Anole Care Guide

Discussion in 'Anoles' started by Cammy, Jun 23, 2012.

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  1. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Originally posted at Reptile Rooms; some proofreading and updating has been applied to get this closer to our current standards. These were posted by an admin but no author was given. If you were the original author of these care sheets, please PM me (Cammy) with any concerns. The original pictures are currently unobtainable. If any member has relevant pictures or diagrams they would be willing to contribute to any section, it would be much appreciated! Once again, PM me if interested.

    Choosing Your New Anole
    Published: June 23, 2008

    The first thing that must be stated before purchasing your anole(s) is that you should have your enclosure all set up BEFORE you attempt to house the lizard(s). There's no point buying an anole, or any other animal, only to have it stressed out in a small container while you spend the next few hours setting up the cage. So, again, make sure you have set up your anole's future home BEFORE you go to the pet shop to obtain your new pet!

    Anoles can be bought at pretty much any pet store. The prices will vary between species, but for the sake of ease, I'm going to stick to green and brown anoles for this article. While the price difference is only a couple of dollars between green and brown anoles, the green being the slightly more expensive, you should expect to pay between $5-10 for either species. The care of these animals is the same regardless.

    When looking for your anole, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Probably the most important thing to check when buying, or at least the first thing you should check, is whether the anoles were captive bred (CB) or wild caught (WC). WC anoles can be fine, although there is an increased risk of getting a sick lizard, or one infected with parasites, which can be a horror if you're introducing them into an established enclosure. Sadly, the majority of anoles available in the pet trade are wild caught, as captive breeding is too costly given the too low price of these animals.

    There's still a risk with CB anoles; however, providing it has been kept in the right conditions, there shouldn't be any problems. Either way, you should always quarantine your newly acquired anole for about 2 months if you're introducing him into a pre-existing tank. This not only applies to the lizards, but anything intended to be inside the lizards home—rocks, branches, substrate, (Check the conditions in which it's stored and make sure it’s not damp or growing mould.) and make sure you clean décor thoroughly before introducing it into an established enclosure.

    So, generally you go with a CB anole; but once you find one, then what do you look out for? Well, don't pick a lizard that's too skinny or lethargic. Skinniness implies that it's probably not been very well cared for, and therefore is probably ill. You don't want to purchase your new friend only to take him to the vet a week later! A lethargic, slow-moving lizard, again, either implies that it's ill, or has been kept at too cold or warm of a temperature, or has not had enough water (is dehydrated & overheated). This can also lead to a costly vet visit. Aside from avoiding such expenses, another reason you don't want to purchase sick or parasite-infested anoles (or any kind of animal) is because you're doing exactly what the pet shop wants. If you buy an animal, even a sick one, the pet shop will only buy more to sell, and as they obviously don't care about its animals' welfare, it will only do more harm than good to the future animals that shop "cares" (and I use this term loosely) for.

    Also look for blemishes, such as cuts or grazes in the skin, and damaged or missing toes or tails. Cuts and scratches can become infected, and damaged/missing toes/tails is another indicator of improper care, such as lack of hydration—lack of moisture can be very detrimental to the health of your anole. Moisture helps it shed its skin, and if it's too warm and dry, the skin can dry around the toes, constricting the flow of blood and eventually leading them to fall or get pulled off.

    Another thing to check is its sex. If you have a pre-existing tank set up at home with other anoles in it, then this is especially important. If you already have a male in your tank, don't get another one. Two males will fight, often to the death, over territory or females. And if you already have females in a pre-existing tank, unless you want babies, again, don't get a male, and if you do want babies, make sure you can cope with them all! A female can produce up to 16 or so offspring in a year. If half of these turn out to be males, that's a lot of enclosures you're going to need to set up in the future!

    So pick a nice healthy looking anole which is alert to its surroundings, active, and the sex you want it to be. Ask the people at the pet shop to bring it out of the tank for you to have a look at. If the anole struggles a little while being caught, then things are looking good; this is normal. If the lizard seems unresisting to being caught, then it's probably ill. A healthy lizard will try to fight back; all it thinks of people is, "Oh, what's this big animal picking me up? I bet it's going to eat me!" and, if it has the strength, (which it should) it will try to escape.

    For a little while once they've been picked up, especially until he gets used to you, they will struggle, but eventually they feel the warmth of your hand and will settle. That being said, over-handling is a bad thing, and you shouldn't handle your anoles unless absolutely necessary.

    Once you've decided which anole you're going to get and you're out of the pet shop, try to get your anole home as soon as possible. If you've got a lot of shopping to do, do that first, and then go to the pet shop. If you simply have to go and pick out your anole first, and you have a lot of other shopping to do, ask the store keeper to take care of the anole for you for a couple of hours while you go and get the rest of your shopping done. Make the trip home as short as possible, as prolonged stress can cause serious harm.

    When you do get your anole home, put it in a tank and give it a day or two to settle down. Buy a couple dozen crickets while you're at the pet shop and pop a cricket into the tank. If the anole goes for the cricket straight away, then offer a few more. Then, leave her to settle overnight. (Side note: Don't buy crickets that are larger than about half the size of the anole's head, as these can lead to your anole choking or becoming impacted; this will be discussed more in the feeding section.) If the anole doesn't eat the cricket straight away, take it out, and try again the following morning. Don’t be discouraged if you’re anole doesn’t eat right away. Sometimes it can take up to a week for them to start eating properly and getting over the shock of moving. If it goes on longer than a week or two though, a vet visit may be in order, or the animal may need to be returned to the pet shop.

    If you are adding new anoles to an existing tank, put the new addition in a separate tank for quarantine (just in case there are any problems you don't immediately see). People suggest a 2-3 month quarantine period. A fecal examination from your local vet's office is also a good idea. The vet can then inspect the feces and find out if there are any previously unseen problems (such as internal parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infections).

    Follow these guidelines when picking out an anole and you should be off to a good start!

  2. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Housing, Furnishing & Lighting
    Published: June 23, 2008

    Note : Gallons (G) indicates US gallons (which is slightly smaller than a British gallon).

    The home you create for your anoles really depends on how many anoles you decide to get, and whether you intend to breed them. A single anole can be happily kept in a 12x12x18” cage for its entire life. For 2-3 anoles a MINIMUM of a standard 20G high (24x12x16”) tank is needed. Remember, when it comes to housing anoles, the bigger the tank the better.

    Some people say that anoles are best kept alone, which to a point I agree with—especially when dealing with males. Housing a male with another male can lead to serious health problems, and even death, for at least one of them, as they WILL fight. Housing males with females, if you care for your anoles correctly, usually ends up in them multiplying. This means more tanks, and more care for them all. If you want to breed, and you already have (or can obtain) more tanks, that’s great. But if you just want one or two as pets, you're better off just getting a couple of females.

    Ok, so you've got yourself a nice tank. What now? Well, as this is probably the first thing that's going in your tank, you need to consider the substrate you're going to use. The substrate is the material you use on the ground of your tank. Small grade orchid bark is a popular choice among anole keepers, but you must make sure that the bark pieces are larger than the anole’s head so the animal does not ingest it. You can also use moist (but not wet) sterile, untreated potting soil. Damp (but not wet) sphagnum or peat moss is also acceptable. Avoid substrates which are inappropriate for a tropical enclosure, such as sand, gravel, pine, aspen, etc.

    As far as plants go, you can use either real or fake. I personally always go with real plants, as it creates more of a natural environment in the enclosure. However, living plants will also need to be cared for according to their own requirements. Make sure any plants you choose are non-toxic to your animals and can be kept in the substrate, humidity, and lighting levels supplied for your pets. There is quite a range of fake plants available these days, so if you are looking for a simpler setup, these would be a good choice for you.

    Once you've decided on a substrate and plants, you should move on to branches. Anoles are arboreal (they like to climb trees), so you'll need to have plenty of climbing space for them. Two or three branches a little longer than the diagonal length of your tank should be great. You can set these from one front bottom corner to the opposite corner near the top, crossing at the middle. You can also have others leaning up against these (but make sure their base is stable in the substrate). Climbing plants and/or fake vines can be wrapped around branches for a visually appealing effect.

    You can also place large climbing rocks in the tank, but avoid heat rocks or heat caves. Heat rocks and caves are very variable in the heat they give off to the air, and their surface can get VERY hot, often singing toes and causing stress and/or damage to the anoles. (You can use a heat-pad under the tank if you are looking to provide belly heat, but this is generally not needed except for larger tanks or in really cold climates.)

    The temperature directly below your lamp should be around 90°F, with an ambient temperature of about 75-80°F. At night, temperatures may be dropped to around 65-70°F. If you find the night time temperature is dropping lower than 65°, an under tank heater or ceramic heat emitter may be necessary for overnight use. In order to get accurate temperature readings, make sure you are using digital thermometers with probes or temp guns as opposed to stick on, mercury, or gauge type thermometers.

    For daytime light, you will also need a fluorescent UVB bulb. Anoles need UVB in order to produce Vitamin D3, which is required for the absorption of calcium. Make sure you are using a long tube fluorescent light that specifically states it produces UVB. Bulbs marketed as “day light” or “full spectrum” are not the same thing.

    Make sure you provide your anole with a regular day/night light schedule. You can pick up a timer at a hardware store for relatively cheap to turn your lights on and off, and you'll want to leave them on for about 12-14 hours a day.

    Depending on the plants you decide to go with, they may already have enough places to hide, but you can always add more. I like to dig a little furrow in the soil, and place a piece of slate over it. You may also find in breeding season that they will lay their eggs in here, so if you house multiple sexes, make sure to check this every day during spring and summer and move them to a separate tank or incubator. Anoles may damage their eggs and injure or kill their young if you don't spot them soon enough,.

    Finally, you will need to maintain proper humidity in your setup. You will most likely need to mist inside the tank a couple of times a day. I usually spray first thing in the morning when the light comes on to simulate the early morning dew, and then sometime between 7-9pm as the lights are about to go out. More frequent misting may be required depending on the humidity levels of your house and climate.

  3. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Published: June 18, 2008

    Feeding your anoles is a rather simple task. Their diet primarily consists of crickets, which can be obtained at pretty much any exotic pet shop.

    Crickets come in many sizes from pinheads (about 1/32 of an inch when they're a day old) up to just over an inch or so. The size of crickets you buy will depend upon the size of your anoles. The general rule that most go by is to not get any crickets than are larger than about half the size of the anole's head. While most anoles will go for larger crickets, these can choke the anole, or may get stuck elsewhere on the way down, leading to impaction of the digestive tract, potentially resulting in death. Also, prey which is too large may simply be rejected, and left uneaten. If left uneaten, the cricket may actually bite the anole during the night while the anole is sleeping, possibly leading to infection. It is for this reason that you should never leave uneaten prey in the tank overnight.

    Feed young anoles 2-3 times a day, adults 1-2 times a day. Feed in the morning to late afternoon while there's still enough heat to help them digest.

    As with any business, pet shops occasionally run out of crickets. It’s generally a good idea to stock up with at least a week's supply. You can also order in bulk from online retailers. This is definitely worth looking into if you are feeding a larger number of reptiles. Make sure you buy a few crickets smaller than you really want to feed your anoles so that by the end of the week they're not too big for them to eat.

    One thing that some (un-informed and not-very-good) pet shops suggest, and actively use, for feeding anoles is tinned dog food. THIS SHOULD NOT BE FED TO YOUR ANOLE (or any other reptile)! It's called dog food for a reason—it’s for dogs!

    When you feed crickets to your anoles, make sure that you dust them with a vitamin and calcium supplement every 2-3 feedings. (Juveniles can be given dusted food every feeding.) Supplements can be bought at most pet shops that carry reptiles or from online retailers. You can use the "shake and bake" method of putting a few crickets in a bag or jar, putting in a pinch of powder, and gently shaking the bag or jar, coating the crickets.

    A quick note on feeding wild-caught insects to your anoles: Certain insects can be ok, as long as they've not been near anywhere that actively uses pesticides (and that includes weed-killer, or any other garden sprays, not just near farms). DO NOT feed earwigs, woodlice, ants, or most other ground insects, and especially don't feed them fireflies (which are poisonous to your anole).

  4. Cammy

    Cammy Administrator Staff Member

    Published: June 23, 2008

    Anoles are one of the easiest reptiles you could possibly hope to breed. Providing their care requirements are met, breeding happens pretty much on its own.

    The one thing to note when breeding is that a lot of the female's calcium will be used up to make the shell of the eggs, so you'll want to make sure that your anoles are under a good UVB lamp and you supplement your crickets regularly.

    Like I said, breeding pretty much takes care of itself, but once you notice that your females are producing eggs, it's best to take the male out and put him in his own enclosure for a few months. This is for several reasons.

    • Having the male in the tank can stress out the females and cause them to hold back the eggs. This is not normally a problem, as females will usually eventually lay. However, if the eggs become held back long enough, the next clutch can develop inside the female causing severe problems.
    • Chances are, depending on your substrate, when the eggs are laid, you won't know about it until you start to see baby anoles running around your enclosure. Adult anoles, especially males, have no problem whatsoever substituting the crickets in their diet with the occasional hatchling anole. They may also attack the eggs.
    • The male could attempt to mate with the already impregnated females which can unnecessarily stress them out.

    As I said, the females may attack the eggs. Females have been observed digging up the eggs of other females. While this is not a common problem, some females can become very aggressive towards others during breeding season. If you notice that one of your females starts to bully the other females (There seems to be dominance for females amongst anoles as well as males.), take the bully female out to stop her from stressing the others.

    Given regular care conditions, eggs can easily incubate and hatch inside the anole's enclosure. The first one that we hatched out we spotted running around the adults' tank, without even realizing any eggs had been laid. But, after we saw NoName digging up the eggs, we decided it was best in the future for us to take them out.

    Anole eggs can incubate in almost anything. We simply marked the top of the egg with a permanent felt pen (to make sure we placed it back in the correct orientation), and moved them over to another tank. We set up a 29G tank specifically for the eggs and hatchlings. This was kept exactly the same way as the adults' tank.

    When I was clearing the ground for the Iguana enclosure I built in October, I actually found an egg laying on the ground where I was working. I simply got a little plastic tub (the kind you see hatchlings and little snakes in at the reptile shows), half filled it with washed playsand, misted it to make it moist, and half-submerged the egg in it. 6 weeks later, a gorgeous female brown hatched out. As you can see, these are very hardy animals, and the eggs seem to be able to tolerate a lot. While we've never actually used an incubator for hatching out the eggs, the temp in the tank the youngsters was in was around 85-90 on the warm end, and around 75-80 on the cool end, dropping to around 65 at night (we did not use a night heat-lamp on them). I'd say it's probably safe to incubate the eggs around 80-83 degrees if you're going to use an actual incubator. Remember, as with pretty much all reptiles, don't get an incubator which turns the eggs. The orientation of the eggs is very important during incubation, and turning one upside down could kill the embryo developing inside the egg.

    Also remember not to let the eggs get too wet. The incubating substrate shouldn’t be bone dry, but you don't want them drowning or growing mold either. Eggs need to breath, and submerging them in something too wet will starve them of oxygen.

    Good luck!


    Hatchling Anole Care
    Published: June 23, 2008

    The main difference between the adults and the hatchlings (aside from their size) is that hatchlings are a lot more sociable to humans. When hatched out, the whole world is new to them. They do not know to be afraid of humans, and they love the warmth of your hands.

    Although territorial instinct does eventually kick in, hatchling anoles can very easily be housed together (even multiple males). Provided there are many hiding areas where they can all get their peace, everything should go well.

    The most common cause of death in young anoles, as with many lizards, is dehydration. An excellent way to help prevent them from becoming dehydrated is to feed them room temperature Pedialyte through an eye-dropper. After a while, ours would come running over to the dropper whenever we took the lid off the tank. This works for a lot of reptiles; we have also given Pedialyte to our bearded dragons and iguanas.

    Anoles do not typically drink from still water, so simply placing a bowl of water in the tank will not keep your babies hydrated. If you don't have the time or patience to let your anoles drink from an eye dropper, you could try one of the varied waterfalls or automated misters available for reptile tanks.

    Other than that, hatchling care is pretty much the same as the adults. The temperatures, humidity, lighting, and tank layout requirements are all the same, although you might want to mist a little more often as they shed more frequently when young. If you've got 20 or 30 babies running around in a tank, you're almost certainly going to have at least one who's shedding at any given time.

    Start your feeding of hatchlings with pinhead crickets, flightless fruit flies, springtails, or other similarly sized feeders. Yes, they're very tiny and you will need a lot of them. We've had some anoles go through 20 of them in a single session, so it's best to buy them by the thousand—this is when ordering online is the way to go. You may also want to consider breeding your own feeders at home. While crickets are relatively easy to breed and hatch, be forewarned that full size adults can become VERY smelly and noisy.

    To raise your own pinhead crickets, simply set up a 10G tank with a tub of moist sand or potting soil adults to lay eggs in. They will find the moisture very quickly and if they are ready to drop eggs, they will do so as soon as they find the tub to lay in. Crickets will actually hold back their eggs until conditions are good enough for them to lay. If you want to keep a constant supply of pinheads available, then setup 2 or 3 tubs with sand or potting soil. Put a tub into the 10G, let the females lay their eggs. 2 weeks later, take out the tub, replace it with a fresh one, and put it into another tank for the eggs to hatch. Eggs will take about 2-4 weeks to hatch. So the most you'll probably ever need is 4 tubs circulating at any given time. Just remember to note the dates of when you put tubs into egg-hatching tank, so you know you're taking out the right one and don't end up losing several hundred pinheads.

    Hatchling’s foods should be dusted with a calcium supplement at every feeding. Make sure your feeders are fed a healthy and varied diet so that they are well gut-loaded for your growing anoles.

    Babies should be moved to a separate juvenile/sub-adult enclosure once they are large enough to eat small (non-pinhead) crickets. Remember to always keep anoles of similar sizes together. Never add a small anole to a setup with larger adults.

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