Helping you keep your aquarium beautiful and healthy


Own Your Own Chameleon

by Robert W. Bly, founder,

Chameleons are the quick-change artists of the animal kingdom, capable of changing color to blend into the background.

When I was a kid, chameleons were a popular pet. So I kept three in a ten-gallon tank with a basking lamp.

My chameleons could not change color to match any background. They could only switch between green and brown - not fancy, but still impressive.

It was only later we learned that the lizards sold to us as "chameleons" were in fact anoles. Today the deceptive sales practice has ceased, and anoles are sold under their regular name.

The lizards we owned were common green anoles, native to the United States. They are an affordable pet - only a few bucks each - compared with larger and more exotic lizards.

The problem with keeping small lizards in aquarium tanks is handling them. To give the tank a cleaning, you have to remove the cover, and at the first opportunity, the anoles want to jump out and escape.

Anoles seem very aware of escape opportunities. Whenever I started to remove the tank cover, they would climb higher on the plant or the glass wall of the aquarium, positioning themselves for a leap to freedom.

They are tiny and quick and fragile, making them hard to catch. If you have more anoles and a larger tank with some foliage, as we did later on, it's difficult to count and keep track of them.

The two foods we used were mealworms and crickets. They loved both, but it's more fun to feed them small crickets: the anoles hunt down and pounce on the crickets like a cat stalking a mouse.

You can buy a supply of crickets for multiple feedings and store them in a plastic container with air holes, and you can put in a piece of potato for the crickets to eat. I have never done this, finding the idea of giving food to my pet's food ironic and absurd.

Be careful about the size of the crickets you buy. Small and medium/small are ideal. Large/medium and large crickets make a lot of noise, which can be disturbing. And the anoles may not be able to kill and eat a cricket if he is too big.

Anoles love to climb. If you don't want to hassle with caring for a live plant, anoles seem just as happy with a fake plant, as long as the leaves are big enough for the anoles to perch on.

Anoles get thirsty! Keep a small water dish in the terrarium. In addition, spray a mist of water over the plant every day, so water drops bead up on the leaves; the anoles love to drink off the plants.