Green anoles were my first pet lizard so I have a soft spot for this species. They aren’t a pet that enjoys being handled ever. But their size, ease of care, and activity make them fascinating to watch.
Anoles are one of the more sociable species of lizard. You can keep them in small groups. And considering how small they are, a group of anoles is an ideal choice if you don’t have space for a large setup. So what is involved in green anole care?
What is the Green Anole?
Greens anoles are often called “american chameleons” in the pet reptile trade. This makes them sound more exotic and interesting to beginner lizard keepers. But anoles are entirely unrelated to true chameleons, which are found exclusively in the Old World.
They are called chameleons because like the Old World lizards, green anoles change the color of their skin. Their ability is much more limited, however.
An anole is able to change from lime green to a dark brown and back again. Color changing enables these arboreal lizards to blend in with both tree leaves and bark, staying hidden from both their prey and predators.
Anoles are related to iguanas but unlike these large herbivores anoles are carnivorous. They feed on the abundant insects found in their canopy home.
The second trait that makes the anole lizard famous is the red flap of skin (dewlap) found under their throats. A male nole lizard has a dewlap several times the size of a female’s. He uses it like a banner, signaling to rivals and mates that he is large and in charge.
Anoles will even flare their dewlaps and people, dogs, and other potential predators. They are saying “I see you and I am not afraid.” A head bob from you may even be answered with one from the anole.
But this is as far as you should go when it comes to engaging with a green anole. These small lizards are very quick and delicate.
They don’t ever become domesticated and will race up your arm and even up walls, trying to escape. Their tails are also quite fragile and will break when you try to grab one.
A mis-timed grab may even break the ribs or limbs of these tiny reptiles. If you want an anole species that is handleable, the Cuban Knight anole (Anolis equestris) is larger and slower. They also become tame with regular handling.
- Common Names: Green Anole, American Chameleon, Carolina Anole
- Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis
- Origin: Southern United States
- Length: 5 to 9 inches
- Tank Size: 10+ gallons
- Diet: Insectivorous
- Green Anole Lifespan: Up to 10 Years
- Ease of Care: Easy
Caring for a Pet Green Anole Lizard
Green anoles are easy to care for pet lizards. All they need is a constant supply of vitamin-dusted insects, humidity, and light that replicates the output of the sun.
Lifespan of Green Anole
For such small lizards the green anole is somewhat long lived. You should expect a well cared for anole to live for up to 10 years. 5 to 7 years is the usual lifespan, however.
Anolis Lizard Habitat Size
Anoles thrive in smaller enclosures than most other lizard species. A single anole – or even a trio of one male and two females – will live with comfort in a 10-gallon fish tank.
A larger tank, such as a 20-long, is more comfortable, though. It gives you room to place additional plants, rocks, and other enriching decorations.
Decorating a Green Anole Enclosure
All anoles are arboreal lizards, meaning they live in trees, on bushes, and other high places. Since they spend all of their time climbing, a green anole tank should be decorated with branches, plants, and other climbing surfaces. The more entangled it is, the better.
Extra decoration is essential if you are keeping more than one green anole together. The dominant male of the group will sometimes bully females not ready to breed with him. And subdominant males will be attacked if they don’t have a way of staying out of sight.
If you are a fan of terrarium setups using live plants, green anoles are excellent pets to consider. A terrarium addresses not only the habitat needs but also ensures that the humidity inside the tank remains high.
The main reason why people often don’t succeed with green anole lizards is that they don’t keep the humidity high enough. Anoles are undemanding but indoor air often becomes dry and sterile. 65-75% year-round is the preferred humidity range for anole lizards.
An automatic humidifier is the best option; one that monitors the moisture content inside of the tank and adds a mist of water as needed. A hand mister used once or several times per day also provides the right range of humidity.
Misting the tank also gives your anole green surfaces to drink from. A water dish is not necessary since anoles don’t drink at ground level. These arboreal lizards prefer to stay elevated and drink from dew and rain droplets as much as possible.
Humidity also ensures that your anole will be able to shed its skin properly. Lizards shed patches of skin as they grow. Dry conditions cause a shed to be patchy. The shed skin may even stick to the new skin, causing itching and infections if not cleared away.
Substrate Choices for Carolina Anole Habitats
Any substrate you choose should also be considered based on how it deals with humidity. Soil and coco coir (shredded coconut fiber) are the two most popular choices.
Both substrate options do an excellent job of retaining moisture and slow-releasing it as the air dries out. Coco coir is also sterile and does not grow mold like soil will if not cleaned often enough.
Both have a similar look and are easy to find. I recommend soil if you want to grow live plants in your green anole enclosure. Otherwise, stick to sterile and convenient coco coir.
Lighting for Green Anoles
Choosing the right lights is just as important for green anole care as humidity. Reptiles need three forms of light output to thrive: visible, infrared (heat), and ultraviolet (UVb).
Heat lamps that hang above the tank are important as anoles prefer to bask on leaves and tree branches. So don’t buy heating rocks as green anoles avoid them. A ceramic heating element is easy to place above the tank while still leaving room for the visible and UVb fixtures.
The air temperature of the basking zone should reach 80-90℉, falling to 60-70℉ at night. This temperature range is what you’d expect through much of the American South, after all.
Ultraviolet radiation is important for vitamin D3 synthesis. This vitamin is a hormone that regulates calcium uptake in most animals, including us humans. And like humans, anoles need the UV wavelengths from natural sun exposure to make it.
Some reptile vitamin powder blends have vitamin D3 added to them. But whether or not reptiles can uptake this nutrient from food has yet to be determined. It’s best to place UVb bulbs above the tank so they synthesize it themselves.
What Does a Green Anole Eat?
A pet green anole is an insectivorous lizard. They eat moths, caterpillars, spiders, and other small invertebrates they find in the canopy.
Crickets, mealworms, and waxworms are easy to buy at local pet stores. These insects should be kept for a day or two before feeding and offered fresh vegetables (gut-loading).
By gut-loading bugs before feeding, the digested food they eat will be passed onto their predator (the anole).
If you know an area is pesticide and herbicide-free, bugs from the outdoors add some variety to their diet. Caterpillars, beetles, and other insects are all fair game. Just avoid stinging insects since green anoles have no way to kill their prey other than chewing them as fast as possible.
One feeding every other day is enough for adult anole lizards. Young anole lizards should be fed every day, however, as they are still growing.
Green Anole Male vs Female
Telling the difference between a male and female green anole is easier to do than most other lizards. The male is larger than a female of the same age by up to 50%. His red dewlap is also larger and he will flare it often to impress any females around.
Another way to tell sexes apart is by behavior. Males will be aggressive towards each other and the dominant male will do all he can to chase rivals out of his territory.
A green anole pet is a good starter lizard if you are thinking about exploring the world of reptiles. They stay small, have basic lighting and humidity needs, and thrive on a steady diet of feeder insects. Anoles will teach you everything you need to know to keep more difficult pets. Just remember that they don’t grow tame so resist the impulse to handle them.
More Frequently Asked Questions About Green Anoles
Anoles are insectivorous lizards, meaning they feed on small arthropods. In the wild, they will hunt down caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, roaches, moths, or anything else they encounter. Anole lizards are motion-sensitive and can’t be trained onto dead or prepared formula foods.
Green anoles are great pets. Their care requirements are basic and even children will be able to keep them alive for years. The one thing you can’t do with an anole is handle them. Leopard geckos and bearded dragons are better choices if you want a pet lizard you can hold.
Carolina anoles are such small lizards that their bite won’t break the skin. The pinch may sting a bit since their teeth are sharp and sometimes find a loose fold of skin. Anoles sometimes hold on when biting, rather than let go right away. The key is not to panic or thrash. These lizards are so small you might injure or kill one by accident. Just set it somewhere and give it a chance to let go. You may also grasp the lizard with care and wriggle your finger free. The anole will then flee as fast as possible.