What to Know About Knight Anoles

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 19, 2022
5 min read

Knight anoles, or Anolis equestris, are one of the largest anole species, with the knight anole size often reaching over 6 inches, or 17 centimeters, in length from snout to vent. Most knight anoles can grow to be around 13 to 20 inches in length and are often mistaken as small iguanas due to their size.

Originally native to Cuba, they have more recently been introduced to Florida, primarily in southwestern countries such as Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Broward. They are also found in other southeastern states in the U.S, Jamaica, and throughout the Caribbean Islands.

Many homeowners consider these anoles to be pests. Once established in local environments, little can be done to control their population. It’s important for homeowners, landscapers, and other individuals to recognize knight anoles to prevent carrying them to other locations.  

While these lizards are commonly found in pet trades, especially in places like Florida, they are illegal in some states, such as Hawaii.

Most Florida-native anoles are small with green and brown tones. Knight anoles are bigger and are bright green with a white or yellow stripe extending over the shoulder and eye. 

The knight anoles’ snout is long and shaped like a wedge, while the tail is compressed with a ragged upper edge. Their toes form adhesive pads, which enable these creatures to maneuver up vertical and smooth surfaces effortlessly. Their toes also allow them to scale down horizontal surfaces.

Their bodies are covered in tiny rough scales. Males have a defining feature – a pale pink throat fan that extends when happy.

Knight anoles are diurnal, meaning they are active throughout the day and sleep during the night. They become defensive and aggressive when threatened, especially when the threat is a snake or something that resembles a snake. Male knight anoles are also known to fight with other male knight anoles to remain dominant. When defending their territory against predators, they turn to the side, protrude their throat fan, hunch their back, and stare threateningly. Face to face with another male knight anole, they extend their throat fan and then retract it. This is repeated several times before they go on all four legs, firmly nod their head, and then turn to the side toward the rival. Their skin turns bright green in a show of aggression. The behavior between the two males typically ends with this display, with one being so impressed with the other that they lower their stance and move on. However, if the aggression continues, fighting ensues, and the two males charge at one another. 

Anoles are prone to stress, especially when handled, which can cause them to become sick. Because of their fearful nature, they often will run from human interactions and may even bite. However, some anoles are adaptable and may become comfortable when handled. 

Mating season happens in the summer months. Since males cannot differentiate between male and female anoles, males mating with other males has been observed.

Knight anoles prefer a tropical, terrestrial, and forest-like habitat. Because they’re arboreal, or tree dwellers, they can be found in large trees, often underneath shady canopies. 

Anoles make good pets, especially for new reptile owners, and are commonly found in pet stores. Since being introduced to Florida, it’s common to find breeders and anoles sold in pet stores. When kept as a pet, they can be kept in solitary containment or in groups. However, males should be kept either alone or in the presence of several females. 

A knight anoles' enclosure should be around 5 gallons per anole. If you plan on housing two adult anoles, you’ll need a 10-gallon tank; three anoles would require a 15-gallon tank; and four anoles would need a 20-gallon tank. There must be plenty of basking places and hiding areas for the anoles, and the more anoles in an enclosure, the more places should be included. How many hiding places and basking areas are included in an enclosure will contribute to how big the enclosure should be. 

Other requirements include: 

  • UVB-producing fluorescent lights powered 12-14 hours per day 
  • 1 basking light to be kept on during daytime hours only and to be set at 85-90 Fahrenheit 
  • One nocturnal heat light to help regulate night temperatures
  • One under-tank heating pad 
  • Two thermometers, one at the cooler end of the tank and one at the warmer end
  • Appropriate soil, either sterile peat moss potting soil with pea gravel or with bark mulch 
  • Several plants in 2-inch pots to help regulate humidity and offer shelter and shade 
  • Logs and branches to provide basking places

Additionally, a few items should be avoided when keeping anoles, including hot rocks, heated caves, heat tapes, and sand and gravel. It’s also important to keep their enclosure’s temperature regulated around 75 - 80 Fahrenheit through the day and 65 - 75 Fahrenheit at night. Humidity should remain around 60% - 70%. To encourage proper humidity, spray any plants with purified water a few times a day. Avoid using tap water. This will also give them a sufficient water supply since they receive water in the wild by lapping moisture-ridden leaves.

What do knight anoles eat?

Knight anoles are carnivores and insectivores who prefer to eat a live diet of crickets, spiders, cockroaches, grubs, and moths. Mealworms and smaller lizards can also be fed to knight anoles, particularly when in captivity. However, not all anoles will accept mealworms into their diets, so adjust accordingly. 

Anoles should be fed daily and can be fed as much as they can handle. When feeding them insects, ensure that they come from pesticide-free places. Avoid feeding anoles fireflies, as these can be toxic.

Knight anoles are susceptible to certain health issues. Because they’re easily stressed, especially when captured and handled, they often become dehydrated, withered, and infected with parasites. When introducing a new anole to your home, you should have it checked and tested for parasites. A dehydrated anole will exhibit skin folds and sunken eyes. Anoles may be seriously sick if persistent black spots are noticed behind the eyes. 

Despite these health issues, anoles are strong creatures when taken care of properly. Proper care includes appropriate heating, lighting, housing, and diet. In captivity, the average lifespan is around eight years.