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Lizard owners are a special breed, and anole owners are another kind of “special” altogether. Green and brown anoles are funny-looking, funny-acting, and just an all-around bundle of fun to own.
But can you own both breeds together?
Well, tempting as that may be, there are actually several reasons why these are two bundles of fun that are best kept apart. Green and brown anoles simply don’t mix – and here’s why.
First, let’s take a closer look at what distinguishes anoles as pets in the first place.
Anoles are native to the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Their commonness combined with their low maintenance nature makes them a good first-time pet for those new to keeping reptiles.
Green anoles tend to require larger aquariums, especially if you keep them in groups. Ten gallons is the minimum acceptable size to house them comfortably, though if you’re housing a group you should really buy one that’s much larger.
While these reptiles are on the small side (another good feature for first-time owners), they are also comparatively delicate. They need to be handled very gently.
Males are about eight inches long, with females being a bit smaller on average.
Especially important for your breeding ambitions is the fact that anoles are territorial, especially males, who will fight over mates. They will extend dewlaps and get aggressive if they have to compete for females – though they may actually be even more aggressive.
As such, a tank of several females and one male is your best bet for a peaceful group.
Keep your tank at around 70% humidity. In the wild, anoles enjoy semi-tropical temperatures of about 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with a basking temperature of 85 to 90 degrees, with a minimum of 65 degrees at night.
Unsurprisingly, these lizards need a ton of light, between 12 and 14 hours per day.
That said, you should avoid hot rocks in your tank because they can burn their feet.
Anoles get all of their water by licking droplets off of leaves. They feed on different gut-loaded insects and mealworms, though you need to be careful about allowing them to eat insects from the wild, as they may be carrying pesticides.
Green Versus Brown Anoles
Green anoles may be peaceful, but the same may not be said of their brown counterparts. While not nightmarishly aggressive, there are several reasons why they typically have not been able to live peacefully with green anoles.
For one thing, they were never supposed to be together in the first place.
Brown anoles are an invasive species in the Southeastern United States, and are instead native to Cuba and the Bahamas. Since their mass introduction into the region several decades ago, they have been an ecological nightmare, with the population of green anoles decreasing significantly in areas in which brown anoles are populous.
One reason for that – brown anoles can eat green anoles’ eggs. That doesn’t exactly bode well for peaceful coexistence, does it?
Adding to that problem is the fact that, as an invasive species, they carry bacteria and diseases that are foreign to native species. Just as it may be dangerous for green anoles kept in captivity to consume wild insects because of what they may be carrying, the same goes for them meeting wild brown anoles.
The population of Native Americans were utterly ravaged by the horrific consequences of Europeans bringing smallpox, cholera, and other Old World diseases to the New World, against which they had no immunity. The same is true here – the bacteria and diseases which for brown anoles are minor nuisances can prove fatal to their immunity-free green counterparts.
In addition, brown anoles also tend to be more aggressive than green anoles. While the latter can, as mentioned above, be territorial and intimidate one another over mates, brown anoles take this to another level and are often better equipped for these fights.
Green anoles are not used to dealing with brown anoles given the latter’s invasive species status. That, combined with their heightened aggression, can cause them to bully and dominate green anoles if you place the two in the same tank.
For example, brown anoles can push green anoles away from the best basking areas, meaning they’ll get to enjoy more light and heat and thus reap the physical and emotional benefits that come with that. Brown and green anoles have roughly the same temperature needs, so if the former dominate the best basking spots over the latter, it can mean your green anoles will start to be left out in the cold – literally.
This aggression may become so open as to lead to brown anoles nipping green anoles.
Brown anoles also have a similar diet to green anoles, which can lead to competition and the brown anole coming out on top once again.
Then there’s the fact that green and brown anoles live in entirely different spheres. Whereas green anoles are more arboreal, staying amongst the trees, brown anoles live on the ground.
Now, at first this might almost seem like an ideal arrangement.
Since both are territorial and brown anoles are most aggressive, isn’t it a good thing that they prefer to live in different places? Can the green anoles be safe in the foliage of your tank and the brown anoles have the ground floor?
Well, it isn’t as easy as that.
For one thing, there’s no guaranteeing that in a space as small as a tank, brown anoles wouldn’t just scale the few inches of foliage you put in there to claim the green anoles’ space as their own.
Even more problematic, however, is the fact that while green anoles live among tree branches, they often lay their eggs on the ground, where their hatchlings grow up – right in the line of sight of some hungry brown anoles. We’ve already established that brown anoles are all too happy to snack on green anoles’ eggs, and putting them together like this simply makes that way too easy.
In short, if you don’t want to see some infanticide carnage, you should keep green anole and their eggs and hatchlings far away from their brown counterparts.
Even if they do survive, the evidence doesn’t point to a rosy future for your green anoles. Studies have found that in areas where green and brown anoles have coexisted since the latter’s invasion, this is often facilitated due in part to the green anoles simply avoiding them and “letting” the brown anoles dominate the space.
Needless to say, none of this is a recipe for a happy green anole. You don’t want to subject your pets to continued trauma, let alone violence and the risk of themselves being nipped or their offspring being gobbled up by hungry predators.
For that reason, it is best that you not house green and brown anoles together.
If you are choosing from among the two, remember that green anoles are the gentler species and the ones which tend to be more beginner-friendly.
Still, with the right knowledge and care, both can make for intriguing pets – as long as you don’t make the fatal mistake of putting the two together in the same tank.