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Care Sheet for Anoles

Average Rating Given To This Care Sheet Is 4.95    (1=lowest, 5=highest)    Last Updated: 01/30/2009

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Over 20 Years


Green Anole

Other Species or Phases this Care Sheet May Cover:

Anolis carolinensis
Anolis sagrei
Anolis distichus
Anolis cristatellus
Anolis equestris
Anolis garmani

Care Sheet Information:

In an effort to address some of the more common questions that have been asked lately, I have decided to expand this Care Sheet. Someday, I may even put together a comprehensive book-like format. This Care Sheet applies to all small/medium sized Anoles.


Enclosures - By far, the best enclosure to house an Anole in is an aquarium with a screen top. They maintain temperature and humidity better than anything else. The MINIMUM requirement is 10 gallons of space per Anole. It doesn’t matter whether the Anole is an adult, juvenile, or hatchling. This applies to small/medium Anoles (A. carolinensis, A. sagrei, etc.). Of course, if you can afford it, a larger enclosure would be better. Also, the high or tall versions are preferred since Anoles are arboreal.
For large species such as A. equestris and A. garmani, you should triple the minimum space requirement to 30 gallons per Anole.

Substrate - The first rule is NEVER use a substrate that contains indigestible material. This includes such things as sand, ground Walnut hulls, corncob refuse, moss, bark products, pebbles, gravel, etc. These materials can cause impaction and death if ingested along with a prey item (Anoles often get a mouthful of substrate when hunting on the ground). DO NOT use unsterilized substrates of any kind. You risk importing all sorts of insect pests, slugs, and weed seeds when you use such materials. All of these pests can be difficult to irradicate. Believe me, over the years I have had experience with most of them. DO NOT use any substrates containing Pine, Fir, or Cedar shavings or bark. Conifers produce chemicals that can cause nerve damage in reptiles.
Also, avoid using moss, pure Peat moss and other fiberous, stringy substrates. They can have bad effects on your Anole’s digestive system. It is much like eating string!
Also, be aware that if you plan to use reptile carpet or paper, you might unwittingly be causing another problem. If you have a gravid female, you must provide a place for her to bury her eggs. If she can’t dig in the substrate, she may become egg-bound and die (see the Breeding section).
What can you use? Two of the best are organic potting soil (without Perlite or fertilizer) and organic compost. Both are absorbent and digestible and can be found at most garden supply stores for a few dollars. Unless you go crazy misting and watering, they will be fine WITHOUT any gravel for drainage.

Heating, Lighting, and Humidity - You don’t need any of the specialty bulbs that you see in the pet stores except for one. You will need a fluorescent UVB tube and fixture. A 5% bulb is ideal. Anoles need the UVB as found in natural sunlight to synthesize calcium. Avoid coil UVB bulbs, they only provide UVB in a small area. Mercury Vapor, and Halogen bulbs are generally used for very large enclosures and can cause blindness in reptiles. Besides, they can be difficult to dispose of since some (Mercury Vapor in particular) contain hazardous materials. UVB only penetrates 6-12” into the enclosure so you need to mount them as close to the screen top as possible.

Heat can be supplied by a regular light bulb (which also produces UVA). You will need to have a warm and a cool side of the enclosure so the Anole can move about and thermoregulate (adjust his internal temperature). The cool side should be 75 degrees and the warm side should be about 82 degrees. You will also need to provide a basking spot of 85 - 92 degrees (90 is ideal). The lights should be on from 12-14 hours a day and turned on and off at the same time each day. A timer will take care of this. Unless your house gets lower than 60 degrees at night, you won’t need any nighttime heating. If it does, a Ceramic Heat Emitter is the best way to go. Since Anoles are arboreal, they like to bask in heat from above. All of the lighting should be mounted above the enclosure. Remember, glass and plexiglass will filter out 95% of the UVB so DO NOT put the fluorescent on the side of the enclosure but rather over the screen top and NEVER mount the light inside of the enclosure. Also, NEVER use Heat rocks since they can cause burns. Get a couple of thermometers to check the temperature and a hygrometer to check humidity. Place one thermometer at each basking spot to check the temperature there and one at the farthest point from the basking area to check low temperature.

The humidity should be about 50% and can be maintained by misting a couple of times a day. Green Anoles come from temperate environments and 50% might even be on the high end of the natural conditions. This also provides drinking water for the Anole and they will lick the water droplets off the foliage and sides of the enclosure. Use distilled or filtered water to avoid hard-to-remove water spots on the glass sides of the enclosure. The hygrometer placed anywhere in the enclosure will allow you to check the humidity. If you have trouble maintaning a proper humidity level, cover 1/3 of the top with clear plastic (but not under the lights).

Furniture - Anoles love to hide. Their natural body color range of greens and browns will blend into the foliage to become almost invisible. You can use either real or artificial plants. Artificial plants have the advantage of not needing any care and not being subject to insect infestations. Real plants will help keep the humidity in the enclosure up. When you think you have enough plants in the enclosure, add a couple of more. You can use almost any houseplant that is rated for low or moderate light conditions. The ones to avoid are those with milky sap. They are usually toxic or contain an irritant. I have used Diffenbachias, Aralias, Scheffelaria, Crotons, various ivy vines, and many others over the years with great success. You should also supply some branches for the Anoles to climb on. You can use dead branches from outside that have been sterilized in the oven for 30 minutes at 300 degrees to kill any mites or other "nasties". The branches should be at least as big around as the Anole’s body. Artificial caves or other ground shelters are not needed. The Anole will be happy to hide and sleep among the plants. Remember, Anoles are arboreal.

Cleaning - A few minutes spent on a daily basis will delay but not eliminate the inevitable thorough cleaning. If you remove any feces and dead prey items daily, you should only have to do a thorough cleaning about every six months. You can use a Vinegar-based glass cleaner between major cleanings to remove any water spots on the glass.
For a major cleaning, remove the Anoles to a temporary enclosure and empty everything from the enclosure. Clean everything with a dilute solution of bleach, rinse everything thoroughly and let it dry before you put it back. Replace all of the substrate as well.


Choosing an Anole - A sick Anole is almost impossible to treat due to the small body size. The difference between an effective medication dose and a lethal dose is often very small. So, start with a healthy Anole. It should be alert and active and try to escape from you when you try to catch it. If it is lethargic, it is sick. Check the vent area for smeared feces. If they are present, it either has parasites or intestinal problems. YOU WON’T NURSE IT BACK TO HEALTH. Vet treatments for small reptiles are often expensive and competent care can be difficult to find! QUARANTINE all new arrivals for 30 days before introducing them to an established enclosure with “inmates” to prevent the spread of disease or parasites.

Male or Female - Some Anoles (A. sagrei) are dimorphic. That is, the female is a different pattern than the male. Cuban Brown Anole females (A. sagrei) have a diamond shaped pattern from the back of their neck to their tail. Males don’t – their pattern is random. Green Anoles (A. carolinensis) of both sexes look the same. Juvenile and mature males have a pair of enlarged postanal scales (just past the vent) that can be seen with slight magnification. Mature males have a hemipenile bulge at the base of the tail. So, if it has either or both, it is a male. Otherwise, it is a female. Dewlaps, white lines, head shape, etc. are not reliably accurate. This is particularly true in immature specimens.
Male Anoles of all species are highly territorial. If you give them enough space to be comfortable, they will try to establish their own territory. They will fight with any other male who appears – sometimes to the death! They will also exhibit an aggression/challenge display to any preceived threat - like a their own reflection in the glass. Only place one male per enclosure unless the enclosure is the size of one of the rooms in your house.
Female Anoles are a bit more sedate. They will have some brief skirmishes and squabbles to establish and maintain a “pecking order” and may even chase each other around in the enclosure but are nowhere near as violent as the males’ encounters.

Feeding - Anoles are opportunistic feeders. They will eat as much as they can whenever prey items are available. They are insectivorous. That is, they eat live insects. Some will eat baby food fruit (peach or apricot) from time to time but it should be used as an emergency food rather than a staple part of their diet and removed from the enclosure after an hour or so since it will spoil rapidly. A varied diet will produce the healthiest animals. Crickets are probably the easiest staple to find but you can feed them roach nymphs, flies, and a variety of wild caught insects from a pesticide free area. You can even find suitable prey items to feed to your Anoles in the dead of winter if you know where to look. They love moths and other flying insects as well as cabbage worms. One of their favorites are waxworms but these are relatively high in fat content and will cause obesity if fed in excess.
Feeding every day or every other day works out fine. They will usually have a marked increase in appetite in the spring and a decrease in the fall. You should also dust the prey items with a calcium supplement once a week. You can use any of the commercial products that don’t contain D3. One of the best sources is to go to your local health food store and get either calcium carbonate or calcium lactate capsules or tablets. You can empty the capsules or grind the tablets into powder and dust the prey items. Put a small amount of the powder in a small plastic bag, add some prey items, and gently shake until they are covered. Then, dump them into the enclosure. Mealworms are generally NOT a good food choice for small reptiles. They have a hard, chitinous exoskeleton that can be difficult for the Anole to digest. Hatchlings can be fed Leafhoppers, flightless Fruit Flies, and pinhead Crickets.

Color - Green Anoles are mistakenly called "American Chameleons" because of their ability to change colors from brown to green and vice versa. Anoles change color for a variety of reasons not all of which are stress related. The statement "a Green Anole is a happy Anole" is not accurate. The converse is also not true. As long as the Anole is active and eating and drinking, color is not a significant concern. In the almost 45 years I have been keeping them, I have had Anoles that were Green 90% of the time and others that were brown 90% of the time and both lived a long and active life. Most changed color frequently. They do not change color to match their surroundings. They will be darker when they are cold simply because the dark colors absorb heat more efficiently. Almost any color in their palette will blend in with their environment and they will change randomly as they move from one temperature gradient to another or their stress level changes as they travel through the enclosure. The only time a Green Anole will be green for certain is when they are asleep and can’t control their pigmentation.

Morphs – Green Anoles appear in several color morphs. There is also a reddish color morph present in Brown Anoles. Green Anoles have three strata of chromatophores (color cells) arranged in layers. The base layer is brown (melanochromatophores), the middle yellow (xanthochromatophores), and the top layer blue (cyanochromatophores). The combination of blue and yellow give the Anole its green color. The absence of yellow produces a blue color morph. The absence of blue produces a yellow morph. The absence of all three would produce an albino. Varying concentrations would produce different shades. Anoles have the ability to turn these layers “off” and “on” and thus, change color.

Breeding - Usually all that is required is to put a male and female in the same enclosure. Male and female Green Anoles are sexually mature at 8-9 months of age. If they are older than that, they are ready to breed. The female Green Anole will start laying eggs about 2-4 weeks after a successful mating (they can store sperm for up to 7 months). She will lay one or two at a time until a total of 10-12 have been produced. Often the last couple of eggs are infertile. She will bury or partially bury them in the enclosure at the base of plants or in the corners. If you use a paper or reptile carpet substrate, place a large container of a moist, suitable substrate in the enclosure for her to use in egg laying. If you choose to incubate the eggs outside the enclosure, remove them taking care not to turn them from their original position. The scientific studies are inconclusive on this point but why take the chance. You can put them in a large deli dish with Vermiculite in it and they will hatch in 35-40 days at 85 degrees and 70% humidity.
Mating can be a violent encounter. A male always initiates the ritual and will display his dewlap and bob his head and do a series of “push ups”. The female will head-bob back and then run. If she is receptive, she will ALLOW the male to catch her. If not, he never will (this can be a problem in a small enclosure). The male will grab the female by the back of the neck with his mouth and hold her in position for mating (which takes about 15 minutes or so). Struggling females may be injured or even killed during mating.
Anoles can be brought into breeding condition with brumation. Reduce the nighttime temperature to right at 60 degrees and decrease the photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day for 2-3 months. Then, when you lengthen the day and slightly raise the temperature, they will think it is spring and mating will occur. This is usually not necessary, though.
You could always remove the female temporarily (for a couple of months) and then re-introduce her. Given the male’s propensity for "novel" females, breeding should immediately commence.

Shedding - Anoles shed when their skin is restricting their growth. The interval depends on their age and eating habits. They will usually have a dull appearance just prior to the shed. White patches resembling blisters will appear and the skin will then begin to slough off. Anoles are master recyclers. They eat the skin as it is shed to reuse the nutrients. Shedding usually takes about an hour and they might even do it in stages with the head or body first followed in a couple of days by the other body part. Unshed bits of skin are NOT a problem UNLESS they are constricting a limb or other appendage. You may be able to remove the problem bits by GENTLY rubbing the dry skin with a Q-tip soaked in warm water. NEVER forcibly pull off a bit of unshed skin!

Lifespan and Health issues - Small/medium Anoles live 4-6 years routinely in captivity. That is longer than mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Large species live 10-15 years. So you have a long-term commitment.
Minor cuts and abrasions can be treated with human medications. For example, Neosporin will keep a wound from becoming infected and eye drops will take care of eye infections.

Mites can be treated with one of the commercial miticides designed for reptiles. Just follow the directions on the package. Mites appear as reddish or white specks that move about on the Anole’s body.

Two serious health issues are Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) caused by a calcium deficiency, and prolapses. Anoles need UVB to synthesize calcium. A calcium deficiency results in curved spine, deformed limbs, and nerve damage. It is preventable by providing the correct lighting and dusting the prey items with a calcium supplement.

Prolapses are a condition where either the intestines or reproductive organs protrude from the vent. A prolapse is usually fatal and virtually untreatable in all but the largest species.

Another is mouth rot. The mouth will become black. It is usually the result of a cut or injury sustained during eating. Take the Anole to a vet immediately.

Anoles will sometimes get respiratory infections as well. The symptoms are gaping and strenuous breathing with the mouth open. Raise the temperature to an overall 85+ degrees in a QUARANTINE enclosure. If things don’t improve in a day or so, see a vet.

Anoles sometimes have a white powdery substance around their nostrils. This is how they normally excrete excess salt in their bodies. It is completely normal and no cause for alarm.

Postorbital eyespots are used to express extreme anger or stress. These black spots frequently appear in males during Aggressive/Challenge displays. If they don’t go away in 20 minutes or so or if they are present in a female, they are cause for alarm.

Keeping Anoles with other Species – The simple answer is DON’T MIX SPECIES! Even two species of Anoles should NOT be kept in the same enclosure. Why? Besides that fact that different species generally have different environmental requirements, each reptile species has its own parasite load. Some are beneficial and some are harmful but all reptiles and amphibians have some microbe or parasite living in their digestive tract. What is completely benign and innocuous to one species might very well be fatal to another. If you mix species, you will shorten the lifespan of both.

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The information contain in these care sheets represents only the opinions and husbandry care of members and therefore is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate or reflects the advice or opinions of It is always advised to seek additional information or the advice of a qualified veterinarian or qualified reptile dealer. It is also advisable for you to a good amount of research before implementing any of the ideas and care described in these care sheets. We also recommend you ask many questions in their related forums before acting on any information.

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