Caring for a Green Anole

If you’re looking for a beginner reptile, the green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a good choice. The green anole is a small green lizard that is often referred to as the ‘American chameleon’ because of its ability to change from a dull brown to a bright green color; they are not true chameleons, however. There are many species of anoles, the green anole coming from the southern U.S and from the
. Green anoles live to be approx. 4 years old, and grow to be about 8 inches long, though most of its length is in the tail.

Before purchasing a green anole, you want to carefully inspect it for any signs of illness or poor care-giving from the pet stores.


Never purchase a green anole if:

  1. The pet store does not appear to take adequate care of their reptiles, the reptiles appear to be sedentary or ill as a whole.
  2. The anole is wrinkled excessively, the skin is sagging, or the eyes are sunken. This is a sign of severe dehydration.
  3. There is any indication of parasites. Look for tiny, nearly invisible creatures crawling on the anoles flesh. Also, look for abrasions, bruises, or blisters. Never purchase a parasite infested green anole.


If you are looking for a lizard to frequently hold, an anole is not for you. Anoles are not as intelligent as larger-specie lizards, and view you as nothing more than a predator. Handling puts great stress on them, and while they may become tolerant of being held, they will never enjoy it. Limit handling to a bare minimum, and expect to get bit quite frequently.


Green anoles are fairly easy to house, and aren’t very demanding. If you are planning on owning a single anole, a tall 10-gallon aquarium should house it well. Three or four more anoles in one cage should be housed in a 20 to 25 gallon tall aquarium. These are minimum sizes; larger tanks are always better, as it provides more room for plants/hides and exercise room. Never place more than one male in a cage, they will likely fight and injure each other. The basic requirement’s for housing a green anole is:

  1. UVB producing light.
  2. A hide box for each anole
  3. Basking light
  4. Nocturnal basking light (to maintain nighttime temperatures.)
  5. 2 thermometers, one for the cool side of the cage, and one for the hot side of the cage. (Note: do not use temperature strips, they are not accurate and only give estimated temperatures.
  6. A substrate of either gravel covered with peat moss potting soil or potting soil covered in bark mulch.
  7. Plants to provide cover and protection from UVB rays. You can use leafy plants, moss, vines, and many other types of flora.
  8. An under tank heating pad.
  9. Logs, branches, and other climbing/basking items.

You can arrange your vivarium nearly anyway desirable, and with carefully planning, you can make a very aesthetically appealing home for your anoles. Many vivarium pictures can be found at The Naturalistic Vivarium. (

Lighting and Heating

Anoles need to be provided with a basking lamp with logs and/or branches set below it to facilitate an adequate basking area. The basking lamp should be completely out of reach of the anoles, due to the fact that they become very hot after running for several hours, and can cause fatal burns to your pet.

The basking lamp should be set up with a bulb that emits at least UVB rays, but ideally you need one that produces both UVA and UVB rays. This will ensure that your anole receives much needed vitamins and to aid in the production of calcium.

In addition to a basking lamp, you should provide a fluorescent light that runs continuously for 12 – 14 hours. Do not leave the light on 24 hours a day; this will cause light-stress and cause your anole to become ill. At night, you can put a ‘moonbulb’ or infrared basking light into your basking lamp to allow viewing at night and provide necessary heat. You can also use a ceramic heat emitter or an under tank heating pad.

Daytime temperatures should remain between 75F – 80F and basking temperatures between 85F – 90F; be sure to provide a good temperature gradient. One side of the cage should be hot [85-90F], with the basking lamp and possibly and under-tank heating pad. The center of the cage should be a neutral temperature [80F] and the opposite side of the cage should be cool [75F].

Humidity levels MUST be kept between 60% – 70% for anoles to survive; monitor it with a hygrometer, which can be purchased at nearly every pet store. The humidity level can be maintained by daily cage misting. You can also purchase a machine that will regulate the humidity, but they are very expensive. I recommend misting because anoles will not drink from water dishes; instead they drink water from leaves. Misting the cage with purified water will keep the humidity level up and provide drinking water at the same time.


Green Anoles are insectivores, and eat mainly crickets. You can also offer mealworms, but the majority of anoles with refuse such food. The crickets must be fed live, which means that you must house and care fore crickets in addition to your anoles.

Before feeding your anoles, the crickets must be ‘gut-loaded.’ Gut-loading is the term used for feeding your cricket’s nutritious food so the nutrients are passed onto your anoles. You can gut-load your crickets by feeding them pre-packaged cricket food; this method of feeding can become quite costly. Another, cheaper, option is to feed them tropical fish food flakes, dry cat and dog food, leafy greens such as collard greens, squash, sweet potatoes, apples and oranges, etc. Sprinkle the food with reptile vitamin powders. Remember, these are crickets. They require very small amounts of food.

After you have gut-loaded your crickets, offer your anoles as much as they wish, and feed them daily.

There you have it! The basics of green anole ownership. Remember that not all anoles are the same, and that this article is relevant for green anoles only. This is a basic care guide for the beginning green anole owner. Consult a reptile specialist for more information.

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