but the gas exchange is anyway aintense. Because they sit on the living plants which expel at night CO2 into the air they get a slight anesthesia which helps them to sleep deeply.

Sensing light

The eyes are firmly shot during the night hidden in the turrets and turned even down to be covered by bone plate at the lower margin of the orbit, but their permanently "opened" third (parietal) eye senses intensities of light lower than the intensity of the moonlight and in interaction with the pineal gland laying nearby, they neurohormonally regulate the sleep.

Their skin is also a sensory organ capable of sensing the intensity of light and even change the color accordingly. When the moonlight is low, they relax fully and become very lightly colored. While the moonlight is intense, they turn darker and they are much harder to find. You can even find a chameleon with one body side dark (or back)(exposed to moon) and one lighter one (belly) that is in shade.


A spectacular thing they do is to utilize the fact they live in areas where nighttime high humidity and fog is very frequent and they hydrate through breathing-in the fog. This is the very special survival strategy, as they have no opportunity to drink at daytime, except for rare rain showers.

What are the implications of these facts to captivity?

Keep the naturalistic Chameleonoculture in mind!

1. Consider nighttime equally important for the life and wellness of the chameleon as the daytime.

2. Provide correct size (thin) of the branches that they can fully grasp around to enable safe and strong grip.

3. Feed them during daytime only and let them digest at night

4. Provide them with low temperatures so that their sleep is deep and relaxing (different species have different demands and tolerances).

5. Provide them with good airflow

6. Provide them with a safe and undisturbed environment for sleep, do not shorten their night through having lights long ON. Remove all feeders from the cage at night so that they do not disturb or even injure the sleeping helpless chameleon.

7. Provide them with live plants, that will add CO2 to the air at night and increase humidity.

8. Switch off all lights and do not use any heat/light emitter in the cage or around to destroy the sleeping regime of the chameleons.

9. Provide the chameleons with a fog for the night: it will automatically increase the humidity as desired and hydrate them through fog inhaling.

Always remember:


They are not dead!

Care for their safe and HQ nighttime!

Amazing drawing courtesy Anastasiia Shiriaeva

Author: Petr Nečas