Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) Care Sheet
Green anoles are sometimes called American Chameleons. This nickname can be misleading as they are not true chameleons and switch between green and brown. As small as this species is, and as easy to care for as they are, anoles may not make the best pets for everyone. This species will require specialized lighting that can cost significantly more than the lizard itself.
Green anoles are the only species of anole that is native to the United States. These anoles can be found in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and parts of Texas. They have also been introduced into Hawaii and the Ogasawara Islands. There have been accounts of seeing them in other southern states as well. Escaped or released anoles will thrive in relatively warm and humid environments.
In addition to the United States, green anoles can also be found in Jamaica, Cuba, and other Caribbean islands.
Green anoles are slender lizards reaching 5-8 inches in length. This measurement is from snout to tail (STL). They are typically a vibrant green color or can be a dark brown color when severely stressed or cold. Green anoles have lamellae on the pads of their feet, which allows them to climb vertical surfaces. This species is autotomous and can drop its tail when grabbed or threatened. The tail will regenerate and the process can be repeated throughout its life.
Green anoles are an arboreal species. This means that they will benefit from taller enclosures opposed to those that have more surface area. The minimum suggested enclosure size for a single or paired anole grouping is 10 gallons. A larger enclosure will allow you to create a much more realistic environment for your anoles as well as create a proper heat gradient, something that will be difficult to do in a 10 gallon tank.
You should increase the enclosure size by a MINIMUM of 5 gallons for each anole being housed together.
Note: Male anoles will fight over their territory. You should not house male anoles together. Groups of females are acceptable as are groups of females with one male. On occasion, the male will chase the females out of his "area". This should not be confused with the aggressive biting the males will inflict on one another.
The substrate you use with your anoles will largely depend on the type of environment you are creating for them. Living enclosures, which suit this species best, will require the use of potting soil. You will want to use soil that doesn't contain additives such as perlite. Keeping the soil damp, not wet, will also aid in keeping the humidity regulated as well as keeping the plants watered.
Artificial substrates such a reptile carpet can be used if impaction is a concern. You will want to avoid substrates such as sand however, as they will cause issues with the humidity, are impaction risks, and are completely unnatural for this species.
Your anole should have a basking spot maintained between 85° and 90°. The ambient temperature during the day should be 75°-80°. The temperature can drop as much as 10° at night but should not fall below 65°.
Green anoles require access to unfiltered UVB in order to assimilate the dietary calcium they ingest. The photoperiod created with their UVB producing light should be 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Failure to provide proper lighting will result in a slow and painful death for your anoles.
These anoles require a relative humidity between 60% and 70%. Excessive moisture resulting from humidity levels exceed those listed can cause health issues.
Live plants and climbing branches will provide both cover and color to your habitat. The live plants will also aid in maintaining adequate humidity levels. Since these reptiles are arboreal, hanging plants will suit them best. (Plants that extend from the ground to the top of the enclosure will work wonderfully as well.) Bromeliads, spider plants, and varying ivy's work well. You can also use hanging vines as well as artificial plants to create cover. The vast amount of stress associated with captive anoles is directly associated with their inability to feel secure in their environment. The more foliage and cover you have, the happier your anoles will be.
Anoles are insectivores and will readily take appropriately sized crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and other feeder insects. In the wild anoles get to eat when they want so they should at least be given the opportunity to eat daily in captivity. If your anoles prefer to not eat daily, switch them over to being fed every other day.
When leaving prey items in the enclosure with your anoles, you will want to leave a food source for the prey. This will help keep them hydrated and full of nutrients as well as prevent them from nibbling on your anoles.
The prey size for your anoles should not exceed the space between their eyes, or 1/2 the size of their head. While some anoles will take much larger prey, it is difficult for them to eat and some will actually shy away from larger prey.
You should gut load your feeder insects 24-48 hours prior to feeding your anoles. This can be done by feeding the intended prey food items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fish flakes, and high protein cereals.
A shallow dish of clean water should remain in the enclosure at all times. Some anoles will not drink from standing water in a bowl. You will need to mist your anoles enclosure several times per day so that they can lick the drops of water from the glass and plants.
Young anoles are almost impossible to sex. Even larger anoles can be difficult to sex in many cases. Male anoles have a beautiful dewlap that they display to court female anoles as well as to show their dominance when defending their territory against possible male invaders. Some females also have these dewlaps but theirs is typically smaller and is displayed far less. Male anoles are also larger than females and some males will have a dorsal crest that begins behind their head and extends down the back. This crest will be displayed along with the dewlap when courting or defending its territory.
If you have several anoles, you may find it is easiest to sex them when breeding season begins. The males will either fight or claim a territory and begin bobbing their heads and displaying their dewlaps to entice a female into his area. If two males are in the enclosure they will quickly square off and fight. They will need to be placed in separate enclosures from there on out.
Healthy and happy anoles will readily breed in captivity. The normal breeding season for the green anole begins in the spring and last several months, ending in late summer or early fall. The male anole will have already chosen his territory and will be posturing and displaying his dewlap to any females in the enclosure. Females that are ready to breed will enter his area allowing him to bite them by the nape of their neck and positioning them to breed as depicted by the image on the right. Sometimes the female will run and the male will chase her down and subdue her.
Once copulation has transpired, the female will not breed again for the remainder of the breeding season. She will begin laying eggs roughly every 2 weeks until her season is over and she has laid roughly 10 eggs. The eggs will often be laid beneath the substrate in a location she feels is secure, warm, and moist. You may not even realize that she has laid eggs if she has chosen a good spot.
You can either collect the eggs for artificial incubation or you can allow them to remain in the enclosure and see if they hatch on their own. (Many successful hatchings occur in the enclosure within 30-45 days.)
The newborn anoles will be mini replicas of their parents. They will need to be fed a diet of pinhead crickets, wingless fruit flies, or springtails that have been dusted with calcium and a multi-vitamin. If you wish for them to reach adulthood you may want to house them all individually until they are mature. Young anoles will sometimes fight with one another or be eaten by larger anoles. For each anole that you hatch, you will need to increase the enclosure size by 5 gallons per hatchling if they are to all reside in the same enclosure.
Captive green anoles will live anywhere from 4-8 years. Their lifespan in captivity is strongly influenced by their care and housing.
Note: Do to their size and speed, green anoles are best used as a display animal opposed to one you may wish to handle.