Chameleon Behavior: Crawling on the Ground

Chameleon is crawling around on the ground


Chameleon is spending time of the floor of the cage


Meaning: Chameleons do not have many reasons to get out of their branches and crawl around the ground. Some are normal reasons and some are warning signs. The natural reasons are females looking to lay eggs and males looking for a mate.


  • Chameleon is looking for an egg laying space
  • Geophagia: Ingestion of soil
  • Chameleon has a medical condition
  • Chameleon is trying to leave the cage

Egg Laying

A chameleon that is preparing to lay her eggs will explore the cage for appropriate egg laying sites. She may dig test holes before settling on the right location. This is completely normal. If she continues to search more than a couple of days then offer other options to ensure she finds s suitable spot.

Ingestion of Soil (geophagia)

Although not common, it is certainly not unheard of, for a chameleon to start eating dirt. This is thought to be in response to a lack of certain minerals in the diet. Presumably, a modification in the supplement schedule would provide the missing nutrient. Although the initial response is to stop the eating of soil by covering the dirt with rocks or other large object, the important thing is to get tot he source of the problem which is the missing mineral. As we do not know what is missing from the diet to cause this, a multi-mineral supplement would be the first place to start in seeing if the problem is solved.

Eating dirt in itself is not dangerous, but if there are pathogens or artificial fertilizers there is risk of sickness and death so, within captivity, this is worth discouraging. But stopping the behavior is not the goal. Solving the reason for the behavior is the goal.

chameleon eating dirt

Escape or Searching

Chameleons that want to find a different tree will often be found on the ground pacing the cage and trying to fid a way out.

Often the reason for this is that the cage is simply inadequate for the chameleon’s needs. Chameleons need a sense of security and if they do not have the cover they are looking for in he way of plant life then they can get restless looking for it. To avoid this make sure your cage has a section that is thick with leaves.

Another reason for pacing the floor is for males trying to find a mate. Jackson’s Chameleons will aggressively try to travel to other trees and it is well known that Meller’s Chameleons can be found crossing the ground during mating season.

Jackson's Chameleon not happy with cage

This male Jackson’s Chameleon is being restless and is searching for a female. The situation was lessened by ensuring the female was not in visual range of him and then putting a receptive female in the cage with him. During this time it is also a good idea to not have posturing males in visual range as well.

Medical Condition

There are medical conditions that will keep chameleons from being in the high trees. Most notable are Metabolic Bone Disease and Gout. Chameleons with advanced cases of these two will find it either impossible or painful to hold on to the branches. If you believe that the ground dwelling is medical in nature then a visit tot he veterinarian is appropriate. Both gout and MBD need to be quite advanced  to cause ground dwelling. If it has gotten to this stage the treatment will be long.

Gout is a condition where uric acid crystals gather around joints – including the wrist joints – and make it painful to use them. As the gout increases, the joints will look swollen and it will be more and more difficult to use them to hang on to branches.

Metabolic Bone Disease is a condition where the bones do not get enough calcium so they do not have the strength to bear the weight of the body. The bones will be brittle and will break often while the chameleon attempts to move in the branches. With rubbery bone the chameleon is forced to live on the ground. MBD can be halted and even reversed to a small extent with the right treatment.

Whether gout or MBD, veterinary assistance is crucial.

jackson's Chameleon with gout

This Jackson’s Chameleon was diagnosed with beginning stage of gout. But the gout was far enough along to making holding on to the branches painful and she struggled to get comfortable holding on to branches.