Green anoles are highly popular pet lizards, famous for their cute appearance, ease of care, and resilience. They don’t need much space and are generally hardy. They can also live in pairs or groups, compared to other lizards like crested and leopard geckos.
But did you realize that there are also brown anoles available and that they’re different from the green ones? Most people believe that the only difference is in the color, but that’s not the only distinction.
Green and brown anoles also differ in terms of body size and shape and behaviors and temperament. So, let’s analyze the 2 species back-to-back to shed light on their physiological differences.
What is a Green Anole?
The green anole is a green lizard with a while underbelly and a pink/purpleish dewlap on their neck which they can flare at will. This is basically a section of skin that can reflect UV light to attract breeding mates. Only males possess the dewlap for the most part, although females can have it too, except far smaller and less colorful.
Interestingly enough, the green anole can change its color at times, varying between brown and emerald green. This confuses more inexperienced anole lovers who think that the brown version is just a regular green anole changing its color temporarily.
However, this is not the case, as we will soon see.
What is a Brown Anole?
The brown anole, or the Bahaman anole, is a different species but it’s closely related to the green morph. They are widespread in the wild and actually rank as pests due to their ease of breed and insatiable appetite. Fortunately, they also make for great pets thanks to their easy-going attitude, ease of adaptability to life in captivity, affordable price, and overall availability.
It’s interesting to note that brown anoles can also display various color changes, specifically depending on the morph. Some specimens are yellow, while others are grey or black with white patterns.
While green and brown anoles are different, there’s no problem with confusing the 2, given that they have similar requirements.
Comparison: Green Anole vs Brown Anole
Now let’s compare the 2 species more in-depth.
Aside from the obvious color difference, the 2 species also showcase several other appearance-related differences. The color of the dewlap is one of them. The dewlap is either pink or purple in green anoles and dark red in brown anoles.
Also, green anoles showcase clean colors with no visible pattern for the most part. Exceptions may exist, but they’re just that – exceptions. However, brown anoles are typically patterned. Most specimens showcase stripes or spots on the dorsal area, typically white or yellow, although other colors may be involved as well.
Then you have the dorsal crest. Brown anoles have a distinct dorsal crest that doesn’t exist in green anoles.
Finally, you have the color change to account for. Green anoles can change their coloring at times, although they’re nowhere near as efficient with it as chameleons, for instance. But they can exhibit shades of brown or various tints of green. Brown anoles can’t do that as they always retain their native coloring and pattern.
Other than that, the 2 species are quite similar in appearance. With similarly-sized bodies, a slim structure, and stocky and powerful legs for ease of movement and increased agility.
Size and Growth
Both green and brown anoles can reach up to 6-8 inches, depending on their genetic background, diet, and environmental conditions. Females are always smaller, typically no larger than 6 inches, if that.
Both species have identical requirements. These include:
- Tank size – 10 gallons for one lizard and 20-30 gallons for a pair and a trio, respectively. You can keep either species in a group, so long as you only have a male per enclosure. Males are notorious for their extreme territorial behavior.
- Humidity – Aim for humidity values between 60 and 70%, although some variation is acceptable in either direction. Air humidity is critical for both species in terms of proper hydration. That’s because green and brown anoles only drink water from the plants around them. You can try to teach them to drink from a bowl, but you’ll likely fail.
- Temperature – In typical reptile fashion, anoles demand a subtle temperature gradient around their habitat. The standard temperature should revolve between 75 and 80 F for approximately 70% of the enclosure. The last 30% should deliver temperatures around 85-90 F. This is the basking area that allows the reptile to heat up its body faster in case it needs to. A basking area is great for digestion and for supporting the reptile’s overall physiology. Nighttime temperatures should fall as low as 65 F, but not lower.
- Light – Anoles require a constant UVB light source in their enclosure to provide them with 12-14 hours of light per day. The UVB light is critical for the reptiles’ health, improving their digestion and nutrient absorption. Without that, they cannot process calcium due to a lack of vitamin D3, which is one of the main triggers of Metabolic Bone Disease.
When it comes to social structure, both species enjoy living in groups, although you need to manage that carefully to prevent tensions.
It’s worth noting that green anoles aren’t as domesticated and tamed as other lizard species. So, don’t expect them to be as friendly and easy-going as leopard or crested geckos. They’re not aggressive either, but they’re clearly shier and more feral than other species.
This is why the reptile’s habitat should always feature a lush layout with plenty of climbing and hiding areas. Anoles are easy to rattle and require fast escape routes for them to feel safe in their small ecosystem.
Between them, anoles are generally sociable and calm, but they operate based on a hierarchy. Males are particularly aggressive towards each other over territorial disputes, so you should never have more than one male per anole tank.
Anoles are not your typical geckos, so they are not exactly petting material. They will allow you to hold them for a bit and after a while, but don’t push it. Some anole keepers don’t even pet their lizards because of how stressed they get. Always check your reptile’s comfort level with petting before committing to it.
Green anoles live slightly longer than their brown counterparts. You can expect your green anole to live between 5 and 8 years in good conditions, while brown anoles will rarely get to 6. The animals’ lifespan depends on numerous factors like the level of comfort, diet, environmental conditions, genetic makeup, etc.
Some lizards live longer than others based on all these metrics, despite belonging to the same species.
Both species are equally as easy to care for and maintain. That being said, we need to define what easy means because reptiles, in general, demand specific environmental conditions and diets to thrive. You need to manage humidity, temperature, diet, UV light, and overall layout to provide your lizard with a long, healthy, and happy life.
These may sound overwhelming to a complete beginner, but they’re easily manageable to someone with basic knowledge on reptile care. Get a care sheet in place, understand your lizard’s requirements, and you’ll get the hang of it quite fast. Moving forward, so long as your lizard’s parameters are in check, including the diet, the reptile will almost become self-sufficient, with little effort on your part.
Both species struggle with the same health issues, usually stemming from problems like lack of enclosure hygiene, poor diet, unstable parameters, continuous stress, etc. Lack of proper humidity and improper nutrient intake are some of the primary causes of health problems in reptiles in general.
On one hand, low or high humidity cause several problems, including with shedding, respiratory infections, and skin infections. On the other hand, improper diets lead to calcium deficiency which is the main trigger of Metabolic Bone Disease.
Other than that, these lizards can also struggle with physical injuries due to rough social interactions or when traversing their environment carelessly. You can tell that the lizard is not well by assessing its behavior. Sick lizards stop eating, appear lethargic or irritable, and spend more time than necessary in hiding.
As a general rule, early disease detection and treatment are critical for minimizing the damage and allowing for quick recovery.
Price & Cost
Both green and brown anoles are equally as cheap. You can get a specimen for little under $10 which gives you some wiggle room in case you mess things along the way. Your reptile is easily replaceable.
Diet & Feeding
Green and brown anoles have similar dietary preferences. They are insectivores, so they consume insects and worms exclusively. They require a varied diet and calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation to prevent deficiencies. Adult anoles only eat once every other day, although some specimens eat daily, depending on their size and appetite.
Babies and juveniles require 1-3 meals per day, based on similar factors. You should never feed your anoles too many worms, if ever. These contain too few nutrients and too much fat for them to meet the lizard’s nutritional needs.
Also, live foods are absolutely necessary. That’s because lizards only eat moving prey that they can detect moving or flying around it. It won’t react to dead insects because the lizard uses its sight as the primary hunting method.
Green Anole or Brown Anole – Which is Better for You?
They’re both great for you if you’ve decided that you want an anole. Just pick your species, house the lizards in a personalized and optimized environment, and manage their requirements properly and they won’t ask for anything else.
Anoles are easy-going lizards that are highly popular in the reptile trade. They are generally easy to care for and can live in groups, provided you only have one male in the enclosure. As for the right anole species for you, that’s up for you to decide.