There are 256 species of known Anole. They are native to a wide range of territory in the U.S., Caribbean Islands, and South America, and have even managed to establish significant populations as far away as Japan. Most anoles are at least partly arboreal, and have evolved special extended toes to not only climb up trees but easily grip vertical surfaces, such as glass, as well. Male Anoles (and females of some species) are known for their distensible throat fans, which are used during territoriality and intimidation displays, as well as during courtship. Each species’ throat fan is different, and scientists have discovered that these fans look even more unique to the Anoles themselves, which have very acute vision.
The most commonly available anole is the Green Anole, a species that is common to most of the Gulf Coast and Southern Atlantic states. Green anoles may go by the name “American Chameleon” in some areas, due to their amazing ability to change color from brilliant lime green to a dark brown within seconds. Unlike the true Chameleons, green anoles change color as a reaction to temperature, humidity, stress, and light intensity, not to blend in with their surroundings. Green anoles reach lengths of 5-8 inches, can live over four years and are excellent beginner’s reptiles because of their availability, hardiness, and modest lighting and feeding requirements.
Anoles as Pets: what to look for?
It is a good idea to observe Anoles for a while in the store before purchasing them; new arrivals will always be stressed from shipping, so give them a couple days to get comfortable with their new surroundings. Look for active and alert individuals, and stay away from those who are missing any toes, or have sunken eyes, open wounds, lose stools, trouble breathing, or obvious signs of malnourishment. Missing tails are no cause for alarm; anoles can regenerate their lost tails, though the regenerated tail will never look as good as the original. Male Anoles are highly territorial and will defend a territory that is about 4 sq.. feet in size, so only keep one male per enclosure and several females.
Because of their small size, low price, and availability at most pets shops that carry reptiles, green anoles are often an impulse buy; Although they are easy to keep, anoles do have a few requirements regarding their housing, and will thrive and even breed in enclosures that closely resemble their natural environment. The Green Anole is an arboreal species which loves to climb branches and glass surfaces and bask on broad leaves. This makes it a very talented escape artist, so whatever enclosure they are kept in should have a tight fitting screen cover. A pair or trio of green anoles can be happily kept in a 30 gallon tall aquarium. Octagon tanks, which come in a variety of sizes, are a more decorative alternative to a rectangular tank, and are perfectly suited for green anoles as well. With anoles, the more room the better. Some people even choose to keep their anoles in large outdoor cages or greenhouses.
Decorations for the Anole enclosure should include branches for your lizards to sleep and bask on. Basking is an important part of your lizards health, and will be discussed more thoroughly in the lighting section. Other decorations include live and plastic plants, rocks, and dry leaves. Small ponds and waterfalls, a beautiful addition to any enclosure, can also be constructed and will be enjoyed by your anoles.
Lighting and The Health of your Anoles
Proper lighting is crucial to the health of your Anoles; Like most reptiles, anoles are heliothermic, which means that they regulate their body temperature and derive most of their warmth from the sun. Besides regulating body temperature, a number of other benefits are derived from basking in full-spectrum lighting and natural sunlight. Full spectrum lighting, available in both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, provides anoles with both UV-A and UV-B rays. UV-A rays encourage natural behavior, while UV-B rays helps the body metabolize calcium. Absence of either can cause unneccesary stress on your lizards and lead to diseases such as metabolic bone disease. Full-spectrum bulbs should be replaced once every six months.
Nutrition; feeding and watering your anoles
Green anoles are insectivores, meaning that their diet should consist mostly of insects. Feeder insects should be fed a high-quality diet prior to being fed to your lizards. There are many high-quality foods on the market to “gut-load” your insects before feeding. Anoles can be fed crickets, meal worms, houseflies, fruit flies, and silkworms. Anoles also benefit from fruit nectar, and from the addition of dietary supplements including vitamins D-3 and the mineral calcium.
Watering your anoles may prove more difficult than feeding them; because wild anoles generally derive all of their water from drinking dew and rainwater droplets from leaves, most will not recognize a bowl of standing water as a drinking source. By misting your terrarium daily, you can provide your anoles with water.
Keeping your Anoles Healthy
Green anoles are generally hardy and rarely suffer health problems. Most problems can be prevented by simply providing the proper enclosure, nutrition, and lighting and by keeping that enclosure clean. It’s a good idea to know a reptile vet in advance just in case problems arise.
Stress can be caused by a number of factors including aggressive tank mates and improper living conditions. Stressed animals are more susceptible to disease. You can avoid stressing your pets by providing proper nutrition, housing, and lighting, by cleaning the enclosure regularly (a mild bleach solution of 1 part bleach per 10 parts water can be used), and by keeping a stable day/night cycle (light timers are great for this and are available in most hardware stores)
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is caused by improper nutrition. A lizard with MBD is taking calcium from its bones to compensate for low calcium levels in the blood, a result of either a lack of calcium in the diet or a lack of essential UV-B rays, which help the body metabolize calcium. Symptoms include shortened and weakened legs, a short, puffy jaw line, and a thin body with chubby legs. Treatment should include feeding a high-quality diet and making sure your pets have the correct, full spectrum lighting.
Mouth Rot seldom effects Anoles, and is a secondary infection to bruises or cuts to the snout or mouth. Symptoms include soft, puffy, and discolored tissue around the mouth and snout and a cheese-like buildup between the teeth. If left untreated, mouth rot can result in tooth loss, jawbone deterioration, and death. There are a number of mouth rot treatments available; a veterinarian or seasoned reptile keeper should be consulted before treatment.
Respiratory Ailments are also rarely seen in Anoles. They are caused by excessively damp and cold conditions either during transport or in the enclosure itself. Symptoms include labored breathing through a partially opened mouth. Because respiratory ailments can be either bacterial or viral in origin, a mucus or nasal swab is often required to determine the best treatment. In the meantime, elevating the temperature of the enclosure to 85° to 90° around the clock.
Anoles, like most lizards, periodically shed their skin. Although problems shedding are rare in wild anoles, they can occur in captivity as a result of being kept in an enclosure that isn’t humid enough. Problems with shedding are generally limited to narrow areas of the lizard’s body, such as the toes and the tip of the tail. If dried skin is left in place, the loss of a toe or tail tip can result. Misting the anole with tepid water or a daub of mineral oil on a cotton swab can help make removing dead skin easier.
In comparison with many reptiles, anoles are easy to keep and seldom experience any of the above health problems if given the proper care. They are among the best pets for the beginner who is interested in learning about reptile care and behavior. As stated earlier, there are 256 known species of anole, many of which are considered rare in the pet trade, and their care can differ dramatically from the care required by a green anole. Stop by All-Pet today and our trained staff will be happy to answer any questions or help you set up your new anole terrarium!