We recently bought a pet chameleon. Please give some information on caring for a pet lizard.

There are many different kinds of lizards that can make good pets. The most common type found in pet stores is the little green or brown lizard known as the chameleon or anole. The name is given to the lizard because of its ability to change color.This article will focus on the care of the anole. Much of the information would be the same for other types of lizards, however, knowing all you can before getting a pet is very important. A library or pet store will provide you with a book that has the specific care information for your pet.

The American Humane Association recommends that you be very careful when handling an anole. These reptiles are very delicate, especially their tails. If dropped, the lizard will always land "feet first." The anole loves to have its throat rubbed.

To house your anole, a woodland setting is necessary. This reptile comes from a woodland environment in the South. Use at least a 10-gallon aquarium or a terrarium 18 inches by 12 inches or larger. You need to limit the number of lizards in your aquarium to one or two species that are compatible. Discuss compatibility and the ideal number of lizards for the size of your aquarium with the pet store assistant before you buy.

The bottom of the container needs half an inch of wood charcoal with a thick layer of sand on top. Next add a mixture of soil, leafmold and peat moss three to four inches deep. Pile it higher at one end to form a slope.

Your lizard needs a pool of water within its environment. Try using a glass dish or glazed saucer. It can be four inches in diameter or larger with coarse sand in the bottom. Add some rocks leading out of the pool to the dry land at one end. Be sure to keep the pool clean.

Place an old log or piece of bark in the aquarium with some type of moss or plants located nearby. Add a couple of rocks by the wood as well.

For the top of the aquarium use a glass cover, slightly raised for air circulation. A screen can be used but will not aid in retaining moisture.

The plants and moss should be lightly sprinkled with lukewarm water daily. This is important because anoles get their moisture from the droplets on leaves, rather than by drinking from a container.

Keep the environment warm, between 60 and 90 degrees F, but do not keep the lizard in direct sunlight. Instead of sunlight, try a heat rock in the aquarium. A small light bulb on top of the aquarium may be needed for additional heat.

Your anole will eat living bugs such as flies, moths, roaches, fruit flies, mosquitoes, meal worms, spiders and caterpillars. A commercially prepared dry food should not be used; because it is non-living and motionless, an anole will ignore it. Many pet stores have crickets and meal worms available for sale.

Here are some fun facts about lizards from the Learning Works Science Series: Some species of lizards have no legs; the largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, may grow to 10 feet long; there are about 3,000 species of lizards living today; the six-lined race runner lizard can zip along at a speed of 18 miles per hour.

If you have a question about health, behavior problems, laws, etc., regarding wild or domestic animals, please write Leslie Kelson-Probert, Salt Lake County Animal Services, 511 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84123 or call her at 264-2247.