What to Know About Green Anoles

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 18, 2022
4 min read

If you're looking for a quiet pet that's suited for a small living space, a green anole may be an ideal choice. These small lizards can live happily in a 10-gallon aquarium tank, and they never get larger than 8 inches long. They're appealing to look at with their distinctive green color and small stature. They're also awake during the day, so you can enjoy your pet during your own waking hours. 

Learn more about keeping green anoles as pets.

Green anoles are small reptiles that are native to the southeastern U.S. They're also called the Carolina anole, the American anole, the red-throated anole, or the American chameleon. They're small creatures, usually only reaching 5 to 8 inches in length.

Green anoles are eye-catching because of their bright green color, though they can shift color to brown or gray. Anoles change color in response to changes in temperature, humidity, health, and mood. This makes them different from true chameleons, which change color to blend into their surroundings. Male green anoles have a ruby red dewlap on their throats. It expands dramatically during mating season to attract the attention of females.

These lizards are small and delicate, with slim legs and long tails. They're capable of a trait called autotomy or tail dropping. If they're being pursued by predators, they can leave all or part of their tail behind as a distraction so they can get to safety.

Anoles are not a dangerous species. They don’t produce any toxins or venom the way some snakes and lizards do. They remain quite small their whole lives. They prey on insects and don’t have teeth or claws that can do damage to larger creatures.

You can find wild green anoles in the southeastern parts of the U.S. They’re common from southern Virginia down to the Florida Keys. They also live as far west as Central Texas and Oklahoma.

Green anoles prefer areas with high humidity. They're most commonly spotted in swamps, forests, wooded beaches, and other areas with a lot of trees. They also appear in parks and yards, where they bask on outdoor walls, fences, trees, and shrubs.

Since green anoles are small and do well in containers, they make appealing pets. As with any species of reptile, it’s important to set up a habitat with the right levels of heat and humidity. Anoles are cold-blooded, meaning they can't regulate their own body temperature, so they require careful attention to the environment in their habitat. 

Glass aquarium tanks with screened tops are good containers for green anoles. You can house up to two anoles in a 10-gallon tank. If you have three or four anoles, you should invest in a 20-gallon tank. Don't house more than one male anole in the same enclosure, as they may fight. 

The habitat should have a variety of plants in it, giving the anoles places to climb and hide. Fake plants can work, but live plants help maintain humidity in the enclosure. Small plants like sansevierias, orchids, and bromeliads work well in anole enclosures. Cover the base on the enclosure with mulch or peat.

In addition to plants, you can set up rocks, sticks, and small logs in the enclosure. Anoles need spots for basking, like flat rocks or logs. They also need spaces to hide, so you can set up small rock caves or set hollow logs in the enclosure. 

A shallow water dish is also a necessity for an anole habitat. The dish will provide humidity and drinking water. The anoles may occasionally use it to soak in, so it should be deep enough to cover their shoulders. 

You will need to set up a heating system for the enclosure. You can buy heat lamps or under-tank heating devices to maintain temperatures. Anoles need daytime temperatures between 77°F and 86°F. You can reduce the temperature at night to 70°F to 75°F. 

Anoles bask in warm spots, so you should arrange a basking surface near the heat lamp. A rock or raised branch is good for basking, as long as the anole can’t touch the heat lamp while basking. The temperature in the basking spot should be between 90°F and 95°F. 

You should install several thermometers in the tank so you can make sure temperatures are correct at all times. You may also want to get a device to monitor humidity. The ideal humidity in the enclosure is 60% to 70%. Water dishes, misting systems, or drip systems can help keep the humidity high enough for your anoles.

Green anoles eat insects. They like to eat small roaches, silkworms, mealworms, small crickets, and small red worms. They only eat live prey, so you will need to purchase live insects to feed your pet. The insect should be about half the size of the anole’s head so they can easily catch and eat it. You should offer young anoles food every day, while adults can have food every other day.

You can dust your anole's food with a powdered calcium and vitamin supplement. This ensures proper nutrition for your anoles.

It’s not wise to handle green anoles a lot. They are small and fragile. Too much handling can injure them or make them stressed and sick. Green anoles typically live for two to four years with proper care. 

If you're considering getting a green anole as a pet, talk to a vet that specializes in exotic pets. They can help you ensure your pet has everything they need to stay happy and healthy.