Green Anoles

Care Sheet For Green Anoles

A green anole lizard on a porch screen
Green anole on a black screen. Diane Maconald/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

​Green anoles are known by many names but they are also known for their ability to change colors from green to brown and back again (although they are not true chameleons). They are often found running around and basking in the sun in the Southeastern United States and islands in the Caribbean as well as in terrariums across the country as pets.

  • Name: Anolis carolinensis, Green anole, Carolina anole, American anole, American chameleon, Red-throated anole
  • Size: Males are about 8 inches long (inlcuding the tail) in captivity but are larger in the wild. Females are smaller than males.
  • Life Span: Green anole life spans average around four years although they can live longer (up to 8 or more years, if well cared for.

Housing Green Anoles

Anoles can be housed in a fairly small tank or terrarium. A 10 gallon tank is sufficient for a single or pair of anoles. A larger tank is of course better though and if you are housing multiple anoles lots of space is necessary.

You should only keep one male anole per tank. Females will get along fine as long as the tank is roomy enough, there plenty of basking spots and multiple places to hide. A securely fitted lid is necessary since green anoles can squeeze through very small places.

A substrate of peat moss and soil with or without a layer of bark (e.g. orchid bark) is an ideal substrate for anoles. Live plants help maintain humidity and provide cover. Favorite live plants include sansevierias (snake plants), bromeliads, philodendrons, ivy, orchids and vines. Pieces of bark and branches should also be provided for climbing and basking.

A humidity level of 60-70% is necessary for green anoles (use a hygrometer to monitor these levels). This can usually be achieved by misting the inside of the tank daily. Misting systems are available although they are quite expensive. If you are having a hard time maintaining the humidity level try covering part of the top of the tank and/or increasing the number of live plants in the enclosure. Misting also provides drinking water for the anoles as they often will not drink from a bowl (they will lick droplets of water off the misted plants like chameleons).

Heat and Lighting for Green Anoles

During the day be sure to provide a thermal gradient from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degrees Celsius) with a basking spot of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (29-32 degrees Celsius). A combination of under tank heaters and a basking light on one side of the tank works well. Make sure the appropriate temperature gradient is provided by measuring temperatures in various spots around the tank. Night temperature can drop to a gradient of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius). Do not use white basking lights to achieve night time temperatures but instead use heating pads, ceramic heating elements, or special night heat lights.

In addition to the incandescent basking light you should provide a full spectrum UVA/UVB light for 10-12 hours per day. This special light will help prevent your anole from developing metabolic bone disease, keep them looking brightly colored, active, and happy. The bulb needs to be changed out every six months (even if it hasn't burned out) and nothing should be blocking the light other than a metal mesh screen (no plastic or glass).

Feeding Green Anoles

Green anoles are insectivores and are generally good eaters. While crickets can be the main part of the diet, it is best to feed a variety of gut loaded insects including mealworms and wax worms. Feed two to three appropriately sized prey items that are about half the size of the anole's head every other day. A calcium and vitamin supplement should also be dusted on the insects.


Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT