Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) and brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) are 5-8” long, diurnal lizards. The green anole is native to the US, while the brown anole is native to Cuba and the Bahamas but has formed invasive populations in the US. Both can be found primarily in the southeastern US and Hawaii, although brown anoles can be found as far north as southeastern Canada and as far south as Panama.
Anoles have slender, athletic bodies, elongated triangular heads, long tails, and long toes. Green anoles 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 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.
Anoles are much more sensitive than they are advertised as in pet stores, and given that they are not very handleable either, they tend to make poor pets for new reptile keepers. However, they do make a lively display species when kept correctly. Anoles typically have a 3-6 year lifespan in captivity.
Minimum terrarium size for anoles:
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single brown or green anole is 18”L x 18”W x 24”H. Of course, larger is always better!
Housing multiple anoles in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in fighting and/or breeding if attempted. Do not breed 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?
Yes! Anoles require UVB lighting for their survival. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for anoles housed in an 18-24” wide terrarium are:
- Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 10.0, 24” — 4” above basking branch
- Arcadia ShadeDweller Kit — 6” above basking branch
- Arcadia T5 HO 6%, 22” — 8” above basking branch
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months.
They are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment as well. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the terrarium to thrive.
Lights should be on for 10 hours/day during winter and 14 hours/day during summer to simulate seasonal changes in day length. All lamps should be turned off at night.
Best temperature for anoles:
Anoles should have a basking temperature of 90°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the basking surface. In order to allow for proper thermoregulation, the enclosure should also have a cool area that stays between 70-77°F. Nighttime temps can drop as low as 65°F.
Provide heat for your anole with a halogen heat bulb. Halogen bulbs the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for anoles:
Anoles are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 60-70%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Increase humidity by misting your anole’s enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. Aside from raising humidity, this also provides your anole with an important source of drinking water!
Best substrate for anoles:
Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! 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.
How to decorate an anole terrarium:
An empty terrarium makes for a bored anole, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Since anoles are largely arboreal, 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 to feed to an anole:
Anoles are insectivores, which means that they need to get the majority of their nutrition from insects. Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every other day. Each feeding should consist of 2-3 insects slightly smaller than the anole’s head.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your anole healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl and feeding ledge for your anole to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your anole:
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Anoles are one of the types of reptiles that are best to leave alone rather than attempt to handle regularly. If you want to interact with your pet anole, try hand-feeding it with a pair of feeding tweezers.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!