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Home > Reptiles > Are Chameleons Nocturnal? Can Chameleons See in the Dark?

Are Chameleons Nocturnal? Can Chameleons See in the Dark?

meller's chameleon_Adina Voicu_Pixabay

The color-changing ability of the chameleon is one of the many reasons people find themselves bringing these incredible reptiles into their homes. Fortunately, for pet lovers who have opened their lives to these tiny creatures, there is quite a bit more about the chameleon that makes them intriguing. These unique creatures are much more fascinating than you may think, but the real question here is, can a chameleon see in the dark?

If you’re wondering if a chameleon is nocturnal, the answer to that question is no. So, if you’re considering a chameleon as a pet, you won’t need to worry like other reptile owners about being kept awake at night by your pet. Chameleons are most active during the day and this is largely due to their poor night vision. Let’s learn more about the chameleon and why seeing in the dark isn’t their strong suit.

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Chameleons Are Daytime Reptiles

While most reptiles are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, the chameleon is diurnal. A diurnal animal spends the daylight hours on the prowl for food, interacting with other creatures, and basically living the best life possible. If you’re a chameleon owner, you’ll notice your scaly pal is awake the same hours you are. But why are they different from so many of their reptile relatives?

While chameleons have evolved over the years, especially when it comes to the ability to camouflage themselves, night vision was never part of the process. The reason why is due to their daily activities. With chameleons active during the day and spending their nights resting up for the following day’s activities, there was never a reason for them to develop night vision.

In all honesty, the chameleon’s night vision is worse than that of humans. If you and your chameleon find yourselves awake at night, you’re most likely seeing better than he is.

Ambilobe panther chameleon
Image By: aixklusiv, Pixabay

They Have Those Amazing Eyes

The eyes of most vertebrates are made up of light-sensing cells called rods and cones. The chameleon has cones, which are used for distinguishing and seeing color. Chameleons have an extra cone in comparison to humans. Their cones are also packed more densely. These cones are what give the chameleon the ability to see ultraviolet light. An ability we humans simply don’t have.

Rods are the cells that help with light sensitivity and light levels. Unlike us, the chameleon doesn’t have rods in its eyes. This is why they cannot function in lower lighting levels. With their genetic makeup lacking these rods, and evolution deeming them unnecessary, chameleons in the wild choose to spend their days hunting while the nights are spent resting up for their next adventure.

chameleon head up close
Image Credit: Pixabay

Add UV Lights To Your Chameleon’s Tank

While your chameleon may not see very well at night, you can help the situation by adding UV light to their tank. With the extra cone in their eyes, chameleons can see great in UV lighting. While their body’s natural response is to sleep at night, UV lighting will help them in the daytime hours as well.

The unique sight of the chameleon doesn’t only see the UV light, it also sees different colors under those lights. This is why these tiny creatures enjoy and feel comfortable in this type of lighting.

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If you have a chameleon or are considering adding one of these amazing creatures as part of the family, understanding their needs is important. Since your chameleon isn’t nocturnal and can’t see very well in the dark, it is best to let them be as natural as possible. By allowing them to rest at night and spending time with them during the daylight hours, you and your chameleon can form a special bond. If you feel the need to check in on your chameleon at night, watch from outside the tank. If you’re quiet, they’ll never know you’re there.

Featured Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

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