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How to Care for Green Anole Lizards

A delightful small lizard, the green anole (Anolis carolinensis) makes a popular choice for an easy care reptile pet. They're the kind of pet that will entertain you with their busy antics during daylight and their beautiful color is lovely to behold.

Odds are, you will probably see this type of lizard in your garden. They are very common, and they enjoy sitting on branches of large, leafy plants.

A green anole has a life expectancy between 4 to 8 years and while that's a daily commitment for the upcoming years, they are reasonably easy to care for provided you get the set-up correct (which requires a bit of expenditure). This article explains the ins and outs of green anole care including shelter, food and keeping them happy in their artificial environment.


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    Prepare the artificial environment before purchasing the green anole. The size of the container used will be dependent on whether you're keeping one anole or a community of anoles. A typical container will be a tall vivarium or a tank. Inside the vivarium, be sure to supply plenty of plants (either real or artificial, or a mixture of both) and basking items such as branches or smooth rocks.
    • For a community consisting of one male and four females (known as a "harem"), the size of the container should be approximately 36 x 24 x 12 inches or 90 x 60 x 30cm. The height of the container is important, to allow for climbing around.
    • Fill the vivarium or tank evenly one or more inches or 2.5-5 centimeters with sterilized reptile bark big enough that it cannot fit in the anole's mouth. Never use unsterilized bark or floor covering you're not sure about; ask the pet store or your vet for advice if you're unsure.
    • Always use a tank cover. Other pets (like cats) like to 'play' with anoles and this usually means death for an escaped anole.
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    Provide a suitable temperature range for the anoles. Anoles need to be in a daily temperature range of approximately 75-86ºF / 24–30ºC. Use full spectrum lighting to ensure the healthy development of both anoles and the live plants. The nighttime temperature can drop to 68ºF / 20ºC but no lower.
    • A fluorescent 40 watt bulb will create the right temperature during the day but must be turned off at night and replaced with a black light.
    • Like people, anoles can fall asleep in the sun for longer than they intended to. While they like long days, you should still put a timer on their grow light so that it is on for 12 hours a day, so they can get 12 hours of darkness but there needs to be a black light on during the night as they will freeze if no warmth is added.
    • High humidity levels are important too, achieved through regular misting and perhaps a dripper or a water feature. Also be sure to supply adequate fresh air.
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    Decide on how many anoles you will keep. It's easiest to keep one anole and if you want more than one, you will need to be careful to only have one male in the one vivarium at any time as males fight. Moreover, unless you want to start breeding, avoid a male and female combination; opting for two females is likely to be the best; usually females do fine together, and may "snuggle" up to one another occasionally. If you're breeding anoles, the harem is ideal with four females and one male.
    • When younger, it is sometimes difficult to determine the sex of your lizards. Males always have a throat fan (or dewlap) underneath their throat that inflates into a red frill for mating/territory display on occasion. When older, males are typically larger and have longer snouts than females. Males also will have two large "scales" on their stomach at the base of their tail. Males have two bumps on the bottom base of the tail and females have only one or none. Males also tend to be more colorful than females.
    • Be aware that not everyone agrees that anoles are sociable enough to live in a close vivarium or tank community where they can't get away from each other. Some people believe that anoles should be kept separate from one another in different tanks or containers. This type of setup is more comfortable for the individuals inhabiting the tanks, and not as unnatural, therefore, it is less stressful and more healthy for the anoles. However, if you do keep them in the one vivarium, always provide many basking spots so as to avoid competition. And be aware, that unless it's breeding season, opposite sex anoles may be very stressed if kept in a single container; talk to your vet if you have any concerns.
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    Purchase an anole. Choose a reputable place to buy the anole from and be sure that you can check the anole before purchase. When buying an anole, make sure to check for parasites, sluggishness, and their body weight. This latter can be ascertained by looking for obvious ribs showing. An unhealthy anole will have sunken-in cheek areas and will look much like a skeleton with skin. Make sure that your anole is in a tank of it's own when you buy it, or check the others for signs of stress, parasites, loose droppings, missing tails, and coloration. A green colored anole is less stressed out, and therefore a healthier specimen. (Slow anoles may just be cold, or it may be too hot. It all depends on their surroundings.)
    • Use common sense when choosing a new pet. Don't pick the smallest, skinniest anole because you "feel bad for him." Chances are you'll feel worse for him when you have to bury him in a shoe box in your garden.
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    Feed and water the anoles. Anoles are insectivores and the size of insects they'll eat ranges from small to medium. Anoles need a minimum of twice weekly feeding and preferably every 2 to 3 days, or ask for advice from your vet. If you have more than one anole, it is vital that you keep an eye to see that each anole gets several insects every feeding. The food must be live – canned foods will not be eaten since it is lifeless and won't compete with your anole – so here are some suggestions on what to feed:
    • Feed crickets. One meal anoles enjoy is cricket; buy the smallest cricket offered, and if there is only "one size" at a pet store, go to a different one. Dust the crickets with a supplement powder at each feeding to help ensure the anoles get enough calcium and vitamins (anoles missing the key nutrients can get metabolic bone disease (MBD) and die). If you keep crickets around in bulk, "gut-load" them by feeding them a vitamin rich cricket food prior to feeding them to your lizards. This way, all of the nutritious food your crickets just ate will then, in turn, be passed on to your anole. Equally, if your crickets are starved, your anole soon will be too. Baby anoles (should you be breeding them) require micro crickets or tiny fruit flies.
    • Occasional fast prey like small cockroaches or flies will give your lizards some much needed exercise.
    • Anoles may also eat waxworms, fruit flies, small worms, canned crickets, small spiders, or earthworms.
    • Avoid feeding anoles with mealworms. These pass through them undigested, wasting energy in eating and not getting any energy from the food.
    • Anoles prefer to get their water in the form of droplets off plants. As such, daily misting is an essential activity in the vivarium. Mist both the anoles and the plants for 10 seconds 2 to 3 times a day. If you can't remember to do this or don't want to, have an automated mister or drip system installed.
    • Green anoles like to have their food in separate quarters than their homes unless it's feeding time. This way the "leftovers" won't munch on your lizard while he's asleep and medium to large crickets can eat the anole's extremities. If you place the crickets in a low feeding dish, make sure the crickets you put in the container aren't hiding under food bowls and such and your anole will be thankful that they aren't ganging up on him in the night! If they're small enough, they probably won't bother your anole but some owners of anoles advise to never release or leave crickets loose in the tank with the lizard but rather to place them in a separate container, move the anole to the container for 5–10 minutes to eat and then move the anole back to his tank when done.
    • The anole must have proper vitamins and calcium; since it eats feeder insects all of the lizards extra nutrients must be contained in those insects. Give the lizard UVB light (full spectrum) so the anole can regulate its vitamin balance. Make sure it's rated for the tank size and the anole. (Replace these special bulbs every few months even if they are still producing light. After a while they will stop making UVA and UVB.)
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    Keep the vivarium or tank cleaned regularly. Reptiles in captivity are susceptible to germs and debris that builds up over time in their containers. It is important to maintain and clean their home regularly, at least weekly. And leftover, uneaten food should always be removed after mealtime.
    • To make tank cleaning easier, try putting a sheet of plastic down before you put in the substrate.
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    Keep a watch out for health problems and be active about averting any potential concerns. Some anoles will get infections on their snout along the mouth. This can be cleaned by gingerly and delicately wiping the snout with a cotton swab barely wetted in either hydrogen peroxide or Neosporin® (an antibiotic ointment) or ask your vet for a reptile-suitable product. Do not do this more than once a day and not for more than a few days. Don't force the treatment on them though; if they try to dodge you, let them, as it is likely that the stress of this procedure will harm them more. Instead, try keeping the container cleaner, and maybe drier if it happens to be too moist.
    • Kill any red spider mites that you see in the tank. An insecticidal soap can be made out of ivory soap shavings, tepid water, and vegetable oil shaken in a spray bottle. They are to anoles what ticks are to us.
    • Make sure to get rid of any mold growth the second you see it! Don't hesitate by "waiting to see what happens" because your anole will suffer and probably die.
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    Handle with care. It is possible to handle an anole and even have it eat from your hand. The anole may learn to sit on your hand in exchange for a treat but don't put the anole there. Instead, allow it to crawl onto your hand of its own volition, as this is much less stressful for it. Also bear in mind that anoles move very fast and are very agile, so don't handle it anywhere it might escape from. On the whole though, an anole is much more of a pet for watching than for holding, so keep handling to a minimum.
    • If you need to move an anole (and this may be for feeding and cleaning purposes at the very least), be very gentle. Grip firmly but very gently and move him without delay.
    • Always wash your hands after handling the green anole, as with any reptile or pet. In addition, wash your hands after handling any bedding or tank decorations to prevent the spread of salmonella. While this disease won't usually show on a reptile (more often the aquatic species like turtles will carry salmonella) and you are usually safe when dealing with arboreal "live off the ground" creatures like the green anole, better safe than sorry.
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    If you want to hold your anole and it bites you, don't panic and don't jerk or you will break its jaw!


  • If you always drop the anoles food in the same location, they will involuntarily learn this and expect their food to be dropped there.
  • Males often chase females around the tank during mating season but it is often the female who will decide when coitus occurs and will decide when to approach the male. While the males stress out the females, they rarely hurt the females. However, the stress should be avoided, so remove the male from the tank when it's not breeding season.
  • Small crickets go down easier than large ones. Be careful of too many excess crickets so they do not bite at the anoles. Spiders such as daddy long legs help the anoles exercise, but offer limited nutrition.
  • Although these lizards are cheap to buy, keep in mind that they are not cheap in the needs department. They will need special heating/lighting setups, weekly cricket purchases (if you don't breed your own), vitamin supplements, special watering techniques, and their tanks or containers will need weekly maintenance and cleaning. Be sure that the budget stretches to all this!
  • Anoles only develop fat reserves in their tail. Ergo an anole with a fat tail is a well-fed anole.
  • Much of this advice applies to other anoles (of which there are about 300 species and sub species), although the brown anole prefers a more terrestrial habitat than the green anole (thus, give it a wider rather than taller container).
  • If you're going to feed your anole earth worms, try home grown worms or compost worms due to the fact the worms could have eaten something bad for the anole.
  • Anoles don't drink from a bowl, like most pets, They like to sip from a source of flowing water.
  • If you catch yours please don't just take them without a plan. They are not the easiest to take care of but you can try to take care of them if you would like. There are also brown anoles that are much easier to catch.
  • Small hatchlings sometimes like to lick at fruit (avoid citrus fruits, as reptiles can't handle the acid) to get trace vitamins. Additionally, old fruit will attract fruit flies which are one of their two primary food sources in the wild, the other being termites. Make sure to remove fresh foods after a couple of hours to prevent rotting and mold growth.
  • The green anole needs a warm environment but lush vegetation and small bugs to eat clean the cage twice a month.
  • Waxworms are nice treats for your anole and have a high fat content. They are great additions to the diet of any anole. Mealworms are a nice crunchy treat. They, however, can be hard on the digestive system for green anoles, so should be given infrequently.
  • Don't catch them from the wild they may carry disease and it would not be fair to just take them out of free range and into a cage.
  • Be very wary of the products you use to clean the tank! You always want to make sure that they don't have dangerous chemicals or likewise in them, as this can severely harm, if not kill, the Lizard (along with other animals exposed to the substance).
  • Do your research on the compatibility of tank sharing with other species such as toads, geckos, fire-bellied newts and frogs before attempting to introduce any other species. It is not recommended to mix amphibians, as they require a totally different housing set up. For example, fire belly newts not only are aquatic or semi-aquatic, but they also would die at a temperature above 70ºF, while the anole would likely not make it much below 68ºF. Their climates, lighting, and heating requirements are different, and species mixing in general is not recommended, as one species may eat the other. The newt is much more docile and would likely be victimized in this case. The temperaments of any combination of different animals needs to be considered as well as their individual habitat requirements. Also be conscious of the potential for the introduction of foreign pathogens by putting two species together in a small space, species that don't normally exist together in the wild. One may be wild caught (taken from the wild) and the other may be too, but from a different part of the world with different pathogens it has an immunity to, or it may be captive bred (from breeders and born in captivity) where it would not be subjected to all the illnesses and stress that wild caught animals are. Putting them together could be a disaster waiting to happen.


  • Only feed your anoles live food; adult anoles will not attempt to eat inanimate objects, and they will starve.
  • Flies alone cannot provide the lizards with fat. They will slowly starve to death much as humans did on all-rabbit diets in frontier times.
  • Do not rely solely on a water dish for your lizards' hydration; anoles will usually not drink from pools of still water. Furthermore, small hatchlings often drown in any amount of standing water. Frequent misting the sides of the tank or any decorations will assure that your anole gets enough to drink.
  • If you are unfamiliar with an insect species but want to feed it to your lizards, research it further until you know it is neither poisonous or has stingers. Wasps, hornets, bees, wolf-spiders, and scorpions are not suitable for anoles. Even if your anole doesn't try to eat it, they can still get hurt by being in too close proximity to the insect or arthropod in an enclosed cage.
  • Do not put more than one male in a tank. They will fight constantly over the limited territory. Don't forget that they are naturally loners, male anoles in particular, so even if you have two it's still "overcrowding" in their eyes if their vivariums are facing.
  • Simply having UVB lighting will not remove the need for vitamin supplementation, nor vice versa. The captive feeder insects must hold all the nutrients the lizard will get!
  • UVB lighting is important particularly for calcium regulation. Without this enriched lighting the anole will grow weak and eventually die. Remember to change the UVB lighting every 9-12 months as it slowly stops producing UV rays.
  • Keep in mind that the majority of their heat and light comes from the sun shining down on them, so a heat source that radiates upwards is highly unnatural.
  • They don't have a good immune system at all. Double check to make sure anything you feed them doesn't have pesticides because they have almost no white blood cells (basically immune system).
  • Be very careful how you heat the vivarium or tank:
    • Do not use heating rocks or caves. They often overheat, causing burns or death.
    • Avoid using "hot rocks"; they are much liked by the anoles but they can cook the lizard from the inside out from over-exposure.
    • If you use a "sun lamp" or infra red bulbs, make sure it is not sitting directly on the screen topper. Many people have lost their anoles because of them literally 'cooking' in the tank.
    • Do not use a heating pad. They are potential fire-hazards if not used with the proper tank set-ups.

Things You'll Need

  • At least a 10 gallon (37.9 L), preferably a 20 gallon (75.7 L) aquarium with a full metal-mesh lid (for strength and ventilation)
  • At least one bag of substrate
  • A water spray bottle that has never been used for anything else
  • Decorations that allow hiding and basking spots
  • A heat lamp with an appropriate wattage bulb (specially rated with the proper amounts of UVA/UVB etc.)
  • At least one potted plant or fake plant strong enough for the anole to rest on
  • At least one branch (preferably more) the length of the aquarium, for climbing
  • A small shelter for privacy, such as half of a coconut shell with an opening
  • A thermometer on each end of the enclosure
  • A hydrometer
  • Vitamin powder for sprinkling on crickets
  • Cricket chow
  • A place to temporarily house crickets, so you can gut-load them prior to feeding your anole. (Remember to give them a wedge of fruit to provide moisture without them drowning in a bowl. They will also eat fruits and vegetables if you don't have cricket food. Adding cardboard tubes not only makes their last days happier, it makes it easier to remove them from their container without touching them. Simply remove the tube and shake it into your lizard's house.)
  • Tasty juices for feeding time

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