Why is My Green Anole Turning Brown?

Green anoles aren’t particularly sensitive reptiles, but they, too, can deal with some health problems occasionally. An interesting fact about anoles is that, while they don’t have chameleonic color changes, they can change their color at times. However, this isn’t the result of mere will, as it is the case with chameleons and other color-changing animals, but it’s rather automatic.

The anole’s color changes due to several reasons, but they generally indicate some form of distress. Most importantly, you shouldn’t confuse the green anole turning brown with the actual brown anole, which is a distinct species. Brown anoles are just as popular, except that they rank as pests in the wild.

5 Reasons Green Anole is Turning Brown

Green anoles should have a clean green coloring, often varying in intensity, depending on the specimen. But the anole should never be brown, white, or showcase any other coloring. If it does, something is not right. Let’s check the primary reasons why green anoles often turn brown.

– Cold

Green anoles require a specific temperature gradient, depending on the area in the tank and the time of day. The basking spot should get close to 85-90 F in the upper regions of the tank, while the lower regions should revolve around 75-85 F. During the nighttime, the temperature can drop as low as 65-75 F.

The problem comes with exposing the lizard to low temperatures for too long. Like any other reptile, the anole cannot self-regulate its body temperature. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures will lead to visible distress, digestive problems, temperature shock, and death.

Fortunately, your anole will inform you of its discomfort early on. The color change is but one of the signs, but there are more to consider. You may also notice your lizard growing lethargic and moving with difficulty, as well as migrating to its normal basking area in search for some warmth.

You should always have a thermometer installed to monitor environmental temperature constantly.

– Stress

This is a tricky one because green anoles are generally shier than other reptiles. They can experience stress for various reasons, including sickness, parasites, poor diet, inadequate temperature, humidity, etc. A stressed anole will showcase its discontent via color change, but will also become more irritable and spend more time in hiding.

You should always assess your reptile’s condition if you notice signs of stress. Identifying the cause of stress immediately is necessary to prevent your lizard’s condition from worsening. Keep in mind that green anoles can also get stressed when handled too much or when first arriving in their new home. They need time to adapt to their surroundings, so give them the space they need.

green anole head

– Diseases

Green anoles face the same health problems that plague the reptile world. These include:

  • Digestive issues – Constipation and impaction are some of the most widespread problems, often resulting from improper diet, insufficient humidity and hydration, and even low temperatures.
  • Flatworms – Flatworm infections will cause your anole to lose weight and experience nutritional deficiencies over time. The condition requires immediate treatment, because flatworm infestations are known to kill reptiles quite fast.
  • Respiratory infections – These generally occur in very low humidity conditions and can get deadly quickly.
  • Dehydration – The same applies here. Green anoles require an environmental humidity of 60-70% to remain hydrated and healthy. You should always spray their habitat so they have water to drink off of the surrounding plants.
  • Skin infections – These have many potential triggers, including mild injuries, bacterial infections, and even incomplete shedding, causing the old skin to stick to the new one and cut blood circulation in the area. In that case, skin infections are the least of your concerns because the lack of blood flow in the strangulated area will lead to tissue necrosis and gangrene.

Green anoles can also get skin mites in some cases due to outside contamination. Whatever the cause of discomfort may be, your anole will always state its discomfort via color and behavioral changes. These instinctive reactions inform you of your reptile’s physical and mental states.

– Environment

Green anoles require a specific habitat layout with climbing areas, open spaces for physical activity and exploration, and hiding areas for safe retreat and resting. Ignoring these requirements can make your anole feel unsafe in its habitat and experience stress as a result.

The reptile may show a change in coloring, low appetite, low energy, and hiding behavior. Figure out your anole’s environmental requirements, provide it with sufficient space, vegetation, and exploration areas, and monitor its behavior constantly. At least for the first several days after it first arrives home.

Also, don’t readjust or redecorate your lizard’s habitat, not even after the general cleaning session. Your reptile will become accustomed to a specific layout, and changing it will give it the impression of a new home. Hence, more incentive for the anole to become stressed again.

– Aggression

Many people keep several anoles in the same tank, despite these being mostly solitary animals. This doesn’t mean that they can’t live in groups, though. Green and brown anoles are often found in groups in the wild, although this is generally more difficult to recreate in captivity.

If you plan on keeping several anoles in the same environment, consider the following 3 points:

  • No more than one male – You should never even consider having more than one green anole male per tank. Males are extremely hierarchical, aggressive, and territorial towards one another. They are also very protective of their harems since each male often has several females around. So, you either go for one male and several females or a female-only tank if you don’t plan on breeding the reptiles.
  • Sufficient space is necessary – You need to have a lot more space available than usual. Female anoles aren’t as aggressive as the males, but they can get irritable and grumpy if they feel overcrowded. Make sure there’s sufficient space for them to climb, hide, and explore at their hearts’ content.
  • Always keep a watchful eye – Even if things are seemingly calm and positive, everything can turn at the blink of an eye. You should always watch your green anoles and check their interactions daily. Look for signs of aggression or food or space competition, allowing you to gauge the energy between your lizards.

Repeated aggression from their tankmates is always a cause for stress among anoles. Not to mention, such aggression can lead to injuries which are always prone to infections in warm and humid setups. If you don’t think you can handle the heat coming with a group of anoles, I suggest sticking to one specimen for a while.

Do Green Anoles Change Color for Camouflage?

They do not. Green anoles are predominantly green because this is the actual camouflaging color that’s best fitted for their environment in the wild. But they cannot change their color at will to adapt to their surroundings the way a chameleon can. If your anole changes its color, that’s always an indicator of an automatic response to some form of stress.


Green anoles are generally known as calm, albeit shy reptiles that like peace and solitude. They aren’t too sickly in general but can experience some health problems depending on their diet, environmental conditions, genetic makeup, and many other factors.

If your green anole displays tints of brown, put your Sherlock Holmes glasses on and get to work. The sooner you figure out the cause, the better.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...