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How to Care for Your Brown/Green Anole

How to Care for Your Brown/Green Anole

Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) and brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) are small, 5-8” long diurnal lizards native to North America. 

Green anoles can be found in the southeastern US and Hawaii, although there are also populations in coastal southern California and several North Pacific islands. They range from brown to green in color, with a white dorsal stripe on juveniles and females, and a large orange-pink dewlap under males’ throats.

Brown anoles can generally be found in the same areas as green anoles, but they have a wider distribution, stretching as far north as southeastern Canada and as far south as Panama. They are generally light to dark brown/black in color, with a light dorsal stripe flanked by darker markings. Males have a large, yellow to orange dewlap under their throat.

Green anoles and brown anoles are two different species, but they have similar care requirements. They are generally considered to be beginner-level pets, but this is something of a misconception, as they are not very handleable and are sensitive to poor husbandry. This is one of the reasons why they have an average lifespan of just 3-6 years.

How much space do anoles need?

Anoles are active, semi-arboreal lizards who need plenty of space for running around and climbing. A single green or brown anole should be housed in absolutely no smaller than a 18” x 18” x 24” terrarium, although 24” x 24” x 24” is arguably a better minimum. Of course, larger is always better!

Cohabitation (keeping multiple anoles together) is not recommended, and may result in fighting or breeding if attempted. Do not breed your anoles unless you are fully prepared to accommodate the babies. Breeding is a serious project that should not be attempted casually.

Do anoles need UVB?

Anoles are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day. They require exposure to UVB light for their survival, and also benefit from bright plant grow lights in their environment. Lights should be on for 10 hours/day during winter and 14 hours/day during summer to simulate seasonal changes in day length.

Anoles need medium-strength UVB as part of their enclosure. The best UVB bulbs for anoles housed in a 24” x 24” x 24” terrarium are:

The UVB bulb should be housed in a reflective fixture and placed close to the heat lamp. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your gecko UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. Also make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.

As day-active lizards, anoles also benefit from a 6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow light to provide extra bright light in the enclosure and better simulate the effects of the sun.

What basking temperatures do anoles need?

Anoles should have a basking temperature of 90°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the basking surface. There should be a cooler area on the opposite side of the enclosure that stays between 70-77°F. 

Provide heat for your anole by imitating the sun with a halogen heat lamp placed on one side of the enclosure. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. The basking surface should be a sturdy branch placed 4-8” below the heat lamp, depending on which UVB bulb you’re using. 

The heat source should be turned off at night. Nighttime temperatures can drop as low as 65°F, but should be no warmer than 75°F.

What humidity levels do anoles need?

Green and brown anoles need a moderately high humidity environment for best health. Average humidity should be 60-70%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium. 

Misting your anole’s enclosure with a sprayer first thing in the morning and again at night will help create the right humidity levels. It also provides an important source of drinking water!

What substrate is good for anoles?

Substrate covers the floor of your anole’s terrarium and helps make the enclosure more attractive, but it also helps maintain humidity. It’s ideal to use a substrate that imitates the “substrate” that the reptile naturally lives on in the wild. For anoles, that means it should resemble tropical soil. It should have small particles and hold moisture well.

We recommend the following substrates for brown and green anoles:

Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.

Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

What decor can you use in an anole terrarium?

It’s terribly boring for an anole to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and food/water bowls. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with. Anoles tend to appreciate a fairly densely planted enclosure with either live or artificial plants, which can make their terrarium a great piece of home decor!

At bare minimum, you will need a branch for your anole to bask on and some live or artificial foliage for it to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

What do anoles eat?

Anoles are primarily insectivorous, which means that they need to eat insects (preferably live) in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. How often they need to eat depends on age: Juveniles should be fed daily but fully-grown adults can be fed only every other day. Offer 2-3 insects slightly smaller than your anole’s head at each feeding.

Good feeder insects for anoles: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, red runner roaches, crickets, black soldier fly larvae, hornworms, mealworms

Supplements

You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your anole from developing a deficiency. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your lizard’s feeder insects.

Water

Although your anole will get most of its drinking water from daily mistings, it’s a good idea to also provide a wall-mounted water dish. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

Do anoles like to be handled?

Few reptiles actually “like” to be held, and anoles aren’t one of them. Instead of interacting with your anole by holding it, try hand-feeding it instead with a pair of feeding tweezers

If you have to grab your anole, be VERY gentle — they’re quite delicate, and may drop their tail as a defense! The anole may bite when grabbed, but they can’t significantly harm human skin, and is likely to feel like a soft pinch — more startling than actually painful.

 

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species.

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