Green Anole Care Sheet: Diet, Habitat, & More Great Tips for New Owners

Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) are one of the cheapest and most popular pet lizards.

Their husbandry requirements are well understood. In the wild, their populations are thriving. Green anoles are known for being highly adaptable and prolific.

Fun Fact: Green anoles are so adaptable that they’ve managed to rapidly evolve to evade invasive lizards.

In captivity, the non-stop antics and beautiful colors of green anoles entertain both new and seasoned reptile keepers.

Is This the Right Lizard for You?

Green anoles are small, attractive lizards. Their vibrant green skin and eccentric personality make them ideal pets. Despite their popularity, there are some potential drawbacks to owning a green anole.

  • Diet – Green anoles are strict insectivores. They need to be fed live insects every day.
  • Habitat – Green anoles require specialized arboreal set-ups with UVB lighting and supplemental heat.
  • Size and Behavior – Green anoles are small, skittish, and fragile. They shouldn’t be handled often, if ever.
  • Lifespan – In terms of reptiles, green anoles are short-lived pets. Healthy green anoles may live up to seven years, but even that is uncommon.

In-Short

  • Green anoles are small, insectivorous, arboreal lizards native to the southeastern United States.
  • Green anoles are the most studied species of reptile in the world.
  • Green anoles are excellent pets for beginner reptile keepers.
  • These little lizards are active during the day. All the better to witness their hilarious antics and eccentric personality!
  • Potential green anole owners should be aware of the potential drawbacks. Not everyone is ready to forego handling their pet or provide specialized equipment and live insects!

About the Green Anole

Scientists have studied this lizard from top to bottom. If you’ve got a question, they’ve likely found the answer! Here’s a basic rundown on the glamorous green anole.

Background

The green anole is an arboreal lizard species that are native to the southeastern United States. Their native range extends from:

  • North Carolina to the North
  • Florida to the South
  • Texas to the West

Fun Fact: The green anole isn’t Florida’s only fabulous reptile! The sunshine state is home to a plethora of 4-legged (and no-legged) lizards.

Arboreal animals thrive in elevated habitats. Fencelines, bushes, and trees are all fair game to the green anole.

Wild green anoles play a vital role in the food chain. They exist as both predators and prey.

Green anoles enjoy feasting on crickets, flies, beetles, and other small arthropods. They help to keep insect populations down.

While green anoles hunt, they must also be wary of their natural predators: birds, snakes, and larger lizards.

Green anoles are common in the pet trade and laboratory settings. Their prevalence and prolific nature make them affordable candidates.

Fun Fact: Green anoles were the first reptile to have their entire genome sequenced!

Appearance

Green Anole lizard with throat puffed up
This male green anole is showing off his dewlap.

Green anoles are small lizards with slender bodies. They have a long, pointed head. There is a bony ridge on each side of their head, running from their eyes to their nose.

Male green anoles have a large, bright red dewlap.

Females have a white stripe down their spine.

Green anoles’ scales are granular yet smooth. Their skin is described as velvety to the touch.

Color Changes

Anolis carolinensis carolina anole
Hatchling green anoles are a dull gray-brown shade at first. They develop their vibrant green coloration as they mature.

As their name implies, healthy and happy green anoles are typically vibrant green. Their color can also range down to a dull gray-brown. This unique lizard is known for its color-changing abilities.

Fun Fact: Many reptile keepers call green anoles “American chameleons.” True chameleons aren’t endemic to the Americas. Anoles are most closely related to iguanas. Here’s more information about the different types of lizards in the world.

Green anoles can voluntarily change their color based on:

  • Mood
  • Stress level
  • Thermoregulation
  • Social communication

Size

Anoles are among the smallest of lizards. Approximately 60-70% of their length comes from their tail!

Fun Fact: Green anoles will voluntarily drop their long tail to distract predators. This behavior is known as autotomy.

  • Adult Male Length: 4-8”
  • Adult Male Weight: 5-7g
  • Adult Female Length: 3-6”
  • Adult Female Weight: 3-5g
  • Hatchling Length: 2”
  • Hatchling Weight: 1g

Temperament and Behavior

In the wild, male anoles are intensely territorial. These little warriors will fiercely defend an area of roughly 35 cubic feet.

Researchers have even studied males’ advanced fighting techniques based on their physical strengths and weaknesses.

Two to four females reside within one male’s territory.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of a green anole is two to four years. Healthy, well-cared-for green anoles may live as long as seven years.

Buying a Green Anole

Buying a new pet is a big step! Be sure to make an informed decision when choosing where to buy your green anole.

Cost

You can expect to pay $5 to $15 for a green anole.

If you can’t find a local store that sells green anoles, you can buy one online and pay the extra fee for shipping. Overnight shipping for a reptile typically costs $40 to $80.

Multiple green anoles, or other small reptiles, may be shipped together for close to the same price. Since green anoles are social creatures, consider buying a small group together!

Legality

If you live in the southeastern United States, check with your state, county, and city for laws and legislation regarding keeping native reptile species.

No United States laws ban the ownership of green anoles.

Some countries, like Australia, ban ownership of non-native reptiles.

Green Anole Husbandry

Compared to other lizards, green anoles have simple husbandry requirements. They’re small and adaptable. All they need to thrive is a subtropical enclosure set-up, live insects, and proper lighting.

Supply List

Prices will vary depending on where you live and how much you’re willing to bargain hunt. Other pet owners often give away or sell these supplies for very cheap in local classified listings. You can also cut costs with budget-friendly alternatives, like a tub enclosure.

We’ve given a basic price breakdown for purchasing these items, new, from a pet store.

  • Mister – $15
  • Live feeder insects – $5
  • Arboreal enclosure – $80
  • Heat lamp and bulb – $30
  • UVB lamp and bulb – $30
  • Natural or artificial plants – $15
  • Calcium and multivitamin powders – $20

Total: $195

Habitat

Your green anole will spend its entire life inside of its enclosure. Moving things around or making significant changes can be tricky once the quick little inhabitants are in place. Plan accordingly!

Enclosure Styles

We believe the ideal terrarium material for green anoles is glass, PVC, or mesh. Front-opening doors are best.

Nervous green anoles tend to flee upwards. They will jump right out when you open the top of an aquarium or tub!

Standard aquariums and tubs make OK green anole enclosures as long as you’re aware of this tendency.

Be aware that you’ll need to remove both lamps every time you need to access an enclosure that opens from the top. If you opt to use a tub, you’ll have to cut out a portion of the lid and affix screening material for the heat and UVB lamps.

DIY enthusiasts and penny pinchers need not look further than our handy list of homemade reptile enclosure plans.

Size

Minimum Enclosure Size: 12” x 12” x 18” (L x W x H)

This is the minimum floor space and height for two green anoles. Opt for a larger enclosure if you’re housing more than two lizards.

Lighting

Light Cycle: 12-14 Hours

Green anoles are basking lizards. They climb higher and closer to a light source to raise their body temperature and absorb UV rays.

You’ll need to provide a UVB lamp to keep your green anole happy and healthy.

Reptiles are unable to synthesize their own Vitamin D3 without UV exposure. They need adequate D3 levels to absorb calcium.

Inadequate UV Exposure -> Low Vitamin D3

Low Vitamin D3 -> Low Calcium

Low Calcium -> Weakening of the bones, neurological symptoms, anorexia, and metabolic bone disease

In short, a green anole will not survive for long without UV exposure.

If you’re using an enclosure that’s at least 30” tall, you can use a mercury vapor bulb to supply UV and heat.

Otherwise, we recommend a fluorescent strip light for UVB. Strip lights are much more efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs in terms of providing adequate UVB.

If you’re prone to forgetting or cannot manually turn off the light every night, we recommend a plug-in timer. Never expose your green anole to more than 14 hours of light in 24 hours.

Be sure to follow manufacturer guidelines when arranging the placement of the UV light fixture. The bulb will need to be replaced every 6-12 months, even if it’s still emitting visible light.

Check out Arcadia’s green anole lighting guide for more information about supplying optimal lighting.

Heat

Ideal Basking Temperature: 85-90°F

Ideal Ambient Temperature: 80°F

Nighttime Temperature: 70°F

As previously mentioned, mercury vapor bulbs are excellent for large enclosures over 30” tall. They will handle your lizard’s heating and lighting needs.

If you’re using a smaller enclosure or opted for a fluorescent UVB light, you’ll need to add supplemental heat.

Remember: green anoles expect to receive heat and UVB from the same light source coming from above. If they’re cold, they’ll climb higher. A heating pad isn’t very useful in this situation!

Halogen light bulbs are an excellent heat source for green anoles. Their wavelengths are similar to the sun.

Always utilize a dimming thermostat or dimmer switch with any heat source.

You should turn the heat lamp off when you turn the UVB lamp off. Green anoles don’t need supplemental heat at night unless your room temperature drops below 70°F.

Water and Humidity

Ideal Humidity: 60-80%

Green anoles require high humidity to thrive. If you live in an arid region, seriously consider a glass or plastic enclosure. All-mesh terrariums could become too dry.

Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity level inside the enclosure.

A large, shallow water dish placed in the beam of the heat lamp is excellent for keeping the humidity level high. Don’t expect your anole to drink from it, though!

Waterfalls can raise the enclosure’s humidity level even more. As a bonus, they create water droplets, and they’re an attractive addition to any terrarium.

Green anoles drink water droplets off leaves and other surfaces.

Aim to mist or spray your pet’s habitat at least two to three times a day. Misting will ensure that the humidity stays within range and that your green anole always has fresh water to drink.

Decor and Environmental Enrichment

Green anoles are most comfortable in planted environments. They utilize and enjoy the cover, shade, and humidity offered by bushes and trees.

To replicate that habitat in captivity, you can use live or artificial plants.

Either way, your green anole’s enclosure should be filled with greenery, vines, and branches. There should not be much, if any, empty space.

The denser the vegetation, the better. The more variety in textures, colors, and scents, the better.

If you’d like to use natural branches, you can use pieces from any hardwood tree. Ensure the tree is free from pesticides and legal to collect from. Allow the branch to dry out for at least four weeks. Here is a list of common reptile-safe trees:

  • Elm
  • Ash
  • Oak
  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Apple
  • Maple
  • Aspen
  • Walnut
  • Chestnut

Some keepers prefer to boil, bake, or bleach their branches as an extra precaution. This is optional, especially if you live in the northern United States. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and air out any bleached wood.

Pet stores carry artificial plants and vines designed for use in reptile terrariums. Be sure to stock up enough to fill the habitat! Artificial plants will need to have urates and feces washed off roughly once every week.

If you prefer living, natural plants, you can create a bioactive set-up or use potted plants. Don’t use plants that are treated with pesticides or fertilizers.

Pothos is an easy-to-care-for, fast-growing plant that green anoles love. If you’re looking for more variety, check out the 12 BEST plants for reptile terrariums.

Cohabitation

Green Anoles are social creatures that enjoy each other’s company. Half the fun of owning green anoles is watching the way they interact with each other.

You can house a group of four to five females together. Include one male if you’re comfortable dealing with the eggs and hatchlings.

Never house more than one male in the same enclosure. They’re incredibly territorial. Males will battle nearly non-stop.

Substrate

When picking out the substrate for your green anole’s enclosure, your primary consideration should be whether it’s suitable for a high-humidity environment.

Excellent substrates for artificial set-ups are:

  • Reptile soil
  • Coco husk
  • Coconut fiber
  • Cypress mulch
  • Sphagnum moss

If you’d like to grow plants inside the enclosure, consider a mixture of these bioactive-friendly options:

  • Topsoil
  • Peat moss
  • Orchid bark
  • Decaying leaves

Avoid these choices at any cost. They will either dry out your enclosure or develop mold in a high humidity environment.

  • Sand
  • Reptile carpet
  • Aspen or pine shavings
  • Recycled paper bedding
  • Paper towels or newspaper

Bioactive

rain forest terrarium
This is a stunning example of what a tropical bioactive setup can become.

A bioactive set-up utilizes beneficial microorganisms, arthropods, and living plants to facilitate the natural nitrogen cycle in the soil.

When your green anole sheds or defecates, the waste is consumed by natural bacteria and arthropods. Most hobbyists purchase isopods and springtails as their “clean-up crew.” The bacteria colonize over time.

These organisms transform the waste materials into nitrates, which fertilize the living plants.

Once there is a healthy and established population of bacteria, arthropods, and plants, the enclosure will require little to no maintenance.

Bioactive enclosures also offer the following benefits to your green anoles:

  • Increased humidity
  • Less human interference
    • Less stress
    • Smaller chance of escape
  • A natural and stimulating environment
  • Additional hiding and climbing opportunities

Diet and Feeding

Green anoles are insectivores. They’re sight-based hunters stimulated by movement. Green anoles require a diet of gut-loaded and vitamin-dusted, live insects.

Most green anoles ignore canned or dried insects since they don’t move. Dried insects are notoriously unhealthy for insectivorous reptiles. These animals evolved to receive most of their water intake from their diet. Reptiles that eat dried insects are more likely to develop a stool impaction.

Let’s discuss the ins and outs of feeding live bugs… Oh, and also feeding live bugs to our reptiles!

Gut Loading

You may be wondering: “Why on earth would I want to feed these bugs?! I bought them for my green anole to eat!”

Have you ever heard the term “you are what you eat”?

Much of the nutritional value of insects is derived from their digestive contents. If you feed a healthy, high-calcium diet to your feeder bugs for 24-48 hours, they’ll pack a bigger nutritional punch for your green anole.

Here are some excellent high-calcium superfoods that make for great gut-loading:

  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Papaya
  • Bee pollen
  • Blackberries
  • Commercial or DIY insect gut-loading diet
  • Dark, leafy greens (collard greens, spinach, kale)

Food Options

mealworms on isolate
Crickets and mealworms were the original feeder bugs. To this day, they remain a staple for most captive reptiles.

Advances in science and nutrition and a growing interest in reptile husbandry have expanded the menu for our scaly pals. We now know about other insects that have naturally higher levels of calcium or a better nutritional composition.

You may need to special order some of these bugs online. You may even have to breed them yourself! In order of healthiest to not-so-healthy, here’s a list of insects that you may want to offer to your green anole:

  • Black Soldier Fly Larvae
  • Earthworms and Nightcrawlers
  • Silkworms
  • Roaches
  • Hornworms
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Crickets
  • Fruitflies
  • Butterworms
  • Superworms

Are you looking for a reputable supplier of feeder insects? Look no further!

Food Size Guide

Feed insects that are shorter than the distance between your green anole’s eyes or half the size of their head.

  • Standard wax worms or mealworms
  • Small black soldier fly larvae
  • ¼” crickets

Frequency

Offer two to five appropriately-sized insects every day.

Supplements

Dust the feeder insects with a reptile multivitamin once a week.

Dust the feeder insects with calcium powder every other day. Don’t use a calcium powder that has added vitamin D3.

Techniques

Crickets and roaches can be introduced to the enclosure freely. Never add more insects than your lizards will consume in 24 hours.

Roaches may burrow into the substrate. They’ll eventually have to come to the surface to search for food.

Grubs and mealworms can be placed into a plastic, specialized feeding dish. These feeding dishes have a lip to prevent escapes. Not all green anoles will eat grubs. They prefer the fast movement of running or jumping insects.

Regurgitation

Green anoles usually regurgitate because they:

  • Are too cold
  • Are too stressed
  • Ate food that was too large

Ensure that the temperature and insect size is appropriate for the lizard you’re feeding. Don’t handle or disturb your green anole immediately after it eats. Regurgitation as an occasional occurrence isn’t a significant concern.

If you notice weight loss or chronic regurgitation, consider taking your green anole to a reptile veterinarian.

Anorexia

Green anoles will go on hunger strikes for the same reasons they might regurgitate.

Ensure that the enclosure is reaching an appropriate temperature. Offer different types and sizes of insects to entice your lizard. Don’t handle or disturb your green anole if it’s not eating.

Your green anole may just need a few days to adjust to a new environment or a traumatic event. In this case, avoid interfering as much as possible. Quickly spray the enclosure several times a day to ensure the lizard remains hydrated. Otherwise, no action is the best action.

If your green anole continues to not eat for longer than a week and it is visibly losing weight, you should consider making an appointment with a reptile veterinarian.

Handling

As a general rule, you should avoid handling your green anole unless it’s necessary.

Frequency

Handling is necessary for wellness checks, forced feedings, medical treatments, cage maintenance, and escape attempts.

These are the only times you should restrain or grab your green anole.

Techniques

As an alternative to handling, you may wish to hand-feed your green anole.

Place several of your anole’s favorite wiggling bugs in your palm. Hold your hand out, flat, inside the anole’s habitat.

If your anole seems spooked, leave and try again the next day.

If your anole seems interested, try to remain as still as possible.

Eventually, your anole should become accustomed to your presence. It will gather up the confidence and courage to willingly jump on your hand for its favorite snacks! This is a stress-free way to bond with your pet lizard.

It can take weeks or even months to successfully hand-feed these nervous critters!

Naming your green anole is another excellent way to help you develop a bond.

Breeding

Carolina Anole, or green lizards, mating
When green anoles mate, the male bites the back of the female’s neck to hold her in place.

Green anoles are known for being particularly prolific. Even in captivity, most aspects of green anole breeding are straightforward.

That is until the tiny babies hatch out of their egg. Hatchling green anoles are notoriously challenging to establish. They’re prone to becoming dehydrated, refusing to eat, escaping, or becoming injured.

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, keep reading to learn the ins and outs of anole breeding.

Determining the Sex

Sexing adult green anoles is simple.

Male gren anole
Male green anoles have a colorful dewlap.

Males:

  • Are 15% larger than females.
  • Have a bright red, large dewlap.
  • Exhibit territorial and mating behavior, such as head-bobbing, push-ups, and dewlap fanning.
  • Have two large scales near their cloaca. These are referred to as “postanal scales.”

Females:

  • Lack postanal scales.
  • Have a small, dull dewlap.
  • Are 15% smaller than males.
  • Have a white line running down their spine.
  • May fight with other females, but not as aggressively or as often.
Female green anole
Green Anole or Carolina anole lizard preying on Mexican sunflower with a fly in the mouth.

You will need at least one male and one female for breeding purposes. You may have more success with a group of two to five females. Never house more than one male in the same enclosure.

The breeding enclosure needs to be at least 24” tall. This allows the male to feel that he has an established territory.

Your breeding colony of anoles should be ready to mate by the time they are eight months old.

Cycling

Stimulating the seasons by introducing temperature and lighting differences is beneficial for the health and reproductivity of your green anoles. Some green anoles will breed without any signals of seasonal changes.

When you introduce your female(s) and male green anole, the male anole should act immediately. He may begin head bobbing to stimulate ovulation in the female. He may promptly pursue and mount the female.

If you don’t see these mating behaviors, consider mimicking the “winter” cooling of their native range.

  • Winter Daytime Temperature: 81-85°F
  • Winter Nighttime Temperature: 62-68°F
  • Winter Daylight: 8-10 Hours
  • Humidity: 40-60%

Mist once per day.

Gradually reduce the temperature, humidity, and daylight hours over one week.

Maintain those conditions for four to six weeks.

Slowly bring everything back to normal, “summer” conditions over a one-week period.

The addition of an automatic fogger and a new variety of exotic feeder insects may also help to stimulate breeding.

The male should perform mating displays featuring head-bobbing and push-ups. These displays induce ovulation in the females.

When the lizards are ready to mate, the male will pursue a female. She may try to run. When he catches her, he will bite the nape of her neck. He then maneuvers his tail underneath hers. The entire process may last mere seconds.

Once mated, green anoles lay one or two eggs every ten days. Egg-laying will continue throughout Summer and perhaps into Autumn. Most females produce eight to twelve eggs per season.

Female green anoles are capable of retaining sperm from previous years. They need to be exposed to the mating displays of a male to induce ovulation every season. They do not need to be physically mated every year.

Egg Incubation

Gravid female green anoles lay their eggs underground. They dig shallow nests in loose soil or dead plant matter. Be sure to use a suitable substrate, or introduce a nesting box.

You can leave the eggs in the adults’ enclosure for natural development. Be aware: when the hatchlings emerge, there is a significant chance that the parents will eat them. It will also be more difficult to monitor their health.

To avoid this, try removing the eggs for incubation. Most anole breeders use damp perlite or sphagnum moss as an incubation medium.

Carefully place the moistened medium and eggs in a ventilated deli cup. You can incubate them in a commercial reptile incubator or a warm room.

  • Ideal Incubation Temperature: 80-88°F
  • Ideal Incubation Humidity: 80%
  • Incubation Time: 30-50 Days

Hatchling Care

New green anole babies emerge as miniature replicas of their parents. There are some minor differences. Hatchling green anoles are duller in color with larger heads and shorter tails.

Once the hatchlings emerge, the hard work begins. Green anole hatchlings are notoriously frail.

House hatchling green anoles in individual, small terrariums. You want to keep them very humid and warm. Hatchlings will fight and fail to thrive when housed together.

Keep a constant supply of pinhead crickets, springtails, and flightless fruit flies in your hatchling’s enclosure.

Offer as much variety as possible. Dust the insects with a reptile multivitamin. Successful breeders theorize that many young green anoles die from malnutrition.

There should always be fresh water droplets present in the habitat.

Some new baby green anoles won’t drink on their own. If you suspect this, catch the anole and use a dropper to place a single drop of water on the tip of its mouth. Do this several times a day until you observe the anole drinking droplets on their own.

Don’t be discouraged if, or when, you experience a loss. Hatchling green anoles are challenging for even the most experienced reptile keepers.

Potential Health Issues

veterinarians with small anole
Specialized veterinarians can and do treat tiny lizards, like green anoles!

Unlike their fragile progeny, adult green anoles are healthy and hardy animals. Here are some common, minor health issues to watch out for.

Veterinary Care

It may be difficult or impossible for your veterinarian to provide certain medications or procedures to such a small critter.

Prevention is the best medicine. If your anole gets sick, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss options.

If you need help finding a qualified reptile veterinarian, head over to the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians website. They offer a handy “Find A Vet” tool.

Mouth Rot

Stressed reptiles are prone to developing mouth rot. It can cause a lack of appetite, discharge from the mouth, and tissue may become necrotic.

To prevent mouth rot, keep your green anole’s enclosure clean and ensure there is adequate ventilation. Avoid unnecessarily stressing your pet out.

Early, mild cases of mouth rot are treated with oral iodine or chlorhexidine flushes. Advanced cases require veterinary input.

Respiratory Infections

Stressed reptiles are prone to developing respiratory infections. A respiratory infection is similar to a cold or flu you might experience. Unlike humans, reptiles cannot cough.

Respiratory infections can be fatal when the mucus collects in the animal’s airways.

To prevent respiratory infection, keep your green anole’s enclosure clean and ensure there is adequate ventilation. Avoid unnecessarily stressing your pet out.

There are no over-the-counter treatments for reptile respiratory infections. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your green anole is open-mouth breathing or has discharge from its mouth or nose.

Parasites

Since most pet green anoles are taken from the wild, they often have natural parasite loads.

In captivity, reptiles are exposed to their feces and, thus, parasite eggs in higher concentrations. They don’t have the choice to move away from their feces.

Wild reptiles that are brought into captivity experience a spike in their parasite load. They go from being asymptomatic parasite hosts to having their bodies overrun with worms and ectoparasites.

Symptoms of parasites include diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, anorexia, and a distended abdomen.

There are some over-the-counter reptile mite treatments. Most pet stores sell them. Internal parasites require veterinary treatment.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Like most basking reptiles, green anoles are prone to developing metabolic bone disease.

Prevent MBD by providing sufficient levels of UVB and calcium-dusting feeder insects. Replace the UVB bulb per the manufacturer’s directions, every six to twelve months.

Symptoms of MBD in green anoles include muscle tremors and weakness, deformed bones, broken bones, and lack of appetite.

MBD can be treated or reversed with proper lighting and heavy-duty calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation. If it’s an advanced case of MBD, you will need a veterinarian’s guidance.

More Entertaining Pet Lizards

Young woman holding agama lizard in pet shop, close up view
If the green anole is not the right pet for you, there are plenty of other lizards to choose from.

Green anoles are fun little pets, even for beginners. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, though.

If you’re still on the hunt for your perfect pet lizard, check out our guide to the BEST pet lizards.

Leave a Comment