Home | Lizards | The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity – Care in Captivity – Part 3

The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity – Care in Captivity – Part 3

Please see Part I and Part II of this article for further information on Green Anole care. For Green Anole Natural History, Check out here.

Social Grouping

Keeping Several Males Together

Male anoles usually establish territories of at least 4 ft x 4 ft x 4 ft in captivity, so “one male only” is the rule in most home situations.   However, establishing 2 males in a suitably large enclosure is a worthwhile undertaking if at all possible.  If enough space is provided so that each can establish a territory, the males will display vigorously but will largely avoid physical contact (if crowded, the dominant animal will attack the other).  The presence of a competitor for female attentions may spur the males to breed as well.


Be sure to keep at least 3-4 females per male when attempting multi-male exhibits, as their presence may divert attention from aggressive displays and combat.  Another key to success lies in providing a complex environment filled with escape routes and sight barriers.  Vines, hanging plants and inter-twined branches will go a long way in increasing the effective size of your enclosure.

The Value of Smaller Pets and Zoo Animals

Observing anoles in colony-type situations will provide you with insights not possible in single-animal terrariums.  I have always preferred to keep smaller animals that could be well-provided for in captivity, as it is from these that we can truly get a feel for how life is conducted in the wild.

In a zoo or at home, one can more easily provide a “complete environment” for an anole than for an alligator.   Surrounded by creatures from all over the world during my years working for the Bronx Zoo, it was to those creatures most able to carry out a full range of behaviors that I was drawn.  I learned far more sitting in a greenhouse watching a colony of nearly “free-living” green anoles than I did in  front of multi-million dollar exhibits that, for all their good qualities, provided rhinos, bears, gorillas and other large mammals only a minimal replication of their wild habitats.

Female Dominance

Female green anoles will also establish a dominance hierarchy, based largely upon size. Those at the top may inhibit others from feeding and basking, so be sure to offer numerous basking and feeding opportunities and sight barriers.


Immature males are difficult to distinguish from females.  Watch smaller animals as they mature and remove any males, as these will be attacked by the adult male (please see Part I of this article for tips on distinguishing the sexes).

Compatible Species

Anoles, if given enough room, are ideally suited for community terrariums.  In the wild, they dwell in “edge habitats” (areas where 2 distinct habitat types meet) such as meadow-forest borders, and in the ecologically similar overgrown fields and gardens.  Habitat borders and edges usually support a greater variety of animals than do the interiors of either associated habitat.

The moderate temperatures and humidity levels favored by green anoles are suitable for a wide range of other interesting creatures.  It is often difficult to house amphibians and reptiles in the same enclosure, due to the great differences in their requirements, but green anoles uniquely span this gap.

Mixed-Species Considerations

When maintaining a mixed group of animal species, always provide more space than would be required for the same number of individuals in a single-species terrarium.  Be sure also to keep in mind the different feeding strategies of each.  For example, American toads will likely gobble up all non-climbing insects before anoles even begin to feed. On the other hand, anoles will leave no food for nocturnal hunters, such as green treefrogs, if all feeding is done during the day (the solution is to add a portion of the diet after the lights have gone out).



  1. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I find a lot of these multispecies tank examples quite interesting. I’m sure you are aware it is generally frowned upon in the private sector(for good reason, since most enclosures are too small to accomodate the needs of 2 diff. species). But it is great to see that with large enough tanks multispecies exhibits are possible.

    I currently have a 46 gallon bowfront paludarium which houses 5 gold dust newts(Cynops ensicauda popei), and some red cherry shrimp(Neocaridina denticulata). The newts have occasionally attempted to eat the shrimp but are too slow(I wonder if Pachytriton would have better luck). I’ve considered adding some more branches to the land area and adding a treefrog species…perhaps Polypedates leucomystax(which occurs on the Ryukyu islands but was introduced).
    Any thoughts?


    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your comments.

      I’m glad you mentioned the cherry shrimp…I addressed them in a recent response to another reader, and often wonder what it is that seems to protect them from predation. I’ve had a breeding colony for quite some time now. They share their enclosure with an African clawed frog, Xenopus tropicalis – not as large as the species usually seen in the trade, but just as ravenous and easily able to swallow an adult shrimp. The frog ignores them.

      I haven’t researched this, but I imagine that their bright color is a warning…unless they live on some sort of red background in the wild, which I doubt. However, young shrimp are light colored yet these too swim about with abandon, and are unmolested by the frog or resident guppies (swordtails did pick at the shrimp, although I did not see them eating any)…well, something to look into…

      The treefrog you mention, often sold as the golden or Asian brown treefrog, would do well in the tank you describe. They are uncanny at positioning their foam nests right over water – including water bowls in relatively dry terrariums. One thing to be aware of is that their tadpoles are highly predacious…I fed them pre-killed shrimp and guppies but, given what I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised if they attacked live shrimp or even newts. Also, be sure to remove any foam nests soon after hatching, as they break down and fall into the water, causing a mess.

      Please keep me posted,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your kind words and the very useful information…the shrimp being bred for color in captivity explains a lot, including why tan-colored offspring turn up from time to time.

      Newts are as you say quite slow and deliberate in their feeding. Those I’ve encountered in the wild have always been in densely vegetated ponds, where they were more walking than swimming through the water…usually these habitats were thickly populated with tons of tiny invertebrates, which the newts likely bump into in their travels. Many species do orient to scents rather quickly…I’m guessing that they consume a good many dead inverts in the wild as well. Of course, a number inhabit relatively clear streams and such, it is puzzling how they get along. Some terrestrial species are the same way. Then of course we have amphiumas, which feed more like water snakes than salamanders!

      I don’t know of any other treefrogs in the trade from the Ryuku chain or nearby. The golden treefrog tadpoles would likely be fine when first hatched, maybe even newt food as you suggest…you could always raise them elsewhere.

      I need to check my notes but I believe it was at Japan’s Tama Zoo (which has both a huge building and an outdoor exhibit for invertebrates, mainly insects – just spectacular) where I came across an exhibit dedicated to 1 of the Ryuku’s tiny, lesser known islands. An amazing assortment of unique invertebrates there, the area considered “Japan’s Galapagos” by local biologists.

      Thanks again for the info and kind words, Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here. Nice to hear from you again.

      Outdoor enclosures for lizards are ideal, you should see quite allot of interest, including reproduction. Anolis from the north of the range would be best, some southern animals may survive but you would get die-offs at times. Many of the larger dealers get their anoles from Louisiana…depending on where within the state, these might be fine. The smaller dealers often collect their own animals, and are usually happy to help out with locale information.

      You have great potential there for so many lizards. Italian wall lizards (Podarcis sicula) are introduced here in NY and elsewhere, and would whether your winters easily. They are great in group situations…you could have multiple males in your set up and utilize rock piles and stumps for displays, sunning etc. They would get along with the anoles as well.

      You could also introduce any of several native tree frogs and breed them as well…green, barking, gray and so on, various toads, etc.

      Sounds like fun…I’m stocking my outdoor pond right now, and you have me thinking…Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Good to here I’m not alone with this question! The red coloration I’ve read is selectively bred, wild shrimp being a brown color. I suspect it is something along the lines of certain animals not recognizing them as prey items. I noticed that after I fed my newts crickets they showed more interest in trying to eat the shrimp. Also, I can’t help but wonder with most newts being rather clumsy/slow hunters how they make do in the wild. Some killifish people I know use them as feeders, but mention that they can survive in tanks with lots of cover. I think a neat setup would be a big tank with some SA leaffish(Monocirrhus polyacanthus) plus some of these shrimp, and a sump or seperate tank to culture additional shrimp and feeder guppies. I wonder if you’d be able to get it to the point that you only occasionally need to add more shrimp/guppies.

    Thanks for the info on the frogs! Would have never guessed that from the tadpoles! I was thinking that the tadpoles would be yet another food source for the newts(I’ve read that this species preys heavily on larvae of other species in the pools during the breeding season). Any other suggestions? Would need to be something that is available, of course.

    Thanks! This blog is a great resource.

  3. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Agreed on scents. Its neat to observe them sniffing through the sand for worms. Apparently their lateral line is pretty good as they are quick to respond to stuff wiggled about in the water. This paludarium happens to have a decent blackworm population and sometimes the newts have a crack at them if they don’t retreat back into their hiding places. Can’t say they have a very high success rate however. The suction they produce is not very powerful and I’ve seen many times they will miss even chopped worms. I guess in the wild they mainly feed on tiny invertebrates as you suggested, with stuff such as earthworms being a rather uncommon oppurtunity. When I was raising them from morphs they were quite difficult to feed. I resorted to putting blackworms on clumps of moss, adding springtails regularly, RFB larvae, and tweezer feeding them earthworms. The morphs seem adapted to taking rather small insect prey as opposed to worms since they use the tongue flick. But they cannot compare to Bratachoseps, kept some briefly and they are incredible hunters, practically never missing even tiny, fast moving targets.

    One thing is for sure is that it is difficult to say from captive observations what animals eat in the wild, since they cannot always get what they prefer(ex. land crabs which prefer animal food but in the wild eat mainly leaf litter)

    Hope to hear back soon!

    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here. Great observations, thanks!

      Stocking a tank with blackworms is in my opinion a very good move – really keeps animals, be they fish, inverts or herps, exploring and hunting. Blackworms are great scavengers as well, getting under rocks and other hard-to-reach places, and they eat quite a bit. After dark, they leave the gravel bed and will converge on dead fishes, etc. – perhaps this is when they are taken by newts in numbers.

      The lateral line is important in locating food – functions much as in fish, African clawed frogs, etc., and works in conjunction with olfaction.

      Yes, captive observations often give us only hints, or sometimes serve to confuse if we don’t look further. There are some surprising feeding adaptations that never need be used in captivity, but are vital in the wild. Quite large turtles (i.e. many Amazon side-necks, Podocnemis spp.) utilize neustophagia – a feeding strategy wherein they use throat palpitations to pump the water’s surface film into their mouths, and then snap the jaws shut – retaining tiny bits of organic matter and spewing out the water. Turtles weighing in excess of 40 pounds will do this for hours on end…obviously gaining enough nutrition to make it “worthwhile”. Adult common snapping turtles are often observed eating duckweed, along with associated tiny invertebrates. I recently saw some footage (perhaps Planet Earth series) of flat rock lizards leading into the air to snare individual midges from swarms of millions – each insect seemed not much larger than a fruit fly, and the lizards are 6-8 inches long…but there are so many midges that hunting them makes sense.

      As always, thanks for your input, much appreciated.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Wow, feeding adaptations are all fascinating. Filter feeding turtles? Who would have thought!

    Have you any experience with different feeding abilities amongst caudate species? Some memory recalls Triturus karelinii to be much more voracious. I’ve observed on quite a few occasions they would “death roll” to pry worms out from under rocks that had almost gotten away. Pachytriton people claim can occasionally catch fish, I’m guessing they are the most efficient newt predators living in mountain streams and probably feeding mainly on insect larvae. Some have speculated the upper lip protrusions on the sides of the mouth of newts(particularly Pachytriton) serve to increase the efficiency of the buccal pump. Another thing hobbyists need to keep in mind is that in the wild most species spend significant time on land. Thoughts?

    Thanks! Incredible stuff

    • avatar

      Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your note and glad you enjoyed my last…yes, always something surprising, really no end to it (thankfully!).

      I have also seen various newts roll with food in the manner of minute crocodilians. Some definitely use their tongues more than others, i.e. the dusky salamander (which, amazingly, still holds on at a site or 2 in Manhattan).

      Some newts capture fishes that sink to the bottom at night…also, the fry of some species are largely immobile for awhile after birth, and hide in the dense vegetation that newts favor as favorite hunting grounds.

      Some seem very adaptable as concerns terrestrial/aquatic activity…varies with habitat in some cases, and with season, etc. Those northern red salamanders that I have encountered have always been very near stream-sides, on saturated ground, and in captivity I keep them so (by the way, a black-chinned red salamander that I have is approaching 30 years of age, but most of the fine work in raising it was done by a friend)…but on Caudata.org I saw an amazing video of a group that seemed to spend a great deal of time underwater, and were perfectly at home there. Alpine newts seem also to vary greatly in this regard from place to place.

      A most interesting feeding adaptation that comes to mind involves 2-toed amphiumas. Several adults under my care behaved similarly: they would grab large crayfish and jerk backwards several times, very rapidly…it was hard to tell what was going on but the crayfish wound up quite mangled and often missing one or both claws, and completely defenseless. Soft, newly molted crayfish were eaten without “pre-treatment”…off the topic a bit, but large orb weaving spiders (Nephila sp.) that I encountered in Costa Rica would very deliberately remove the rear legs of large grasshoppers (which I tossed into their webs) before biting and wrapping the insects. Soft-bodied katydids of the same size, which lacked the grasshopper’s kicking power and so could damage neither spider or web, were bitten and wrapped immediately…I still regret not bringing a few of those spiders home for further work…well, next time (or you do it!).

      As always, thanks for the interesting communication,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I am in the process of constructing a 2 x 2 x 4 LWH outdoor enclosure from PVC. Plan is to have window screen/quarter inch hardware cloth for the sides and a lexan hinged door and a screen door to access inside). Do you think green anoles could survived in a sheltered position outdoors here in Central Cal? We get frost here…it is an ideal climate for growing many fruiting trees.(USDA hardiness zone 8b which matches up with Gainesville, FL) I think I might need to obtain a more Northerly population? I’m hoping to add some flowering plants inside and with larger mesh size on one(not so large the anoles can escape) allow some natural food in. Any other small lizards that would be an appropriate substitute if not?

    (if not…maybe use it to attempt to breed phoenix worms)

  6. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Well, I managed to put together the enclosure. It is certainly not a work of art and I probably chose the worst species to attempt to build my first enclosure for…I am not 100% confident it is escape proof because the buggers can slip through the tiniest slots! Not sure if it is possible to post/send photos to you for critique.

    It currently houses 4 anoles(obtained from Petco, so Louisiana origin). Planted a sweet pepper plant, strawberry offsets, and some unID’ed vines under it in hopes they will grow up and provide the anoles with foliage and bugs. Ever tried anything similar? Will probably still feed them fair frequently until things grow in more. Do you think some mulch/leaf litter would be good for them to hide in during the winter?


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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