Why Is My Chameleon Mouth Open? Number 5 Is Deadly

Why Is My Chameleon Mouth Open

Owning a chameleon comes with many surprises. One of the things you may notice is why do chameleons keep their mouth open. Is that normal for them or cause for concern?

So why do chameleons keep their mouth open? A chameleon will keep their mouth open for the following reason: drinking water, shedding, being defensive, and being too hot. One other reason that is quite dangerous is keeping their mouth open and taking a gulp of air. If you notice this, you’ll need to seek medical attention right away.

1. Chameleon Mouth Is Open When It’s Drinking

This is nothing to be concern about as this is normal for chameleons. Chameleons aren’t like other pets that drink water from a bowl or bottle. Instead, chameleons drink water by licking droplets of water on leaves or letting water drop into their mouth.

Each chameleon has different ways of drinking water. Some will lick water from leaves and plants, while others will stay under a plant with their mouth open.

2. Chameleon Mouth Is Open Due To Shedding

When your chameleon sheds their skin, they tend to open their mouth. If you see this happen, this is perfectly normal for them.

Shedding causes some of the skin to stick to their body, especially around the head area. The eyes and mouth is the hardest area for the chameleon to shed.

Therefore, when they need to shed their skin around these areas, they will open their mouth. It helps stretch and break the old skin from their body.

3. Chameleon Keep Mouth Open As A Defensive Posture

Most species of chameleons are very defensive. This is especially true for male chameleons.

In the wild, there are predators, other male chameleons, and danger all around them. To protect their territory or to frighten off the intruder,  the chameleon best defense is to make themselves look aggressive. This is done by puffing up their body and opening their mouth as wide as possible.

In captivity, if you notice your pet chameleon is opening its mouth when you or your pet is around, it’s being defensive. Slowly back away and investigate what could be the issue.

4. Chameleon Keeping Its Mouth Open When It’s Too Hot

Like most other reptiles, chameleons are cold-blooded. This means their body temperature is regulated by the air temperature. If the air temperature is hot, their body will be hot as well. The same goes for when the air temperature is cool.

However, chameleons need a normal temperature to survive. Being too hot can cause them to become dehydrated and have all sorts of health problems.

  • Panther Chameleon Temperatures – Basking: 87 °F – 90 °F Ambient: 75 °F – 82 °F
  • Jackson Chameleon Temperatures – Basking: 85 °F – 88 °F Ambient: 75 °F – 82 °F
  • Veiled Chameleon Temperatures – Basking: 85 °F – 90 °F Ambient: 75 °F – 82 °F

In order to regulate their body to the correct temperature, they’ll need a heat source. In the wild, they get the heat from the sun.

When chameleons need their body to warm up, especially in the morning, they will climb up higher in the tree to absorb the heat. After getting warm enough, they will crawl back down the tree and hide under leaves and plants.

In captivity, this is not possible as they depend on you for the heat source. This can be accomplished by installing a heat lamp.

Correcting Temperature Issue For Chameleon

Bulb temperature – Chameleons are cold-blooded creatures, and they need the sun to keep them warm and regulate their body temperature. The temperature of the bulb plays an important role in this.

Most people will assume that the brighter the bulb, the hotter it will be. For that reason, they will get the highest wattage bulb available.

Actually, you don’t need the highest wattage bulb. A 50-watt halogen reflector bulb is enough for a chameleon. It will give them around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bulb distance – Once you have the correct bulb for your chameleon, but they are still keeping their mouth open, check the bulb distance.

The distance of the perch from the basking bulb should far enough, so it won’t be too hot.

Each species of chameleon will require a different heat range. For veiled chameleon, the perch should be about 15 centimeters from the basking bulb.

Glass Cage – A glass cage isn’t recommended for housing chameleon. During the day when the heat starts to buildup, it will cause a higher than normal temperature in the enclosure.

The only way for the heat to escape is through the top of the cage. Since it’s only one way for the heat to escape, it will make the chameleon hot.

A glass cage is difficult to maintain a steady temperature for the chameleon.

Instead, I would recommend you use a screen cage.

5. Chameleon Open Mouth To Take Big Gulps Of Air

When a chameleon starts to open their mouth and keep it open throughout the day, this could be serious.

They will usually sit under the basking lamp all day, seems alert, and not eating or drinking. Also, it will be followed by taking a big gulp of air.

If they tip up their head and have a lot of mucus in their mouth, it’s a sure sign that they have a respiratory infection.

If you notice this, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly with a fully qualified veterinarian. If it’s left untreated, death can occur.


A chameleon will usually sit with its mouth open to drink water if it’s too hot or being defensive. This is normal behavior for them and nothing to worry about. The only time you should be worried is if they are sitting with their mouth open and taking a gulp of air throughout the day. This means the chameleon is suffering from a respiratory infection and should be taken to a reptile veterinarian right away for treatment.