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Reptiles/My sick green anole


The day I found him
The day I found him  
Clint\'s Terrarium
Clint's Terrarium  
QUESTION: Dear Donna,

Iím hoping based off of the info that I provide, that you can tell me what Iím doing wrong, and I really hope you are able to point me in the right direction to helping my green anole get through whatever is wrong with him.

My work place in Houston Tx. has a large warehouse, which is where I found my little friend. Back in August of 2012, a co-worker brought me this tiny anole, just over 2Ē long. He was very skinny, basically just skin and bones. His ribs were showing and he didnít have much life in him. He was completely brown. Realizing that he probably wouldnít live long in the wild, I decided to take on the challenge of reviving him back to health. I was a little discouraged after doing research, due to the maintenance of the needed environment. However I went for it anyways. Up until about two weeks ago, I would say for the most part, heís been progressing okay. I refer to him as he, due to the fact that Iíve seen his dewlap expand. The red extra skin under his neck. He has been very fun to watch, because he is quite active during the day. He hunts crickets and likes to jump from limb to limb. The only thing that seems off to me is his growth. I figure as small as he was, (just over 2Ē) he was quite young when I found him. Itís now been 13 months, and he is now 3 ĹĒ Ė 4Ē. Honestly I havenít yet researched their growth but itís more the body size that Iím concerned about more than the length. His ribs have always been visible although, there was a time frame of about 4 months where he constantly had a fat belly. Where his tail begins has always looked kind of bony and he has a permanent bend toward the end of his tail. He just hasnít looked very healthy, especially compared to other anoles Iíve seen. However, like I said, he has been very active in the past, which is why Iím sure something is wrong with him now.

Clint (The green anoleís environment)
His first 2 months with me, he lived in a 10 gallon start up kit from Petco. However after doing much more research, I upgraded. He has since lived in a 24Ēx18Ēx18Ē (WĒ x DĒ x HĒ) Exo-Terra Terrarium with the rock background. For most of his life, Iíve used the Zoo Med Eco reptile terrarium carpet. I tried the Zoo Med Repti Bark. This helped with the humidity, however it seemed to give the crickets too many places to hide, and it seemed that he was having trouble hunting them. So I switched back to the carpet. There are two rock looking bowls with water, along with artificial plants and vines. I purchased everything I have from Petsmart. For lighting, I have a Exo-Terra light canopy with two Repti Glo bulbs made by Exo-Terra. They are 26W 5.0 UVB bulbs. The light canopy rests about 10Ē above the top of my terrarium. For heating, I have a 100W Exo-Terra Basking bulb housed in a 5.5Ē Flukerís mini sun dome. It hangs about 3Ē above the screen top of my terrarium. Both the UVB lights and the sun dome are on a automatic timer that turns on at 8am and off at 8pm for 12hrs of light. The basking light is located over the far left side of the terrarium. The thermometer is located about 4Ē under the basking bulb and reads 92 degrees Fahrenheit. I mist the artificial plants and pretty much everything else in the tank about 4 Ė 5 times a day to keep the humidity up. When I do this, it usually rises to about 70% humidity, but then drops back down to about 35 Ė 40%. Iíve considered buying a repti-fogger from Zoo med, but just havenít pulled the trigger on this. Do you advise me to do so? The terrarium is located in my office where the room is kept at 72 degrees. I will attach a photo. He poops regularly all over the place, so I clean his habitat about once every month or two at the longest. I place him in a fish bowl with a small artificial plant. I basically just clean the tank and plants with water. No cleaning agents. I change his carpet once every 6 months, if not sooner.

Clintís eating habits:
The first few weeks were very scary. He was so tiny, and I couldnít find any crickets small enough for him. What finally worked were small meal worms, that I would cut in half. I would spray them with calcium supplement made from Zilla. For about 3 weeks, he would eat about 3 very small meal worms every other day. However after research, I found a lot of opinions saying meal worms are not a very healthy solution for anoles. I then started feeding him tiny fruit flies, purchased from Petsmart. He loved these. Maybe a couple of months later he was able to start eating small crickets, that I also purchase at Petsmart. However, until about 2 weeks ago I got lazy on spraying them with the calcium spray. I do keep the crickets in a large critter tote. I feed the crickets Flukerís calcium fortified cricket quencher and High-Calcium cricket diet, also from Flukerís. Maybe three times, (not lately) Iíve caught a fly in the warehouse and put it in his tank. This was really fun to watch him hunt them down. But basically, he just eats the small crickets that feed on the Flukerís diet. No more meal worms. I would say at least 1 cricket a day, sometimes 2 and I once saw him eat 3 in about an hourís time spand. I spray his artificial plants with filtered water, and there is one plant in particular, that he always goes to in order to drink water off of. Iíve never seen him drink from the bowls, which are also filled with filtered water.

The Problem
I recently traveled for work and was gone for the whole month of August. I cleaned the tank before I left and stalked up on plenty of crickets, so that my co worker could feed him. According to my coworker, he followed my instructions of misting the tank twice a day, and putting two crickets in his tank every other day. I told him to hold off if he ever saw more than 1 cricket in the tank. Due to running out of crickets, I believe he went about 5 days without eating before I got back. And he probably went about 3 days without the tank being misted before I got back. I returned to work on Sept. 3rd. He looked a little skinnier than normal and his skin looked a little more wrinkly than normal as well. His daily routine seemed to be the same though. He immediately ate 2 crickets that day along with some tiny fruit flies that I had just bought. Today is September 16th and two days ago was the first time that I saw him drink and eat since the day I got back on the 3rd. This is highly unusual. At least every other day, I see him hunt in the early hours of the day along with drinking some water. Normally I see him drink in the early hours of the day about 2 or 3 times a week. However I canít say that he hasnít ate at all because Iíve put crickets in the tank, and unless they are hiding really good, they donít seem to be stalking up. In the last two weeks, he has gotten skinnier and his activity level has been less and less every day. Two days ago when I saw him eat, he ate two crickets back to back. Iíve never seen him eat two crickets in such short of a time span. I felt relieved but then became worried when I saw how much trouble he had getting it to go down. It took him longer than usual to eat it. He had a cricket leg hanging out of his mouth for about 5 min. before either getting it down or spitting it out. Iím not sure which. Then he paced back and forth for about 20 min. while constantly opening his mouth. Finally he found a resting place and basically didnít move hardly at all for the rest of the day. Every so often he opens his mouth and looks like he wants to throw up. Yesterday he slept most of the day and every so often would open his mouth again. Today the same. Other than about a weird 15 min. of lethargically walking around a plant he just sleeps. If he moves, itís simply just to move to another spot to fall asleep again. He doesnít bask under the sun dome like he does everyday normally. During the day, he usually stays high up off the floor, however in the last two days, he has hung out on the plant near the floor where he sleeps. He did not eat yesterday nor today either. He closely watches a cricket if it passes him but doesnít make a move on it. There are a few fruit flies in there as well that he wonít go after. He usually always goes after fruit flies. Iím very worried. On the bright side, he is very green and his face is not sunken in at all. His head looks healthy but his body just seems to be getting skinnier and skinnier. Flabby skin. I did see him poop right after he ate those two crickets two days ago. The few movements that he does make are very slow and weak looking. Normally he is very aggressive with his movements.

My thoughts:
Iím now wondering if I got a bad batch of fruit flies or crickets. Should I get rid of them and go get new ones? Should I make sure to use some sort of reptile cleaning agent for his tank? And is that fogger a good investment to keep the humidity up rather than misting his tank? I would also like to know if, he was healthy, could he safely be let back into the wild after a little over a year of captivity. If not, no worries, because I will gladly continue to take care of him as I have. I just want to make sure that Iím doing everything to give him the proper environment. Please advise. I also read opinions saying that I could put him in a bowl with very shallow warm water if he is dehydrated. Please advise.

Other Info:
As I said earlier, he was wild caught as a very unhealthy baby. He has been on his own in his terrarium. No other life forms of any kind in his environment other than the food that Iíve listed. He shed about 3 months ago and maybe 5 or 6 times in the 13 months that Iíve had him. I used to run a 75w night black heat lamp from zilla at night but stopped this about 6 months ago. Should I restart this? If you need any further information, please contact me at the email address Iíve given.

*UPDATE*I wrote all of this yesterday, and am now sending this a day later. Today he did eat a cricket, but still slept all day. I did not see him drink any water. Also he seems to be taking very large hard breaths.

Thank you so much for your time,
Vincent and Clint

P.S. I'm sorry for such a long letter. I just wanted to make sure I gave proper information.

ANSWER: Well, it's always difficult to leave a reptile in someone's hands, then come back and find things aren't all well.

You should address hydration - his humidity shouldn't be falling below 60%, and it should be around 80% most of the time, rather than just spiking up that high occasionally.  Low humidity causes dehydration, and it sounds as though he was badly dehydrated when you returned. Dehydration can cause kidney problems.

The fact that he is apparently eating, but losing weight, is a sign of a problem, and the most common problem that could lead to this is a buildup of internal parasites.  All wild-caught animals have them, and they can build to lethal levels over time, in captivity, due to reinfection.  Why now?  Possibly because the period of dehydration put stress on his body, enabling the parasites or infection to gain a foothold.

The gaping and lethargy are also a sign of illness; possibly a respiratory infection, even. Since it's been going on for so long, you can't delay treatment.

I'm afraid your little guy actually needs to see a vet, pronto.  You may think that a vet couldn't do much for such a small animal, but that actually isn't the case; if you find a vet with lots of reptile experience, he'll be able to diagnose the issue, and prescribe worming meds or antibiotics in the correct dose for the little guy.

Based on the photo of your setup, you have your UVB lights suspended high above the enclosure - plus, you're using compact fluorescents.  Unfortunately, compact fluorescents perform very poorly when it comes to UVB output, and UVB fluorescents of any kind are virtually ineffective at distances of more than 8 inches from the animal.  Standard tube fluorescents are a better option, and they need to be right down close to where the animal basks, with no glass between the animal and the light.  5.0 are strong, but they don't do any good when they're a foot away or more, and the attenuation with distance is even worse when they're compacts.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you very much for the quick reply. I will definitely address the issues that you've pointed out. One more question. Is it safe to put him in a bowl with shallow luke worm water to help address the dehydration?

Thank you

ANSWER: I wouldn't - handling would just cause severe stress.  Try to keep stress to a minimum.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Clint Today
Clint Today  
QUESTION: I would just like to thank you again for taking my question the other day. I realize, that I probably made the letter way too long by giving pointless information. I'm sorry for that. I have since lowered the light and he seems to enjoy it a lot more. He also has become more active. I took him to the vet today who specializes in lizards. He confirmed that once he is back in good health, that it would be safe to release him into the wild. Do you agree? I am also going to buy a fresh air screen habitat, so that I can leave him outside to get real sun light. Thank you again for the advice.

Vincent and Clint

I'm glad he's feeling better.  Yes, it would be safe to release him into his native habitat, provided he hasn't been around any other reptiles. I wouldn't do so until spring, however.  If you use a screen habitat for natural sun, be sure that there is always shade available in it. (And beware of ants).


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Donna Fernstrom


My particular focus is on snakes and lizards, but I have a decent smattering of knowledge of turtles and crocodilians as well, plus the experience to get relevant information quickly if I don't have it on hand in my brain. I can answer questions on captive care, diet, breeding, incubation of eggs, starting hatchlings, and more. I am particularly experienced with ball pythons, Lygodactylus geckos and other small lizards with similar care requirements, leopard geckos, and garter snakes.


I am a professional breeder of ball python morphs, Lygodactylus (dwarf) geckos, and mourning geckos. I have begun working with Irian Jaya carpet pythons, and plan to expand to include more gecko species in the future. I also have a background breeding leopard geckos, and have kept several other species of small lizards, snakes, and a water turtle.

Nebraska Herpetological Society (

I have many care sheets published on my own website.

High School Graduate. Extensively self-taught due to high interest in wildlife and reptile care.

Awards and Honors
Fauna Classifieds board of inquiry Good Guy Certification

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