In 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.