Can a Chameleon Swim? {Do They Like Water?}

I saw a chameleon swimming in the water. What I didn’t understand was the intense stress this caused. Can a chameleon swim?

Do chameleons like water? What happens to chameleons if they get wet?

In this article, we will discuss chameleons swimming, bathing, showering and being sprayed with water.

Can a Chameleon Swim?

You will see videos of chameleons swimming and wonder if this is a built-in skill that serves them in the wild. It is actually not. A chameleon in the water is stressed and struggling to float to survive.

They will keep their head above the water line at all times and cannot hold their breath or breathe in water. Chameleons have accidentally fallen into open water sources on countless occasions and survived.

They would prefer to remain elevated and perched on branches higher above, but accidents happen. Chameleons have  been able to exert enough energy through fear and their floating ability to rescue themselves when they splash into the water below.

Why Chameleons Do Not Like Getting Wet

Chameleons do not wish to swim, float, take baths or get wet. They are not adapted to this form of life and wish to be left alone or kept in humid enclosures with enough moisture without getting fully wet.

A chameleon may feel the following when wet:

  • Stress
  • Respiratory problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Pneumonia
  • Fear
  • Shock

If a chameleon goes through a stressful encounter of being under or in water, they may retreat afterwards, yawn or jaw at you, give up eating or become lethargic.

A chameleon may not bond with you, trust their surroundings again and wish to be relocated to a higher elevated area with no chance of falling into water again. They may not wish to approach others for a little while.

The could be problems with their health resulting from stress, shock, or a weakened immune system if they get a cold. They could refuse eating, get sick and possibly not recover unless medical attention is given.

How Do Chameleons Swim?

Reptiles are one of the oldest types of animals that have survived for millions of years. The wild is a brutal place that has undergone massive changes throughout their tenure on this planet.

Chameleons are relatives of better swimming reptiles like alligators and crocodiles. Chameleons were never built for swimming with their smaller frame making them exceptional at balancing and climbing higher elevations.

It is the survival skill of a chameleon that allows it to remain alive in water if they happen to accidentally find themselves there. Chameleons may not hear the cracking of a branch they are perched on until it’s too late.

The three ways that a chameleon can survive in the water are the following:

  • Puffing themselves up (defense mechanism)
  • Float
  • Keep head above water

Chameleons Puffing Up

Since they cannot cannot breathe underwater, remaining above the surface in order to float and breathe keeps them alive long enough while they struggle to get back to shore.

Puffing themselves up usually occurs when they are angry or about to defend their territory. When a chameleon does this, they are able to pull in more air into their bodies which helps them float even better.

The current and their limbs give them the final edge and push to make it back to land.

YouTube video

Can I Give My Chameleon A Bath?

Do chameleons need baths? Do chameleons smell? Your sense of smell could be stronger than mine, but I’m not bothered with the slight odor coming from my chameleon’s enclosure. I accept it as part of lifestyle as a chameleon caregiver.

  • Chameleons don’t like being submerged in water. They don’t like baths. It frightens them. A shower is better.

Rain water falls on a chameleon in the wild and a little bit of showering under a gentle or low flow of water from above their body under your control is tolerated by a chameleon that trusts you.

Otherwise, they may turn dark in color, hiss at you or open their mouths to indicate that they hate what’s going on. Follow the cues and continue if your chameleon allows it.

Keep Clean And Have Fun

Spot cleaning is easier to do by using a damp cloth and dabbing any dirty spots on your chameleon. Cleaning the enclosure, removing waste and uneaten foods while promoting better circulation for your chameleon through activity will reduce the odors you catch in your nose that are coming from your chameleon’s habitat.

Can Chameleons Drown?

Yes. Deep water, cold water and strong currents will make it hard for a chameleon to survive from an accidental fall in the water. They will try to puff themselves up and remain afloat, but they will run of out energy of the shore is too far away.

A chameleon has not adapted to swimming and cannot regulate temperature as a cold blooded animal. If the water temperature is too cold , this chameleon stands no chance.

Drowning has occurred in the wild and from some terrible accidents where chameleons in captivity have fallen into ponds or pools in backyards.

Can a Chameleon Catch A Cold?

Yes. Since chameleons are not able to regulate their temperatures, they rely on us to do it for them. We set up humidity and correct temperature levels with basking areas for them to warm up and enjoy.

Water temperatures change and get colder through the seasons. Ventilation from open windows or air conditioned vents and drafty hallways can result in a chameleon getting cold.

There is such a thing as pneumonia in chameleons. They can develop respiratory infections that need medication administered to them from a vet to keep them from dying.

Can I Spray My Chameleon?

Do chameleons like mist? Sure they do, but do not aim it directly at them. Mist or spray the general vicinity around your chameleon to increase humidity which aids in shedding or overall comfort to mimic their natural habitat in the wild.

They may lick some of the moisture that remains from spraying around them from branches or other decorations.

Directly spraying a chameleon may result in anger or stress. You may destroy the trust you are building by performing an act that they might receive or relate to as being hostile or threatening.


Thank you for visiting for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.


My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.