Pet Care Guides Reptile

Green Anoles

Green anoles, Anolis carolinensis, are small, active lizards that make wonderful pets. This slender, arboreal lizard reaches 6-7.5 inches in length and varies in color from light brown to bright green or blue. Males are larger than females and have bigger dewlaps, or throat fans.

Green anoles range from North Carolina to Oklahoma, Texas, and the Florida Keys. They are also found in the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Anguila, Cuba, and Mexico. They frequent palmetto scrub, cypress swamps, farmland, parks, and gardens. Belize, Hawaii, and Japan are host to introduced populations.


North America



Average Size

6-7.5 in


4 to 8 years


Anoles are diurnal lizards that are often quite active and visible. Small colonies can be interesting to watch, but care must be taken to watch for aggression. Males are intolerant of each other, and even females will establish a hierarchy. In ideal conditions, a colony of anoles will often produce eggs on a regular basis.

Anoles are known for their ability to change color. In contrast to popular belief, color has little to do with camouflage. Cool or stressed individuals turn brown, inactive individuals are usually pale green, and warm, active anoles may become bright green. Anoles in aggressive displays develop a black patch behind the eyes. Most anoles are skittish and do not enjoy being handled. They are best kept for observation rather than interaction.


Setting up the Terrarium

Anoles are active lizards and are easily stressed in tight quarters. Ideally, a pair or trio should be provided with a 20 gallon aquarium.

Green anoles are highly arboreal and will prefer the upper portions of their terrarium. Numerous branches should be provided, along with live or artificial plants and vines. These terrarium decorations provide more space for the anoles to utilize and also function as sight barriers that will ease aggression.

More than one basking site should be provided if possible, as dominant individuals will exclude others from these important areas.

The substrate should be capable of retaining some moisture without becoming moldy. A mix of cypress mulch, douglas fir bark, sphagnum peat moss, and/or shredded coconut fiber works well.

Light, Heat and Humidity

Green anoles require full-spectrum lighting. Fluorescent reptile bulbs should be used within 6-12 inches of the basking area to provide necessary UVB radiation. In larger tanks mercury vapor bulbs can be used instead, as these will also provide heat.

The average temperature of the enclosure should range from 82-87°F with basking areas of 92-95°F. At night, temperatures can dip to the low 70's. Incandescent bulbs should be used to maintain these temperatures, and a ceramic heater or red/black night reptile bulb can be used if supplemental heat is required at night. Use the largest enclosure possible, so that a thermal gradient can be maintained. Small terrariums allow no space for reptiles to cool down.

Green anoles prefer moderately high humidity levels, but air circulation is important and the tank should be allowed to dry out as well. The terrarium should be misted twice daily, and a screen top will ensure adequate ventilation. Anoles will often drink from drops that form when misting, although a water dish should also be provided.


A "cricket only" diet should be avoided, as variety is critical to lizard health. Use half-grown or smaller crickets for Anoles. Crickets should be well fed before being offered to your pets.

Small roaches, waxworms, calciworms, butterworms, silkworms and lab-reared houseflies, available commercially, can be provided. Anoles are reluctant to come to the ground to feed, so confine insects to a cup suspended among the branches. Small, newly-molted (white) mealworms can be offered occasionally.

Insects collected from pesticide-free areas should be provided when possible. Anoles are especially fond of moths, hairless caterpillars and harvestmen, or "daddy longlegs".

A mixture of papaya/apricot baby food, honey, liquid reptile vitamins and water should be offered weekly.

Green Anoles do best with small feedings on a daily or every-other-day basis. This is especially important in group situations, where competition may limit feeding opportunities for some animals. The adults' food should be sprinkled with a vitamin and mineral supplement 2-5 times per week, depending upon dietary variety. Young animals require supplementation with most meals.

Daily Care and Maintenance

Check your anoles daily for signs of injury or disease such as missing toes, bite marks, or white or gray patches of fungus on the skin. Anoles should always appear alert: animals that seem limp or thin and dehydrated are likely in poor health.

Daily care includes misting in the morning and evening, removing waste and dead insects, cleaning the glass and/or cage furniture, and in colony situations checking for eggs.

Anoles are quick and agile, so care should be taken when opening the terrarium. Sudden movements may cause them to flee, and they can be difficult to catch. Keep a net handy, as anoles often drop their tails when grabbed forcefully.

Health Considerations

Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for additional instructions.

When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our reptile room at 717-299-5691 (option 7) or