Today's Species of the Day is actually three species of Anoles commonly found in captivity. Since all three require similar care and can be kept in groups of the same species, I've decided to just profile all three. First, the brown anole:
Scientific Name: Anolis Sagrei
Adult Size: 5 to 8 inches
Range: Bahamas. Introduced to peninsular Florida and scattered through urban areas in the Southern United States.
Habitat: Fields and open woodlands, canal banks and open urban areas
The brown anole is mainly terrestrial, but it frequently climbs trees and vegetation. The terrarium should feature at least one higher promontory point from which the anole can survey the terrarium floor and also bask close to the heat lamp. Brown anoles are active by day and spend nights clinging to the underside of a leaf or stem.
Small, moving insects are essential as the brown anole's main prey. They are good eaters and will pounce on any small insect they see moving. Insects should be offered a few at a time until the anole no longer shows interest in eating. Loose feeder insects in the terrarium can be a source of stress as they can nibble toes and tail tips. A small water bowl tucked into one corner is fine, but a daily spritz of fresh water from a mister bottle will send the anoles licking droplets wherever they cling.
Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis
Adult Size: 6 to 11 inches
Range: South-Eastern US
Habitat: Prefers lush foliage, especially near water
This is the common "American chameleon", although its actually not related to chameleons at all. It can change color, but not with nearly the speed and range of colors of true chameleons. In biology, green anoles are much more like miniature green iguanas except that they primarily prey on insects.
Virtually all green anoles available in the pet trade are collected from the wild, despite their ease of breeding in captivity. This means that many green anoles come into captivity with already established daily routines, and may or may not adapt readily to cage life. Care must be used to make them happy to the best of one's ability to compensate and aid them in adapting. The green anole's nervous nature makes it advisable not to handle them very often.
If keeping many in the same terrarium, a cage of 20 gallons or larger, with numerous plants lining the back and sides of the terrarium is best. Leave an open space in the front as a place that feeder insects can be dropped in clear view of the hungry anoles. Green anoles like to leap down on potential prey from a high vantage point.
Provide a heat lamp over the highest plants so the anoles can bask directly below it. Water is best administered through a mister bottle. Wet the leaves so the drops of water can be lapped up by the anoles. A small water bowl is also a good to have present.
Scientific Name: Anolis equestris
Adult Size: 12 to 18 inches
Range: Cuba. Introduced populations in peninsular Florida
Habitat: Very arboreal, preferring large shady trees and craggy rocks
Temperament-wise, knight anoles are not the happiest campers in captivity. Most knight anoles are captured in Florida and don't adapt well to captive conditions readily. When choosing knight anoles, select the smallest available as their chances of acclimating are better than with older adults that are set in their routines. Make sure all anoles in the cage are the same size as they will happily much on a smaller lizards. Anoles pretty much have a one-tract mind; if it's smaller than you, it's edible.
A terrarium for knight anoles should emphasize the vertical and be at least three feet tall. Install at least a couple of stout tree limbs from the floor to the top of the cage, plus some horizontal branches for climbing. Position one limb so it allows the anole to bask under a heat lamp to optimize its temperature in a spot it can easily reach and climb down from throughout each day.
Insects are the favored food, but also leave soft , sweet fruits in shallow bowls where they can nibble them to add variety to their diets. Large adult knight anoles will also take pinky mice. Keep handling to a minimum with this species for it to thrive. The knight anole's shy nature and penchant for biting generally will assure this.
In short, with their bright displays and social behaviors, anoles make great pets to people who just want an animal to observe that doesn't require much handling and attention.