While the name itself may not be common knowledge to the general public, anyone and everyone who loves their lizards will be sure to know about the Green Anole. Yet, despite being a common pet for many households in America, it seems that many owners don’t know all that much about these increasingly familiar pets.
Here at My Pet Needs That, we decided to take a look into the lives of these little creatures, in an effort to bring to light all of their needs and to help educate those want to know as much as there is to know about their new friend.
Introduction to the Green Anole
While the majority of the Anole is green (hence the name), the belly and lips of this lizard are actually white and it is known to change colors, much like a chameleon- which has given rise to the nickname of the American Chameleon. These colors can range from several hues of brown through to a bright green and, despite their ability to adapt, they are not true chameleons and instead are closer in relation to iguanas.
As well as being able to change their skin color, Anole’s can move their eyes independently of each other- another characteristic that could be responsible for incorrectly placing them with the chameleon nickname!
They are roughly between 4 and 8 inches long, with the majority of this length being made up of the tail, which makes up around 60-70% of their total body span- and they are extremely light, growing up to around 0.25 ounces. It’s generally agreed that males are typically larger by about 15% although there are some more telling methods of determining gender.
Males will have a dewlap (throat fan) that stands to be around 3 times larger than their female counterparts and the coloring of the dewlap tends to be much more vivid- standing as more of a bright red over the paler pink, peach or even white of the female throat fan. Female Green Anole’s also have a white line that runs down the center of their spine, which the males of the species lack.
You might have already spotted these little creatures around the wilderness, or even in your own back garden, if you live in the South-Eastern states. While this area is their original habitat, they have now spread across the world and can be seen in the Caribbean, Spain or even Japan.
Increasingly common are the rarer colors of Green Anole- ranging from a discoloration of the dewlap through to a completely baby blue Anole. This is caused by mutations in the gene, where the Anole lacks Xanthophores (the yellow pigment which causes the green skin). These are incredibly rare (standing at roughly 1:20,000 wild Green Anoles) and are increasingly popular on the pet market, although the lack of camouflage unfortunately makes them an easier prey in the wild, so it does affect their lifespan.
Green Anole Behavior
Territory is a big thing for the Green Anole, and they are subsequently very territorial despite being generally quite placid while comfortable. Male Anole’s will often ferociously bob their head and extend their dewlap as a method of warning and expressing their anger about overstepped boundaries- although it very rarely amounts to much more than this. The loser is often signified by a lack of enthusiastic head-bobbing, with the victor taking their small but well-earned territory.
Naturally, it isn’t always so simple. Should the rival continue to move forward, into the defending territory, there will be scratches and bites aplenty and, although it is very unlikely to cause serious injury, you might notice a few of the green critters in your garden with a few scars around their face and body, as a result of these disputes.
Despite this, Green Anoles are generally perfectly happy with a little light handling- nothing too firm or fast. If you’ve just purchased a young anole, then you should start as you mean to go on. In other words, if you’re interested in a lot of handling, then be sure to get them socialized with you via your handling, while they’re young. Otherwise, they will become accustomed to being left alone and will be happier staying that way.
If your Green Anole feels threatened, or their tail is grabbed, they will drop their tail and scarper. This will eventually grow back, but may have a slightly different color to the rest of their bodies and it can be a while before the full length grows back, which can also affect their balance.
Generally, the Green Anole is very active, as you may have noticed if you have one that enjoys frequenting your yard. This is one of the reasons as to why they are increasingly popular as pets, as they will enjoy having a run around their tank and can be interesting to watch. If you do choose to take in a Green Anole as a pet, be sure to get a terrarium that is stimulating enough for them.
Green Anole Habitat
The Green Anole is naturally found in warm, very humid areas such as swamps and forests. If you have a Green Anole visitor in your yard, you may have already noticed that they enjoy spending time in foliage and shrubbery- often clinging to trees and leaves as it basks in the sun. Naturally, you will need to provide a tank that imitates this environment, if you are planning to keep a Green Anole as a pet.
Looking for information as to the best home for your Green Anole? Be sure to take in the next set of instructions to create a comfortable, happy habitat for your new pets.
- Tank essentials
It’s important that your tank is as large as you can fit in the designated space, within reason. You’ll need a tank that allows for good humidity and warmth, while still allowing for fresh air to access the living space. Generally, a vertical tank will suit your new pet more than a horizontal tank, as your anoles will enjoy climbing and discovering their surroundings, but this isn’t a necessity- roughly 18 inches is the ideal height for your anole.
Your substrate will need to be able handle hot and humid tanks, so you should begin with about two inches of sterile potting soil, which will assist with the feeling of a natural habitat for your Green Anole. Above this, should be a substrate that handles the humidity, so some of the best options are coconut fibers, or untreated bark and soil substrates. These will allow for your new pet to feel comfortable, whether they are basking under their heat lamp or enjoying the moisture that these beddings bring.
First and foremost, you’ll need to create a safe place for your anole to hide, when they’re feeling a little shy. You can create a little cave out of artificial rocks or wood, which should be big enough for your anole to feel comfortable, without being so big that you can easily see them if you look into your tank.
You should also provide plenty of items for them to climb. Provide live plants where possible, as your anole would much rather hang around in the messy branches and vines of a real plant than be on the floor. Be advised that you should only choose reptile-safe plants, such as the spider plant- if you’ve used the potting soil below your bedding, you should have room to use potted plants, to increase their longevity and improve the overall humidity to your anole’s liking.
- Lighting and temperature
To begin, your tank should have a temperature of roughly 85-90F in at least one area of the tank, which means you will likely need a heat source, such as an incandescent bulb, to provide this. Green Anole’s like to sunbathe, so this is pretty much essential to their happiness- just be sure to keep the bulb at a reasonable distance, so that your little lizard can’t touch the bulb themselves and become burnt. Local pet stores are likely to have basking lights which are designed specifically for this purpose.
For the rest of the tank, the environment should maintain a steady temperature between 75-85F, which will need to drop around ten degrees during the night so as not to confuse your anole. If you don’t want to change the bulbs or buy an expensive bulb, there is always the option of getting a heating pad, which you’ll need to place below your tank, to keep your pet comfortable.
All this heat can quickly dry up your tank, which is why it’s important to keep on top of the humidity available in your vivarium. You can buy specialist equipment to maintain a humidity of 60-70% or, if you have the time, use a spray bottle that is filled with purified water and spray this onto your plants. This doubles-up as an effective way to give your anole their water, since they are used to drinking up water from leaves- just be sure to also give them the option of a water bowl in their tank.
Don’t forget your UVB light- a non-negotiable part of the Green Anole tank. They need this to metabolize calcium and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D3. Be aware that UVB rays don’t penetrate glass, so you should invest in a tank that has a mesh upper, so the rays can reach your anole.
- Multiple Anoles
If you want to buy multiple Green Anoles, you should be aware of the territorial aspect of the males- it generally isn’t advised to have two or more males in one tank. Males can, however, live happily with multiple females- just be sure to check on their breeding situation as females can happily lay eggs through the Spring and Summer months and you may end up with more Anoles than you bargained for.
Naturally, if you are seeking to have multiple anoles in one tank, you should be sure to get a vivarium big enough to comfortable house them. A 10-gallon tank is usually suitable enough for a single Green Anole, while a 20-gallon tank may be able to house two or more anoles, depending on the amount of vegetation used to separate the space and stimulate your new pet.
Never try to house different species of reptile together. Even if they are used to the same habitat, including humidity and temperatures, it is likely that different reptiles will attack and harm each other.
Green Anole Diet & Nutrition
Since their diet consists mostly of insects, it’s fair to say that a healthy dose of crickets, cockroaches, grubs and spiders are all good choices for your Green Anole. They will, however, try their hand at pretty much anything, so try not to over-feed your anole or add something to the tank which can be dangerous such as superworms or kingworms, which have sharp mandibles that can harm your anole.
Try to keep portions smaller than the size of your anole’s head, otherwise they might be too big for your lizard to eat. It’s also important that you provide a varied diet so, even though they may have a favorite, don’t be tempted to solely give them one type of insect over others.
You can also supplement your anole’s diet with multivitamins and mineral preparations, if your insects are fed on a specific diet to include this. These are available in powders and sprays. Interestingly, your anole may also enjoy a piece of over-ripened fruit, so feel free to add some of this to your tank or try a little baby food- providing there are no added nasties in there.
Green Anole Grooming & Hygiene
As with all reptiles and vivarium/terrarium-based pets, you’ll need to regularly clean out your tank with a suitable disinfectant roughly once a week. Because of this, it can be advised that you should have two tanks, one for your Green Anole to use and the other to be cleaned.
In between these cleans, you’ll have to spot-clean the tank on a daily basis, clearing out any uneaten food and feces. Green Anoles regularly shed their skin, so this will need to be cleaned out too. If you are able, it can be wise to add in a shedding box, which is filled with a slightly rougher type of bedding such as sphagnum moss, which will allow for easier shedding.
Always wash your hands after handling your Green Anole or cleaning their tank, as they are known carriers of salmonella and can cause health problems in humans (especially children).
Green Anole Common Health Problems
Overall, a healthy Green Anole will be bright-eyed, very active and alert to their surroundings. They should be eating regularly without putting on too much weight, yet with a full body and tail. Their eyes and nose should also be clear. Finally, their skin will be healthy-looking, and responsive to changes in humidity and temperature (you will notice the changes as their skin changes color when this happens).
If you notice any of the following, you should contact your vet immediately:
- weight loss or decreased appetite
- mucus in mouth or nose
- swelling in any area of the body
- lethargy and lack of movement, or slow movements
- bumps, sores, or abrasions on skin
- labored breathing
- paralysis of limbs
- abnormal feces
- retained shed on toes
Labored breathing and mucus in the mouth and nose can be a sign of incorrect humidity or temperature in their home- try to adjust their tank to fit in with the above recommendations and see if this makes any difference, as soon as you spot the changes in their wellbeing. You can also consult your vet to see if there is anything more localized which could be causing a problem.
Swollen limbs and lethargy are also signs of an inappropriate habitat. Namely, the lack of sunlight or UVB rays. They are caused by an inability to metabolize calcium and synthesize Vitamin D3, both of which are essential to the health and happiness of your anole. If this remains untreated, your Green Anole may suffer further with softened bones and deformities, or even death. Keep providing ample lighting for your pet and contact your vet, who may be able to provide you with supplements to help them through their illness.
Problems with the digestive system are often demonstrated through your pets’ feces and runny or unusual stools can be the first sign of a deeper problem. If you notice these, then talk to your vet immediately as they will run the appropriate tests and let you know if this is the result of a bacterial or parasitic infection and can advise you best on the next steps to take.
- Green Anole – Anolis Carolinensis, Wildlife Journal Junior