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Learn about green anole shedding.

Green Anole Shedding (What to Know)

Your green will shed about once every other month when it’s fully grown.

As a juvenile or hatchling, shedding occurs much more often.

But what do you do when a shed goes wrong? Like when a piece of skin doesn’t come off on its own.

Or what do you do when your lizard no longer has an appetite during this time?

Let’s dive in and talk about anole shedding 101.

Why is my green anole shedding?

Green anoles, like any other reptilian lizard, will shed. That’s far from surprising.

Your anole will turn into a milky white when it’s about to shed. The outer, thin layer will shed off slowly over the course of a few days.

During this time, your lizard may have a change in behavior as its outer skin turns patchy and slowly breaks apart. It doesn’t shed everything in one big piece of skin.

Different reptiles will shed in different ways.

For anoles, they will shed in sectional skin “peels”. The outer skin will turn a grayish milky-white right before it’s about to come off. Then it’ll slowly break apart into pieces.

Generally, you’ll find that green anoles shed their skin in the following order:

  • A visible split down the spine of the lizard
  • A split between the right above the vent, separating the tail from the body
  • The feet will break into their own sections, followed by the head
  • Then each section will slowly peel off, getting more patchy as time goes on

It’s normal for green anoles to shed off entire pieces at once, but most likely, you’ll see that it breaks apart into small sections of skin.

Unlike snakes, which shed in one giant piece, anoles will shed in small pieces that you’ll find randomly in your terrarium. It’s important to never try to peel the skin off, no matter how “stuck” it looks.

This is also why your tank shouldn’t have objects with sharp edges or pointy decorations where loose skin can get caught as it makes for a mad dash to the crickets. Ouch.

Then you also have turtles that shed small scutes (plate-like skin pieces) that make up their outer shell. Guess what crocodiles shed? Scales. It’s like a big version of a lizard.

The length of time for anoles to completely shed will vary. Here’s a brief rundown of how long it takes:

  • Pre-shed (2-3 days)
  • Shedding (1-3 days)
  • Completely shed (3-7 days)

Depending on your anole, the times will vary. Shedding time depends on the anole’s size, sex, age, nutrition state, and environment. You’ll find your anole’s shed time will be slightly different from others in the community.

But the most important factor in determining shed time? Humidity.

The humidity level of the terrarium greatly influences how long it takes for it to shed. Lower humidity levels will make it take longer. Higher humidity levels speed it up.

In the wild, anoles will seek out areas of moisture to help them get rid of the old skin. You should try to do the same in your tank, especially if it’s having trouble dropping the skin.

Why is humidity so important for a proper shed?

There’s a thin layer of fluid between the old/new skin. Without proper moisture, it can’t slough off the old skin smoothly. Think of it like engine grease.

If humidity is low, then there’s no enough “greasy” substance to get the old skin off. If there’s enough moisture between the skin layers, then it slides off easily.

How often do they shed?

Most anoles will shed about once per month, but it varies depending on the season and the conditions of the environment (e.g. your tank). So it’s hard to say.

Generally, you can expect hatchlings to shed very frequently (nearly every other week). Juvies will shed every 2-3 weeks. Adults will shed about every month or two.

Some anoles will shed even less frequently if they’re stressed or have poor nutrition (since they’re not growing so they don’t shed).

My anole is eating the old shed skin- what do I do?

This is expected behavior, so you don’t need to be alarmed. Although it may seem gross, it’s normal as the skin contains precious nutrients that can be “recycled.”

But they only do this when they don’t get enough from their food intake, so it could be a sign that you need to adjust their diet.

If this is the case, make sure you’re feeding the right insects for the age of the anole- with the right amount and frequency.

Some reptiles will even eat the skin of others. How cool is that?

If you need to change its diet, do so gradually by removing 50% of the old food and swapping it with 50% of the new food- just like a puppy.

Otherwise, you can upset the lizard’s digestion.

Signs that your anole is about to shed

When your anole is going to shed, you’ll notice some telltale signals:

  • Less active (more lethargic)
  • Lack of appetite or not eating
  • Constant brown or black coloration
  • Duller in color
  • Whitish, milky skin
  • Avoiding basking spots
  • Diminished fluid intake (drinking or licking water droplets)

During this time, your lizard is under stress. Avoid disturbing it.

Feed it smaller insects than usual or reduce feeding proportions. It may not eat for 2-3 days or so. Avoid handling your anole during this time. But if you need to fix something or service the tank, do it.

Just try not to bother it as it’ll likely be cranky. Bites can become more frequent. It also can be skittish more than usual. Reptiles eat in the pre-shed period, but will slowly eat less as the shed takes place.

Help! My green anole’s skin won’t shed

If your anole is having trouble shedding its skin, here are some ways you can help:

Ensure the skin is cleanly removed from their toes, dewlaps, and tail. If the skin is stuck, it may dislodge the toenails or tail on its own.

If your anole is keen to be handled, gently take it out of the enclosure. Wrap the anole in a warm, wet towel. Do this somewhere safe in case it escapes. Keep it wrapped for a few minutes, then gently work at the retained skin.

Some people use mineral oil on the stuck skin which can help remove it softly. Do this only when the lizard is still wet from the wrap. It may take a few days for it to loosen up.

Never use oils, shed meds, or water near the vent or face of your reptile!

Bathe your lizard in a controlled, shallow dish. The water will help loosen the skin.

Water is the key to helping your reptile shed. There are some products out there that you can buy which are said to help loosen skin. If you choose to use them, read the instructions carefully.

Spritz the tank more often to help increase the humidity. The previous droplets should be dry before misting again.

Poor sheds can also be a sign of an environmental issue. Analyze the tank. Make sure that the lighting, photoperiods, temperature, humidity, UVB, UVA, etc. are in check.

It’s possible that something broke- like the UVB. It can still emit light even though it has no UVB output. Check the distance of it. UVBs get weaker over time.

Check if there’s something that could be causing your lizard to be stressed. If your anole is brown, it usually means there’s a stressor in the environment.

If there’s been some change in the environment, such as a new tank mate or decoration, it can be the underlying issue.

If it continues to struggle to shed, take it to the vet. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t attempt it. You should never peel the skin directly because this can cause severe harm to the lizard.

Build a humidity box

Smaller lizards can be put into a safe box with high humidity. This can be done by spraying it with water and letting it sit there for a few hours each day.

The moisture content helps get the skin moving. It’s basically a “cave” made out of a Tupperware container.

It should have a soft substrate to keep it moist. The cutout should be big enough for the lizard to enter, but small enough to keep the moisture in.

Place the container near the heat source. Be sure you only use reputable beddings that are safe for anoles.

The entire container should be big enough for the lizard to bask in without hitting the edges.

In the wild, some lizards will bask in standing water to help them shed. You can do this with your tank by putting a very shallow dish of water inside it.

It should be big enough for it to comfortably sit in while being fully submerged. You may have to play around with the level of the water to get it right. Make sure it doesn’t spill.

This is one of the benefits of having a water bowl or dish in the enclosure. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Here’s a video that shows you how to build one:

Should you peel the skin?

No, you should never peel the skin off. No matter how tempting it is, avoid doing so. It can harm the lizard or make it retaliate. Let the skin come off on its own.

Or you can use a spritz to get it wet, then gently message it to get it loose.

If you can’t get it off, take it to an exotic vet. But never peel it off no matter how loose it looks. It can cause your anole to bleed or bite.

How long does it take a green anole to shed?

A normal shed will be done within just a few days from when the shed starts. A problem shed will take weeks with insignificant progress.

If you think it’s taking too long, or if there’s skin stuck in specific areas, it could be a problem shed. Common areas where the skin gets stuck are the toenails, tail, or spikes on the back.

The average anole will shed regularly on predictable cycles, which makes it easy to predict when your lizard will shed again. Adults will shed every 4-6 weeks on average. If conditions in the terrarium are good, the shed will be very quick- sometimes it only takes a few hours.

Your anole may eat the shed skin, so you won’t even notice it shed.

In the wild, anoles will seek areas with more humidity to help the skin peel off. They can be found in burrows in the bark, sands, or caves. Water helps them shed because it loosens the skin.

Did you know that a thin layer of fluid will form between the old and new skin? If it’s dry, the fluid doesn’t shed efficiently.

My anole’s eyes buldge- is it normal?

It’s normal for your anole’s eyelids to pop during the shedding process. Avoid peeling the skin. The eyes will glaze over with skin that sloughs off on its own.

The skin may make it look like some strange bullfrog/lizard hybrid, but it should come off during the shed. It’s one of the first parts to shed off, because, well, it needs to see.

Why is my lizard shedding so much?

Anoles need to shed because their skin is fixed. It doesn’t elongate with their body.

So they need to shed it in order to grow. This is why hatchlings shed much more than fully-grown adult lizards.

They’re still actively growing much quicker so they need to molt their outer skin layer. The skin isn’t one big piece. It breaks into smaller pieces as it’s pulled away from the body on its own.

Do anoles eat when shedding?

Anoles will greatly reduce their food intake during shedding. In pre-shed, they’ll be more fatigued. You may see them just sitting around and not eating much.

They may also not come out to bask or spend more time in their stressed (brown or black) coloration. This physical activity reduction is expected before the shed.

During the shed, anoles won’t eat much. Depending on how the shed goes, this period of starvation can be a few hours to a few days.

The anole will refuse food, even if you dangle it in front of its trunk. But don’t worry. When the shedding is done, it’ll go back to its normal hungry voracious reptilian appetite that you love.

Have a good shed!

Shedding green anole hiding behind a plant.
Shedding anoles need their privacy.

You now know the basics of how, why, and when your lizard will shed.

Shedding is always exciting because it means your anole is molting, which means that the nutrients from the food you’re giving it is working.

For the majority of you, your lizard should have no problem if it’s housed in the proper setup. If you have any questions, please post them below.

If you enjoyed this guide, please let me know your feedback! Check out some of my other guides while you’re here.

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