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Care sheet
Fri May 15, 2009 07:39 (XFF:

Anoles – Quick and Simple


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.

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. DO NOT use any substrates containing Pine, Fir, or Cedar shavings or bark. All of these produce chemicals that can cause nerve damage in reptiles. 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.

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 bulb and fixture. A 5% bulb is ideal. Anoles need the UVB to synthesize calcium. 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.
The humidity should be 50%+ and can be maintained by spraying a couple of times a day. 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.

Furniture – Anoles love to hide. They will blend into 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, 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.

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 something like the Vinegar-based glass cleaners 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. 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 expensive!

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. Green Anoles (A. carolinensis) look the same. Juvenile and mature males have a pair of enlarged postanal scales 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.

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. 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. 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. Mealworms are NOT a good food choice. They have a hard, chitinous exoskeleton that can be difficult for the Anole to digest.

Color – Green Anoles are mistakenly called “American Chameleons” because of their ability to change colors from brown to green. Anoles change color for a variety of reasons not all of which are stress related. The adage “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 concern. 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.

Breeding – Usually all that is required is to put a male and female in the same enclosure. 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 choose to incubate the eggs outside the enclosure, remove them taking care not to turn them from their original position. 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.
Anoles can be brought into breeding with brumation. Reduce the nighttime temperature to right at 60 degrees and the photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day. 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.

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.

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.

  • i'm a new owner,need helpstephani, Thu May 14 16:19
    i just got an anole from petsmart two days ago.i also bought an "all living things" anole starter kit with a ten gallon tank and some bark.the bulb doesn't seem to get the temp past 80 degrees and... more
    • ReplyNick, Mon Nov 21 19:07
      He's brown because he s to cold! If it is a good tank, it should not melt. But which s more important? Your tank, or your anole? Peace out Thanks
    • anole jenny, Wed Nov 18 23:29
      I bought the same one and from what I read it was a bad choice. My thermoters don't go under 80. They stuck. You can't put a heater or the tank will melt. I guess i'm gonna have to get another. Also... more
    • Care sheet — Bob Carmany, Fri May 15 07:39
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