©1995, 2002 Melissa Kaplan
equestris (Cuban, or Knight, anole; to 20" stl)
For a complete list of species and links to photos, see the TIGR Database listing for Polychrotidae
Anoles are sometimes called "chameleons." This is due to their color-changing ability of the green anoles, especially, who when severely stressed or ill will turn dark brown. They are not true chameleons, species of lizards who look very different than anoles and come from different parts of the world. If your green anole is always brown, it is a sign of stress.
Habitat And Habits
Minimum tank size for a group of two adult anoles would be a tall 10 gallon tank. Three or four (one male and up to three females) anoles may be kept in a 20 gallon tall aquarium (48" x 13" x 20"). The more lizards there are, the more hiding places and basking areas needed, so tanks must get correspondingly larger.
Not appropriate for anoles:
Humidity and Water
In the wild, anoles lap off leaves. In captivity, you cannot assume that they will figure out what a water bowl is, so you will need to spray the leaves for them. Some anoles do learn to drink from bowls: you can aid this learning process by setting up a dripper bottle to drip water into a shallow bowl. It is the sight and sound of dripping, splashing water which attracts their attention.
Wild-caught bugs may be accepted eagerly. Make sure the insects are collected from pesticide free area and areas not heavily impregnated with auto exhaust particulates. Stay away from bugs you are not certain of, and ones known to be toxic, such as fireflies.
Feed anoles daily, letting them have as much as they will eat. If crickets are left uneaten in the enclosure, be sure to provide them with proper cricket food and moisture - otherwise, they will eat whatever is handy: your anoles!
Prey insects need to be cared for properly to provide the most nutrition for your lizards. If you cannot find the right size for your lizard, you can order them through the mail from one of the many companies that breed and supply these food items..
Gut-loaded freshly molted crickets and mealworms, every other day - usually 2-3 appropriately sized food items per feeding is fine. If any food is left in the tank, food for the prey MUST be provided. Gut-load 24-48 hours on tropical fish flakes, high protein dry baby cereal, reptile vitamins and fruit.
Foods appropriate for gut-loading include tropical fish flakes; high protein baby cereal mixed with reptile vitamins; ground monkey chow mixed with calcium supplement. Provide moisture by placing pieces of carrots, apple, orange, etc., in the cricket enclosure. Dehydration is the biggest cause of cannibalism in insects.
They can drop their tails if grabbed there (this is called autotomy), and their fragile toes can be broken or injured if removed ungently from branches, bark or your clothing.
All new reptiles should be tested for internal parasites and checked carefully visually for external parasites, so find a reptile vet before, or right after, you get your anole.
If there are any significant folds of skin, or the eyes are sunken, the lizard is dehydrated. If 24 hours of higher than normal humidity does not resolve it, the anole should be taken to a vet to be assessed for other methods of fluid administration.
Persistent black spots behind the eyes on the head may be an indication that your anole is seriously ill. (See Behavior/Communication above.)
Anoles, when heated, lighted, fed and housed properly, are fairly hardy lizards. Depending upon the age they are when they are caught/bought, the older ones may not settle in as well as the younger ones. Remember: to them, you look like a giant predator. They are not as intelligent as many of the much larger lizards so you must be patient and understand that you may end up with some beautiful lizards in a lush, beautiful environment (lots of plants, bark slabs for hiding places, etc.) rather than a lizard who will tolerate a lot of handling and social interaction.
The stress may be environmental (enclosure is too hot or too cold, or there is a cat staring at them most of the time you aren't around, etc.), or it may be psychosocial, something that will happen if you are keeping two or more anoles together in one enclosure.
Two lizards require more room than one; three lizards more than two. For information on enclosure size requirements in general for reptiles, see Reptile Enclosures: Size and Dimension, as well as the Standard Tank Sizes page, with its list of tanks sizes and dimensions for easy reference.
Additional information may be found in three articles in my Giant Green Iguana Care Collection. Anoles are iguanid lizards and so share some of the same or very similar psychosocial and environmental issues, and their response to stresses are similar. The articles you need to read are Iguana Skin Color (the section on stress-related color changes), Housing Multiple Iguanas, and Lizard Tough Guys.
Males are larger than females and have a dewlap (throat fan) which they use to display to females and rivals. Some males have a dorsal crest (beginning just behind the head) which is raised as part of the threat display (typically with the dewlap extended). Males have enlarged post-anal pores (found on the tail below the vent).
Females, and juveniles of both sexes, may have a white stripe down the back. Females of some species have dewlaps - if they do, they are smaller than those of males, and displayed less frequently.
Signs of breeding include males displaying their dewlaps and posturing to females. Males may start bobbing their heads rapidly while turning toward female. If female runs away she's not ready; if she stays or, while running, allows herself to be caught, and bows her head, the male will grab her neck with his mouth and they will mate. Actually mating generally occurs in afternoon or evening hours. Breeding season lasts 4-5 months.
Within two weeks of a successful mating, the female will begin to show a swollen abdomen. She will search out a warm moist place in the substrate, push it aside with her head, and deposit an egg (rarely, two may be laid), covering the egg with the substrate. This will be repeated every two weeks, for a total of about 10 eggs per breeding season. Eggs can be removed from the vivarium but many successful hatchings have been achieved leaving by the eggs in the vivarium.
To prevent injury to the egg, either by the female digging to bury another one or by you as you service the terrarium, the eggs should be removed and set carefully in a mixture of damp sterile vermiculite (1:1 mix, or one part water to 12-14 parts vermiculite) or sand, in a covered container, and incubated at 82-85 F, checked weekly to assure the substrate remains damp and that none of the eggs has molded. Provide gentle, not direct heat, to keep the container at 84-86 F (29-30 C); eggs should hatch in 35-40 days.
Hatchlings are 1.25" svl, about 2-2.5" stl, and are considered mature at 4-5" stl. They eat voraciously, and must be supplied with lots of pinheads that have been properly gut-loaded and shaken in a calcium and multivitamin supplement before being fed out. Fruit fly larva and wingless fruit flies are also good foods for hatchlings.
Anoles are generally not aggressive, but males may quarrel if housed together. This applies to inter-species confrontations as well. Some anole species will produce aggressive displays to their reflections in mirrors. Knight anoles should not be housed with other anoles smaller than themselves - they will as cheerfully feed on green anoles as they will spiders and crickets.
Behavior during breeding season may be significantly different than outside of breeding season. Males will display more (posturing, dewlap-flaring) and become more aggressive towards other males. Dominant males may develop black postorbital spots on their head. A sign of their status, most subordinate males will leave these dominant males alone. In a too-small enclosure, however, having two males both attempting to attain and maintain dominant status may end up tragically for one of them. (See also Somatic correlates of adrenergic activity during aggression in the lizard, Anolis carolinensis.)
Breeding-minded males will also annoy females more.
Not all females will be receptive to all males. Despite extensive research in mate selection, there are still a lot of unknowns. We do know that if a male pursues a female who is not interested, it could cause significant stress in the female, stress to the point of illness. If you are housing more than one anole in an enclosure, you must increase the size of the enclosure and provide discreet areas so that the female can get away from, and out of sight of, the male.
Aggression may be overt and forceful, such as butting, biting, and chasing, but it can be more subtle, too. If you have two or more green anoles and one is always brown, observe them carefully. Notice where the brown one goes, and where it does not go. You will probably see that it is not eating, basking, or otherwise behaving in the same way as the others. More careful observation should enable you to identify which of the other anoles is causing this behavior. A dominant anole (male or female) uses posture and physical position within the environment to maintain their dominant status. While some subordinate lizards are fine with this, some are not, or may for some reason become the focus of the dominant lizard. If you have such a stressed anole, you will need to separate it from the others, providing a completely separate enclosure for it and possibly one other anole with whom you know it is compatible.
note for parents
Good Resource Books
Green Anoles: Selection, Care and Breeding. Ray Hunziker, TFH Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ. (Please ignore the photos of products in this book - most do not apply to anoles or are completely inappropriate for or dangerous to anoles and other reptiles.)
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