Caring for Your New Green Anole               Scoop from Aqualand on North American "Chameleons"

 
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Green Anole  Factoids

Origin

S.E. US

Maximum Size

6+ inches.  Large males can reach 8.

Sexual Differences

Males larger with pink dewlap

Temperature

75 to 80o

Vegetation Dweller

Needs climbing/hiding areas

Attitude

Alert, observant, quick

Substrate

Contrasting color best

Water Mist or sprinkle daily

Humidity

Provide waterfall or mist daily

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Lighting

See info below.

LA
Green anoles eating crickets. Bottom two fighting over a cricket.  Most a relaxed brown.

Great Starter Lizard.  Okay, you just bought your first anole – what we like to think of as our “starter lizards.”  Most people start with anoles because of their price.  They cost less than any other lizard because they grow thick as flies in many of our southern states.  Maybe not quite as thick, but thick enough to reduce the fly population.

LA
Anoles get shipped in wadded newspaper.  Plenty of surfaces and crannies.

Catch Your Own.  If you’ve vacationed down south, you may have tried to capture green anoles on your own.  On a hot summer day you may catch a dozen or so (if you’re an Olympic athlete).  They’re fast little varmints in the hot sun, and they dart into the prickly bushes where you can’t go.  (We’re speaking from personal experience here.)  Native Floridians (if there is such a critter) think you’re nuts.  Anoles even run around their houses.

LA
Handle anoles carefully or their tails break off.  Some assembly required.

LA
The little scudders pile up over night.  Time to clean these rocks.

Too Hard to Hand Pick.  But professional green anole pickers know the tricks of the trade.  They go out on a cool morning and spread sheets of plastic beneath small trees.  Then they shake the trees (probably with a fruit tree shaker) to loosen the anoles’ grips on the branches.

Anoles have no traction on the plastic sheets -- like an excited poodle on the linoleum floor in your kitchen.  Anoles are thus harvested by the thousands and shipped by air the same day.

One hundred green anoles will squeeze into a two-pound coffee can with grass and leaves.  They will usually be in a new state within 24 hours of their capture.  And that’s why anoles sell so economically compared to other lizards.

LA
Anoles accept live or plastic plants.  They drink drops of water from the leaves.

Low Maintenance.  In comparison to other lizards, green anoles require very little.  Their requirements include:

     Warmth

     Live insects

     Drops of water

     Places to climb

     New research indicates UVB light.

People with sunrooms filled with plants don’t even need cages.  They can let the little varmints scurry all over their plants.  Green anoles add a great deal of interest to any plant display.  If you’ve visited the Des Moines Botanical Center lately, you may have noticed anoles running around on their foliage.  Most visitors love them.  As long as the anole does not leap upon them and rend them into miscellaneous bits.  

LA
Elusive little rascals at first.  They run away.  Once they get to know you, anoles settle down.

LA
You can set up a green anole habitat fairly fast.  Easy on the gravel.  It just adds weight.

Warmth.  Anoles survive okay at room temperature for awhile – especially in the summer.  Winters are hard on them.  Anoles need more than our 72o rooms (even little sweaters don’t help).

Green anole batteries slowly run down at low temperatures.  They can’t digest their food as well.  When their metabolism slows, they also can’t ward off diseases.  Anoles prefer an 80o temperature or better over the long haul.  They survive fine at 75o but really love 80o.

LA
Anoles get used to you fairly rapidly.  Guy on left needs water and quick.  Guy on right also.

 

Ideal Heat.  Put a 50-watt aquarium heater in a quart jar of water and crank it up.  You will give your green anoles humid heat that would keep their little cheeks rosy (if they ever got rosy).  Hide it behind some rocks or glue some type of natural-looking rocks or foliage onto the jar.  Upscale the idea by putting a submersible heater in their waterfall (more about the waterfall later).

LA
This one anole out of a batch of 50 drank from this bowl.

LA
Other little lizards just get in there and lap it up.  This water needs changing.

Dew Drinkers.  Not many anoles will drink from a bowl.  They evidently drink the morning dew.  Mist them heavily or sprinkle them at least once per day.  Two or three times would be better.

LA
Notice the tails hanging down from above.  Some come from long-tailed grass lizards.

Make Their Cage Larger.  Green anoles require little room, but you can easily enhance their crawl space with

     Rocks and terraces

     Ledges and shelves

     Wood and twigs

     Potted plants

     Hanging plants

     Waterfalls

     Carpeted walls and backs

     Carpet “baffles”

Each carpeted baffle (like a fish tank divider) adds nearly two extra square feet of crawl space.  Baffles jutting out at different distances actually make an eye-appealing display.  Leave enough space between them to clean them with a vacuum cleaner hose.

LA
This long-tailed grass lizard needs more food.

Rock Your Walls.  Few anole keepers get into making their own décor.  However, Silastic aquarium sealer enables you to expand your mind (no, not from the fumes).  Start with one wall and work up.  You can’t do this with anything in the cage (and here we assume your cage is a glass aquarium).

Step 1.  Lay your cage on its back (the wall you probably want to rock first) and smear the back with Silastic.  Or apply Silastic to each piece as you go.  Start by adding big rocks at random.  Think in terms of where you want your anole to bask.  Too low and he won’t see them.  You can put rocks in a row to make ledges, but random usually looks more natural.  Keep same colored rocks away from each other.  By the way, these better be clean rocks or they won’t stick.

Step 2.  Now add smaller rocks (almost at random).  Don’t put any above the larger rocks if you intend your anoles to use them as basking ledges.

Step 3.  Cover the rest of the wall with natural gravel.  Note:  These instructions assume your goal is a “natural look.”  There’s nothing wrong with using fluorescent materials to achieve a more modernistic look.  With colored gravels you can add stripes or any other type of design you prefer.

Step 4.  Allow your creation to dry and air out at least 48 hours.  Silastic emits a vinegary odor (acetic acid) which could irritate anything that had to put up with it all day long.  You’re done.  Do other walls if you prefer.  You needn’t wait 48 hours before starting on the next wall – just long enough to let the Silastic set -- 12 to 24 hours.  Make a mistake?  A single-edge razor blade easily removes any goofs.  Green anoles rarely criticize their accommodations. 

LA
Male green anoles sport a pink dewlap and two tiny scales just below their anus.

WOOD the Walls.  Most people put sticks and branches on the floor and don’t think much more about it.  Just as you can ROCK your cage walls, you can also WOOD them.  Glue the twigs and limbs wherever you want them.  If you change your mind, Silastic peels off with a razor blade.

Hang ’em High.  When we first started working  with lizard décor, we hung regular plastic aquarium plants from the cage top.  You can now find plastic plants specially made to hang from the top.  Hang’em.  We use the nearly invisible fishing line.  It disappears.  And it is much stronger than those little suction cups.

LA
Green anoles love climbing in the hanging plants.

Build a Jungle.  Anoles won’t tear their plants down like some of the larger lizards.  Get as elaborate as you prefer.  We like a jungle look, but too many plants may prevent you from seeing your anole.  (Of course, you can always add more anoles.)  Anoles love to run on these hanging plants.  Hanging plants also make a primo way to provide water to anoles.  Water sprinkled on them beads up just like dew.

Add a Waterfall.  Not as hard as you might think.  Power heads (made for aquarium filters) make easy and inexpensive waterfalls.  To build one, you need:

     Submersible power head

     Flexible tubing

     Spillway

     Basin

 

Your power head and flexible tubing go in the basin behind the spillway.  This hides them.  You’ll just see the water coming down the spillway.  Use a fairly shallow basin unless you have a tall cage.  And as we mentioned earlier, you can put your submersible aquarium heater in this basin and keep your anole warm and humid at the same time.  Due to the evaporation of water, you we need to re-fill nearly every day.

ROCK the Spillway.  Just like rocking the cage back.  You want to break up the water flow but not so much that water sprays all over the cage.  Water spatters that land on glass leave calcium deposits that eventually crud up your front glass.  They are hard to remove.  Get out that razor blade again.  Smaller power heads usually work best.  You will need to position rocks or plastic plants to keep the water from squirting out and missing the spillway.  Water flows down the spillway and re-circulates via the power head.  This looks good and assures anoles of a constant water supply. 

ROCK the Basin.  Let’s face it.  Plain plastic tubs add little eye appeal to your décor.  But you can face these tubs with rocks or position “flagstones” around the rim.  You will need to secure them with epoxy.  Silastic will not work on plastic.  Be darn sure the epoxy is 100% dry.  Epoxy fumes are not just irritating.  Epoxy fumes kill.  Leave these creations outside until they dry.

Camouflage it.  Add some big rocks around it.  Fill the spaces in with gravel.  Then add some smaller rocks at random.

Go for Two Layers.  Some people eliminate the basin altogether and cover the cage floor with water.  Using a 20XH tank one-quarter filled with water yields a 10-gallon fish  tank with an anole jungle gym on the second floor -- otherwise known as a paludarium.  (From the Latin word paluda meaning I like aquariums AND terrariums.)  You  see larger versions of these in some zoos.  Today’s technology enables you to build these yourself with a minimum of expense and effort.

LA
Little lacerta lizards also mix very well with green anoles.

Enhance Your Wood.  Not everyone can afford to go out and buy a new piece of wood when they get tired of the old one.  Here’s a way to spice up the old one.  Use your electric drill and make some holes in it.  Insert small pieces of plastic plants into the holes.

Use natural or fluorescent colored plants for effect.  This technique even enhances those gnarly grapevines from California.  Your green anoles seem to like the extra greenery.  They also make excellent extra places for water to collect.  Smooth surfaces make it hard to water your anoles.

LA
Knight anoles grow too large to mix with green anoles.  And they bite.

LA
Knights calm down after they figure out you're not going to eat them.

 

Consider Other Lizards.  Feel free to use these suggestions with other small lizards.  See Terrarium I for ideas.  Be sure to reinforce all hanging plants by tying fish line to them at three-inch intervals.  (Otherwise your lizards could pull them apart.)  Try some of these ideas.  You’ll have even more fun with your green anoles.  

LA
Several companies now make these waterfalls.

LA
Green anoles live just fine with house geckos.  Gecko blending in right in the middle.

LA
Anoles can climb glass walls.  Keep them covered.

LA
Four out of five anoles greedily devour crickets.

LA
Green anoles fight less in groups than in pairs.

LA
Every green anole wants to be "king of the hill."

LA
Green anoles easily climb glass.  Can you see the five anoles hiding in the greenery? 

LA
Flying or walking on the cage glass? 

LA
And because they walk on the glass, you will need to clean it -- probably weekly.

LA
You can only see a fraction of them in an environment they prefer.

LA
You don't want to crowd your green anoles this much at home.

LA
Or this much ... These green anole have no climbing areas.

LA
Always fun to watch your little green anoles chow crickets.

LA
Most anoles do not trust people.

 LA
Lizard lust.

LA
Some of these matings get quite serious.

LA
She has basically given up.

LA
Right after this, he held her under water.  I had to intervene to save her.

Breeding Comments.  When you see a larger anole grab a smaller one by the scruff of the neck, do not panic.  The big guy (male) is grabbing the smaller female for purposes of continuing the species.  Anoles breed often in captivity -- especially when uncrowded.

LA
Another way to sex green anoles.

LA
I'm not fat.  I'm just big boned.

LA
Hatched out of the egg yesterday.

LA
Same newly hatched guy.

LA
Dried up anole eggs (for size).

LA
If he were about 10 feet longer, you'd want to run from this guy.

LA
Some of them are spunky little devils.

LA
Here's another little guy full of spunk.

LA
Males are more bitey than females.

LA
Today's latest fashion accessory.

Last Words.  When we originally wrote most of these words, there were no waterfall kits available.  You need not build your own waterfall anymore.  You can choose from dozens of designs.  They all have the same drawback -- You need to refill them constantly.  You lose at least an inch of water per day.  LA.

Joe Carrieri, February 3, 2006
I noticed on your Green Anole and Knight Anole page you did not emphasize the importance of UVA/UVB lighting for them.  They were listed as not picky.  In the past 4 years herpetologists have found they have higher UVA/UVB requirements than Bearded Dragons.  As Anoles are diurnal basking lizards, they require this type of lighting or they will die unless exposed to natural sunlight.

Josh V, February 15, 2006
I was browsing through your green anoles care sheet, and would like to mention a few things:
    First, for substrate, you mention that contrasting colors work best.  This is wrong.  They need a substrate such as organic potting soil or compost, not sand or bark chips or gravel.  These are all deadly if ingested.
    Second, most of the anoles and other lizards in the pictures are on the verge of death. Under one very sickly picture of a grass lizard that is either almost dead or already dead (hard to tell), you write, "This
long-tailed grass lizard needs more food."  At that stage, unless veterinary treatment is used, there is nothing to do that could save it.  It needs more than just food.  Out of the dozens of anoles you pictured, most were very unhealthy, very stressed out, and most likely full of parasites.
    Third, by the looks of it you have many anoles in a small tank.  They need at least 10 gallons PER anole, not 10 gallons per dozen anoles.  With so many in such a small space, parasites are transferred, stress builds, many die, and diseases spread.
    Fourth, most of the cages are very dirty.  Like I already said, this causes the buildup of diseases and parasites.  That is one of the reasons why the anoles are so thin and sickly.
    Fifth, you mention "Anoles get used to you fairly rapidly."  This is also false.  Handling causes a great deal of stress.  If an anole is placid and "tame", that just means it has a very weak immune system and usually doesn't have the strength to escape.  A healthy anole is very skittish.
    Sixth, you mention they are communal lizards and can be housed with other reptiles and amphibians, such as green tree frogs and fire belly toads.  Quite the contrary!  Many frog species have toxins in their skin that slowly kill the lizard.  Anoles also have parasites in their bodies that they are immune too but affect other species.  Then of course, there is the habitat difference. Mixing has been done successfully, but this is in a 100+ gallon tank with tons of foliage and different niches for each species.  They are de-wormed regularly and each species is fed differently.  Even then it doesn't work out perfectly.
    Lastly, you make anoles seem like cheap 5 dollar lizards that you can just throw a dozen in a small cage with some gravel and a stick, and they will be fine. Quite the contrary.  They cost quite a bit to maintain.  They are hard to keep healthy in captivity unless a suitable habitat is used.
    That's enough ranting for me, I just hope you change your care info so that people will have happy healthy lizards and not sick ones. I would appreciate a response.

A1:  In the decades I've kept anoles, I've never seen one ingest substrate.  I've seen them lunge at a cricket and get a bit of dry leaf.  They just scrape it out with their "fingers."  I would think they'd be more likely to eat dirt than gravel.  I hate what happens to dirt when you sprinkle or mist anoles.  Dirt has to be my least favorite substrate.
A2:  First aid for small lizards usually involves separation from the herd and water ingestion.  Sugar water licked off the end of a finger helps (Pedialyte usually works better).  Then you introduce the smallest crickets.  Crowded anoles are no doubt stressed and full of parasites.  So are most caged lizards (and most people).
A3:  Retail tanks are temporary homes.  We do not recommend keeping lots and lots of anoles in a cage/tank long term.  Some 95% of our customers buy one or two fishes.
A4:  When you get 50 anoles hanging out together, they tend to :decorate" anything below them.  Even daily cleanings will not keep their cage free of "decoration."  When we clean their cages (weekly), we usually totally redecorate it as well.  Cleaning their cage probably stresses them more than anything we do.
A5:  Actually, anoles I've kept personally (not the big herds) did get used to me.  They learned to drink drops of water from my finger in the morning.  They also learned to eat de-winged house flies from my fingers.  Anoles also eat wild backyard crickets -- a practice nearly every source says you should never do because of all the poisons in your backyard.  If I had poisons in my backyard, I wouldn't want my kids out there either.  Why do all these people have poisons in their backyards?
A6:  Sometimes we mix the smaller frogs with anoles to no (apparent) ill effect.  At your suggestion, I'll look into this in more detail.  I'll try to run some trial tests also.  We only mix the ones that eat the same food.  We also occasionally mix in mudskippers.  And we find that climbing perch make a great clean up crew.
A7:  Actually, anoles are fairly economical (we hardly ever say cheap).  They make excellent starter lizards.  I've never seen anyone purchase a dozen of them.  I rather like anoles and have kept them for maybe more decades than you've been alive.  However, that doesn't make me 100% right all the time (heck, I get things wrong all the time), so I appreciate your info.  All I can do is tell what works for me.
Ranting?  I don't consider your letter ranting.  It was very well written.  I appreciate your taking the time to express your concern.  I like anyone who likes anoles and is concerned for their well-being.  I'm adding your comments to my anole page, so readers can share your information.  Thanks.  LA

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Loach Clown
Loach Kuhli
Loach Weather
Moray Eel  
Peacock Gudgeons
Polypterids
Puffers

Ropefish
Scats
Siam Algae Eater
 
Spiny Eels 
Snakehead
Stingray
Stonefish
Wasp Fish
Wolffish
Wrest Half-Beak
Misc Mini-Fishes
Misc Odd
Misc Odd II
Misc Odd III
Misc Odd  IV

Misc Odd V

Sharks  
Bala
Black
Bull
Chinese Hi-Fin Banded
Iridescent
Red-Tail
Siam Algae Eater

Pond Info 
Blank Park Zoo
Bob Humphrey's Ponds
Cattails
Maffett Reservoir
DMACC's Pond
D.M. Botanical Center
D.M. Water Works
Dr. Ervanian's Garden
Duckweed

Dwarf Lily
Ewing Park "Pond"
Jan & Chris's Water Garden
John McDonald's Pond
Hall's Four Acres
Klines' Water Garden
Landscaper Effects
Mini-Pond Pics
Pioneer Corn's Pond
Pond Fish Predators
Pond on 38th Street 
Pond Pics
Pond Plants
More Pond Plants
Pond Plants III
Reiman Ponds
River Scenes
Riverview Island
Selin's Water Gardens
Selin's Japanese Garden
Tom's Used Cars Pond
Urbandale Duck Pond
Water Hyacinth
Water Lettuce
Wild Ponds