Anoles as Pets

A group of Anoles housed in a large, planted terrarium will show off a range of behaviors unrivaled in the lizard world. Alert, active, and capable of rapid color changes, male Anoles erect colorful dewlaps during mating and territorial displays.

The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis), has introduced generations of lizard enthusiasts to reptile-keeping; it and several other species are now widely-bred in captivity.


Most herpetologists consider the Anoles to be the most successful of all lizard groups. An amazing 388 species have been described to date, and new ones are found quite regularly. Although outwardly similar in appearance, several Anole species may occupy the same habitat by utilizing slightly different niches and foods. This, and the ability of many to adapt to and even benefit from human presence, accounts for the staggering population densities they can achieve – up to 10,000 per acre on some Caribbean islands!

The world’s 388 Anole species are classified in the family Dactylidae (formerly Iguanidae) and the genus Anolis.

Range and Habitat

Anoles are found throughout much of the Western Hemisphere, from the southern United States through the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America and across most of South America. Mexico supports 50 or more species, while well over 100 occupy various Caribbean islands. The United States is home to a single native species, the Green Anole, but stowaways and released pets have resulted in the establishment of breeding populations of at least 9 foreign species! All except the Brown Anole seem restricted to Florida, which is now home to Hispaniolan Green Anole, Puerto Rican Crested Anole, Barbados Anole, Marie Gallant Sail-Tailed Anole, Cuban Green Anole, Jamaican Giant Anole, Large-Headed, Bark Anole, and the Knight Anole.

Most Anoles are arboreal, with different species favoring bushes, tree trunks, low limbs and forest canopies. Ground-dwelling species are also known. Anoles of one type or another may be found in rainforests, cities, farms, suburban yards, arid scrub, swamps, brushy grasslands, riverside thickets, and many other environments. Some, such as the Cuban Brown Anole, are highly adaptable and may actually be more common in and around human dwellings than in their natural habitats.

Appearance and Temperament

All Anoles are alert and active, and share similar physical characteristics – a streamlined body and long tails, limbs and digits. Males (and, in some species, females) sport colorful dewlaps that are erected during mating and territorial displays. The background color of most Anoles lizards is usually green or brown, and many are capable of rapid color changes.

Most Anoles measure 6-8 inches when fully-grown, but the largest, Cuba’s Knight Anole, A. equestris, is an 18-inch long hunter of treefrogs, other lizards, small snakes, and nestling birds. The Grenada Anole, A. richardi, is also sizable, sometimes exceeding 12 inches in length.

Being on the menus of predators ranging from large spiders to mammals, Anoles are ever-wary, and tend to remain high strung in captivity. They fare best in large enclosures stocked with live plants, and rarely take well to handling.

Anole Housing

Anoles lizards are out and about by day, and nearly all are very active. Anoles are ideally suited for life in large, planted terrariums, where their group dynamics will keep even the most experienced keeper fascinated. Many breed year-round if properly cared for, and some may be kept with certain tree frogs, and skinks in mixed-species enclosures.

Anoles Lizards should be provided with suitably high temperatures (basking sites should be kept at 95-100 F), and abundant UVB exposure. Fluorescent UVB Bulbs simulate daytime sunlight, and produce both UVA (ultraviolet A), and UVB (ultraviolet B) light, which many reptiles require to metabolize calcium.

A large terrarium is essential if a healthful temperature gradient (areas of hot and cooler temperatures) is to be established.

Anole Diet

Anoles are largely insectivorous, but most also take over-ripe fruit, nectar and sap on occasion. The huge Knight Anole may benefit from the occasional addition of a pinky or house gecko to the diet. A highly-varied diet, calcium and vitamin supplementation, and exposure to UVB is essential for success with these fascinating lizards.