Green Anole Caresheet
Green anoles can be a good lizard species for beginners. Their requirements are relatively simple compared to other lizards, and they are active during the day. However, they do not tame easily and are a better pet for observing and watching, not handling.
They typically have lifespans of three to four years, but with proper care, some anoles even live to be eight! They grow to about eight inches long, including the tail. Green anoles can actually change the color of their skin slightly. Sometimes my anole is bright green, and sometimes he’s brown.
Anoles are a tropical species that need a heated, humid cage. They also need to be fed live insects, so you must be comfortable with handling bugs. Anoles themselves are cheap to buy in a pet store, but they are not actually cheap lizards! Purchasing everything you need for an anole setup can actually be quite expensive. Anoles are living animals and deserve correct care, so please be willing to pay what you need to in order to care for your anole(s) properly.
Anoles are an arboreal species, meaning they like taller rather longer cages. Keep this in mind when picking out a cage for them!
Anoles are tropical lizards that need humidity. They should therefore be kept in a closed-in habitat such as an aquarium with a tight-fitting screen lid for ventilation. These little guys are able to climb up any side of their habitat due to their light weight and very sticky feet, so make sure the lid is escape-proof! A 10 gallon aquarium is sufficient for one or two green anoles, but more space is always better, so try a 15 or 20 gallon. Having more than one male in a small enclosure may cause stress for every anole due to territory issues.
Substrate: Substrate should be material that will help keep higher humidity in the terrarium. Potting soil with no added chemicals or fertilizers, soil bedding purchased at pet stores, peat moss, sphagnum moss, shredded newspaper, or reptile carpeting all work well. Any sort of pine or cedar bedding should not be used for reptiles.
Decorations: Anoles are arboreal species, meaning they love to be up high and in trees. They love to climb, so giving your anole(s) some pieces of bark, sticks, vines, plants, rocks, etc to climb on is a good idea. These decorations also provide hiding spots for the lizards, which helps eliminate stress.
Water: A water dish of some sort should be provided. However, be aware that anoles in the wild drink water from dew drops hanging on leaves, so the water dish may not be used very often. Anoles are attracted to moving water, so placing a bubbler (normally used to provide oxygen in fish aquariums) in the water may attract an anole’s attention. You may choose to create a small waterfall or fountain feature in the cage, which will increase humidity of the terrarium and will also attract your anole to water.
IS YOUR TAP WATER SAFE? Sometimes cities add chemicals to the water that help humans out but are dangerous for fish, reptiles, and amphibians. To be on the safe side, you can purchase water dechlorinator in a pet store. You can get the stuff made specifically for reptile water or the stuff made for freshwater fish. NEVER use distilled water for an animal’s drinking water!
LIGHTING, TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY
Summary: maintain a day/night cycle with 10-12 hours of light per day using a UVB light bulb, use a heat source to keep the cage at an overall 75-85°F during the day with a basking spot at 85-90°F, don’t let temperatures drop below 60°F at night, keep humidity at 60-80%
***Never place the enclosure (especially a plastic or glass aquarium) in the sun!!! The sun will overheat the terrarium and will kill your anole. ***
- UVB Lighting: This is absolutely, 100%, positively required!!! Without UVB, a lizard will not absorb the calcium in its diet and will therefore develop a serious health problem called metabolic bone disease. In fact, the biggest challenge of raising pet reptiles is making sure they have enough calcium (see diet section for more details). Be aware that UVB light is not a good source of heat. Also, these light bulbs do not burn out but do stop producing UVB after approximately six months, so you will need to purchase a new bulb approximately every six months.
- Temperature: A basking light or ceramic heat emitter is needed to provide a temperature gradient in the anole’s terrarium. When the anole needs to be warmer, it will sit in the warm spot right underneath the heat source. This heat source also maintains the temperature needed in the rest of the terrarium. A basking light or ceramic heat emitter can be purchased at pet stores.
- Photoperiod: An irregular day and nighttime cycle might mess with your anole or cause stress. The cycle doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s suggested that your anole have 10-14 hours of light and 10-12 hours of darkness. If you’re interested in breeding anoles, you will have to worry about adjusting their photoperiod to simulate changing seasons.
- Humidity: Maintain a humidity of 60-70% by misting the cage at least once a day with a spray bottle. Soil should be kept slightly damp, but NOT wet or soggy.
Diet: Anoles eat live insects in the wild, and you should feed live insects to your anoles. A feeding schedule for your lizard depends on how much you feed at each feeding, how big your anole is, how much it can eat at one time, and on what food items you have available. Anoles are generally fed every two or three days, but there is nothing wrong with feeding it daily. A young anole should definitely be fed more often as it grows. In other words, get ready for many trips to the pet store!
As the saying goes: Variety is the spice of life! A healthy anole is fed a variety of foods, including small crickets, meal worms, wax worms, red wrigglers, moths, small roaches, and flies. Avoid feeding the anole any insects that are wider than the lizard’s head. Don’t want it to have problems swallowing or digesting! Crickets are not nutritional unless gut-loaded beforehand. “Gut-loading” means you feed and water the crickets (basically give them some nutrition) before you feed them to an anole.
Some anoles will eat pieces of veggies and fruits. Most lizards, however, do not. Also, pet stores sell dried insects, such as dry meal worms, or even dried flies marketed as “anole food.” My anoles don’t have any interest in food that doesn’t move. However, you may get lucky and have a lizard that will readily eat these items.
BEWARE! Catching wild insects and feeding them to your anole is a huge risk! Wild-caught insects could have parasites and diseases that can transmit to your lizard. The bugs may have also eaten pesticide or insecticide-covered plants. If you do collect wild insects (IT’S HIGHLY SUGGESTED YOU DON’T), avoid getting them from roadsides – research shows that these insects have higher levels of pollutants in their systems.
Nutrition: Calcium and special vitamins need to be given to an anole through the use of dietary supplements. The easiest way to provide this is by purchasing vitamin “dust” from the pet store. Then you dust your anole’s food and feed it to them. Calcium supplements should be used every feeding, and a vitamins/minerals supplement should be used once a week.
Giving an anole calcium supplements is crucial to its health! The feeder insects an anole eats will not have enough calcium, and the anole will get sick if it doesn’t have enough calcium in its diet. Metabolic bone disease is a nasty condition that is insanely difficult to reverse. It is very important to give your anole calcium! But remember, your anole also requires UVB light (as mentioned above) in order to absorb the calcium from its diet.
General maintenance of your anole’s terrarium will be needed. For example, water dishes should be cleaned very often to avoid build up of any harmful bacteria. Anole droppings should be cleared away as often as you see them. The substrate should be changed periodically. The entire cage should be emptied and cleaned every few months (at least). Always immediately remove any mold from the cage. Remember to use a new UVB bulb approximately every six months.
When an anole escapes, it can be a scary thing. These little guys are so quick and jumpy that you may be afraid you’ll never catch it again! However, the key is to stay calm. If you panic and move around too much, the movement will frighten your anole and it will be even more excitable. NEVER GRAB AN ANOLE BY ITS TAIL! Anoles have a safety maneuver in which they will literally detach their tails if they are grabbed by it. Instead, try trapping your anole with a container (such as a large box) and then release it back into its cage. But be gentle and careful: you don’t want to accidentally harm/injure your anole!
BEHAVIOR & OTHER NOTES
HANDLING: As said in the introduction, anoles are not great lizards for taming and handling. They’re flighty, quick little lizards that are constantly skittish and they are difficult to tame. Also, it is important that you never grab an anole (or any type of lizard) by its tail!
***SALMONELLA WARNING: Any amphibian or reptile may have salmonella, even one that’s been captive for years. You must always wash your hands after touching your frog or any of its things (cage, decorations, substrate, old water). Do not wash cage decorations in the kitchen sink. Do not let small children play with the frog or its things. Never kiss your frog, and never touch your face or eat food while working with your frog until you have thoroughly washed your hands.***
SHEDDING: Being a reptile, green anoles will shed their skin periodically. A high enough humidity level is crucial to make sure this process is successful. Improper shedding could lead to loss of toes, part of the tail, etc. This is because, if pieces of skin are not shed, these pieces re-harden and begin restricting blood circulation. A toe, for example, may become cut off and the tissue may die.
COLOR CHANGES: Green anoles can change color between shades of green and brown. Sometimes an anole will be green in some places but slightly brown in others. I’ve always noticed with my anoles that they are brown when sitting on brown sticks and branches and they are green when sitting on green plants.
SUMMARY: SHOPPING LIST
- cage with tight-fitting lid
- water spray bottle
- water dish
- UVB bulb and light fixture
- extra heat source (if needed) for either day time, night time, or both
- basking bulb and light fixture
- calcium supplement
Enjoy Raising Your Anole(s)!
Anoles are very fun animals to raise. They’re fun to watch and fun to care for. Here are some additional things I’ve posted that you may want to look at: