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Best Pet Monitor Lizards

10 Best Pet Monitor Lizards

The best pet monitor lizards are going to be the smallest in our opinion. Monitor lizards are challenging pets and the larger they get the more space and food requirements they will have.

Monitor lizards are the largest species of reptile in the world and can be an exciting pet to keep. They can also be very active and hands-on and require a larger enclosure than most other species. Even some of the smaller Monitor lizards can easily reach a foot in length. Some species are arboreal, while others are terrestrial.

Monitor lizards are potent predators, often eating amphibians, birds, carrion, fish, and mammals in their wild habitats. Monitors may also have to be trained and if not tamed correctly they can develop bad habits such as biting, tail-whipping, and other potentially painful behaviors.

Not all Monitor lizards make great pets. So to help you find the right reptile for you, we’ve devised a list of the ten best pet Monitor lizards.

1) Ackie’s Dwarf Monitor

Ackie Monitor on branch
Ackie Monitor on branch
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus acanthurus
  • Common Names: Spiny-tailed Monitor, Ridge-tail Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 2 feet and 2 ½ ft
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $300 and $425

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 4ft L x 2ft H x 2ft D
  • Food: Crustaceans, Eggs, Insects, Meat, Rodents, Worms
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 120 degrees Fahrenheit

These small Monitor lizards inhabit arid regions or dry scrublands in Australia. They have spiny scales running down their long tails. They are usually dark brown and have pale bands running down their bodies. There are two subspecies available; yellow Ackie’s and red Ackie’s.

Ackie’s are one of the easier breeds of Monitor lizard to care for and are highly recommended. They are active, alert, and inquisitive reptiles and can be handled if given the proper patience and care. Ackie’s are primarily burrowing lizards, so you’ll need a deep layer of substrate that can hold humidity.

Provide plenty of hiding spots for your Ackie, such as rocks, logs, and artificial plants. Near the basking spot, provide a hiding area that can get warm. Because there live in arid regions, Ackie’s like dry, hot air. The enclosure will require a temperature gradient, but nothing lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ackie’s are mainly carnivores and should be fed insects or small rodents, with occasional strips of meat such as turkey. Provide a water bowl that your Ackie can soak in as well as misting the enclosure a couple of times a day at most. The humidity should be kept at around 65 to 85%. You’ll also need to provide your Ackie with UVB light as well as calcium supplements and multivitamins.

2) Timor Monitor

Timor Monitor in the wild
Timor Monitor in the wild
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus timorensis
  • Common Names: Spotted Tree Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 1 ½ and 2 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 10 and 15 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $150 and $200

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 4ft H x 2ft L x 2ft D
  • Food: Insects
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 82 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: At least 120 degrees Fahrenheit

These small arboreal Monitors are native to the islands of Indonesia, preferring habitats with humid conditions and lots of cover. Timor Monitors are relatively active and can be handled when comfortable, but are more nervous than Ackie Monitors and may hide from you. They are much more suitable for observing.

Timor Monitors range from dark green to black. Their tails are semi-prehensile, allowing them to grip branches while climbing. They have beautiful bright yellow markings. Their sharp claws are ideal for climbing in the jungle, but can also hurt during handling.

Timor Monitors prefer to have a more vertical enclosure with plenty of places to climb such as logs and branches. They will also like areas to hide in, like artificial plants. They also need a substrate that can hold humidity that they can also burrow into and hide in. Timor Monitors prefer hotter, humid climates but will still need a temperature gradient.

Like most reptiles, Timor Monitors need UVB light and a basking spot. For these lizards, the basking temperature should be relatively high. Humidity levels should be maintained between 70 to 90%. Provide a water bowl deep enough for your lizard to soak in.

Timor Monitors are mainly insectivores and should have a staple diet of crickets or cockroaches, with mealworms occasionally used as variety. Calcium supplements should be used at least once per week.

3) King’s Dwarf Monitor

Male Kings Monitor lizard (Varanus kingorum)
Male Kings Monitor lizard (Varanus kingorum)
  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus kingorum
  • Common Names: King’s Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 7 and 9 inches
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Around $600 to $750

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 4ft L x 2ft H x 2ft D
  • Food: Insects
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 82 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 120 degrees Fahrenheit

The smallest species of Monitor lizard, King’s Monitors rarely exceed 9 inches long. These small lizards are found in rocky areas of northern Australia. They like to hide in fissures and cracks and will need a lot of these areas in their enclosure. Although shy at first, they can gradually become bold specimens to observe.

King’s Monitors range from reddish-brown to peach in color. Black spots gradually appear on the skin as the lizard ages. These Monitors have cream-colored underbellies. Their enclosure will need a lot of stacked rocky areas, with easy access. Some of these hiding spots should be warm areas near the basking spot.

King’s Monitors like hot, dry conditions as well as a deep substrate layer that they can dig and burrow into. They will also require UVB light in addition to their basking bulb. Humidity should range between 70 to 85%, with the substrate misted every couple of days. A temperature gradient should also be provided in the enclosure.

These small Monitors are mainly insectivores and prefer live food that they can hunt down. Crickets are a good staple along with cockroaches or locusts. Adults only need feeding once every few days, with calcium supplements dusted onto the insects. Provide a water dish as well.

Although not yet widely available, King’s Monitors can be a much easier species to accommodate than other larger monitors.

4) Dumeril’s Monitor

Dumeril's Monitor (Varanus dumerilii)
Dumeril’s Monitor (Varanus dumerilii)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus dumerilii
  • Common Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Between 3 and 5 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 10 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $250 and $400

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 6 to 10 ft L x 6ft H x 4ft D
  • Food: Crustaceans, Insects, Rodents, Worms
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 78 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit

These large, impressive Monitors inhabit jungle or forest areas of Southeast Asia such as Burma and Indonesia. Dumeril’s Monitors can grow up to five feet long and need a large enclosure, or even a small room to themselves. They are semi-arboreal and also need an area of water. Dumeril’s Monitors have dark brown hides as well as powerful claws and teeth.

When creating a habitat for your Dumeril’s Monitor, a terrestrial setup with a large water section is ideal. You should aim for a minimum length that is twice as large as your lizard’s length. Coming from jungle habitats this enclosure needs to be very humid, somewhere around 80%. Provide a water tub that your Monitor can swim in.

The substrate should be able to hold humidity, and you will likely need to mist the enclosure now and then. For basking and UVB, you’ll need multiple sources of light to allow your Monitor to bask evenly. A temperature of around 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. The enclosure should also have a temperature gradient.

Dumeril’s Monitors are carnivores that have a varied diet, and you should reflect this. Crustaceans are a firm favorite, along with dubia roaches, mollusks, rodents, and insects. These Monitors will also need calcium and multivitamin supplements once or twice a week. It is not recommended to handle these large Monitors. They have incredibly powerful claws, jaws, and tails and must be trained if you want to handle them. However, it is usually best to just observe them.

5) Asian Water Monitor

asian water monitor laying on a branch
asian water monitor laying on a branch
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus salvator
  • Common Names: Common Water Monitor, Rice Lizard, Malayan Water Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 5 feet and 6 ½ ft
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $150 and $400

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 8 ft L x 6 ft H x 4 ft D
  • Food: Insects, Poultry, Rodents, Eggs, Meat
  • UVB Lighting: Can be used
  • Ambient Temperature: 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 120 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit

Asian Water Monitors are large, semi-aquatic lizards that can grow up to 6 ½ feet long on average. They are native to much of Southeast Asia including India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In these regions, Asian Water Monitors prefer mangrove swamps and other wetlands or humid forests.

These mighty Monitors are second only in size and weight to Komodo Dragons. They have keeled scales and are black or dark brown. On their underbellies they sport yellow markings. Black markings with yellow fringes run back behind their eyes. They have powerful claws and teeth, so it is recommended that you do not handle them.

In their large enclosures, Asian Water Monitors need an aquatic section where they can submerge themselves. This water section, ideally a large plastic tub, should be cleaned regularly. Climbing areas will also be necessary in the form of logs or rocks. These Monitors will need multiple basking spots and will perform a basking rotation throughout the day as they regulate their body temperature.

For feeding, they only need to eat two or three times per week. In the wild, Asian Water Monitors will scavenge for carrion, so feeding them dead rodents, poultry chicks, and eggs is a good idea. They will also eat insects. Any food that isn’t a whole dead animal should be dusted with calcium and multivitamins

6) Green Tree Monitor

Green Tree Monitor perched on branch
Green Tree Monitor perched on branch
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus prasinus
  • Common Names: Emerald Tree Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 2 ½ and 3 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 10 and 15 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $650 and $900

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 4ft L x 4ft H x 2ft D
  • Food: Insects
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 100 degrees Fahrenheit

These striking Monitors are a beautiful species, with their vibrant green scales. Green Tree Monitors are arboreal lizards that are adept at climbing through the forest. These Monitors are mainly found in Indonesia and New Guinea and have prehensile tails which allow them extra purchase while climbing.

Green Tree Monitors will need a more vertical enclosure with plenty of room to climb. Branches, logs, and flat perches will provide them with plenty of variety. They need a substrate that can preserve humidity, which should be kept at about 80% throughout the enclosure. Mist a couple of times a day to keep the humidity up. You should also provide a water bowl and clean it regularly.

As insectivores, Green Tree Monitors will mainly eat crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches at least every other day. These should be dusted with calcium and multivitamin supplements. They will also need a UVB light and a basking spot. A temperature gradient should be provided to allow your Monitor to regulate its temperature.

While you can eventually train your Green Tree Monitor to accept handling, it will take time. Captive-bred individuals raised from hatchlings will be the best for handling, but try to avoid any wild-caught or farmed specimens as they will be nervous and skittish. Take care with their claws, which can hurt if they dig into you.

7) Mangrove Monitor

Mangroves Monitor (Varanus indicus)
Mangroves Monitor (Varanus indicus)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus indicus
  • Common Names: Mangrove Goanna, Western Pacific Monitor Lizard
  • Adult Size: Between 3 ½ and 4 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $125 and $250

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 6ft L x 5 ft D x 4 ft H
  • Food: Eggs, Insects, Mollusks, Rodents
  • UVB Lighting: Can be provided
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 82 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: Between 95 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit

Mangrove Monitors are a large species that is usually found in the Pacific Islands as well as Australia. They prefer humid forests near mangrove swamps or tidal rivers. Mangrove Monitors range from dark brown to black and have yellow spot markings. Their underbellies are pale cream. They can hunt in marine areas as well.

These large reptiles need a big enclosure with a substrate that can retain moisture. They have very specific care conditions that make them suitable for only expert keepers. The humidity in the enclosure should be kept between 70 and 90 %. This can be done with around two mistings per day.

You should also provide a large amount of water in the enclosure as Mangrove Monitors like to swim. Your lizard will need to soak in this tub or even submerge entirely. Adding branches and logs to the enclosure and providing basking areas is also needed to keep your Monitor active and healthy.

Mangrove Monitors will need to be fed at least once every other day. Crickets are a good staple alongside pinky mice and other meat such as mealworms. Lean meats can also be fed occasionally. Beware of allowing your Monitor to eat too much, as obesity can rapidly become a problem. Supplement with calcium and multivitamins a couple of times per week.

Mangrove Monitors don’t like to be handled. They will bite and scratch and sometimes defecate on perceived attackers. They are best left alone and observed from afar as they explore and eat. Never handle your Mangrove Monitor unless it’s absolutely necessary.

8) White-throated Monitor

White throated Monitor (Varanus albigularis)
White throated Monitor (Varanus albigularis)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus albigularis
  • Common Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Between 3 and 6 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 10 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Around $500

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 6ft L x 4 ft D x 3 ft H
  • Food: Insects, rodents
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: Around 100 degrees Fahrenheit

White-throated Monitors are a large species native to Southern Africa in savannas and scrublands. They usually range from grayish brown to gray and have cream-colored markings. These are terrestrial Monitors, so will not require a huge amount of height to their enclosure.

Their enclosure should contain a variety of both basking and hiding spots. They will require a large water dish to keep them hydrated. About 1 ½ foot of substrate should be provided to allow your White-throated Monitor to dig, preferably one that can retain some humidity. The level of humidity should be at least 65%.

White-throated Monitors should get enough calcium through their diet, but it helps to also provide UVB light. You may require multiple basking lamps to allow the Monitor to bask evenly across its body. A temperature gradient is necessary to help your lizard regulate its body temperature.

White-throated Monitors are mainly insectivores, so a staple diet of crickets and mealworms is a good basis. They can also be fed rodents, eggs, and fish or cut lean meat for variety. For boneless food, dust with calcium and multivitamin supplements.

These reptiles have a voracious appetite, so be wary of overfeeding. White-throated Monitors are relatively calm and should be handled to allow them to get used to you. However, they can do serious damage if handled incorrectly.

9) Black-throated Monitor

Black throated monitor (Varanus albigularis microstictus)
Black throated monitor (Varanus albigularis microstictus)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus albigularis microstictus
  • Common Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Up to 7 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $600 and $700

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 6 to 8 ft L x 4 ft D x 4 ft H
  • Food: Insects, rodents
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 82 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Some of the largest Monitors commonly kept as pets, Black-throated Monitors are huge lizards that are usually found in Tanzania. They need a big enclosure but can be fairly docile and handleable. You must interact with your Black-throated Monitor regularly to keep it used to your presence.

Black-throated Monitors are terrestrial lizards and require a loose, deep substrate that they can dig into. They also need a few hiding spots scattered around their enclosure. Any decorations should be fixed in place so that the reptile can’t dig them out. Some form of climbing level will also help keep your Monitor active. A water tub is also a good idea to allow the Monitor to soak.

Black-throated Monitors do not require especially high humidity levels. Keeping the humidity between 20 and 50% is ideal. They also require UVB light and a basking area. You may need to use a couple of bulbs to allow the Monitor to bask evenly across its body.

The diet of your Black-throated Monitor should mainly consist of rodents, insects, and chicks. You should also use calcium supplements to help keep your Monitor healthy. In terms of handling, regular interaction is recommended to prevent your Monitor from becoming aggressive or wary. However, care should be taken as their claws, teeth, and tails can all cause serious damage.

10) Argus Monitor

Argus Monitor (Varanus panoptes)
Argus Monitor (Varanus panoptes)
  • Experience Level: Expert
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Scientific Name: Varanus panoptes
  • Common Names: Yellow-spotted Monitor
  • Adult Size: Between 3 ½ and 5 ft
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Between $300 and $400

Quick Care Requirements

  • Enclosure Size: 8 ft L x 4 ft D x 5 ft H
  • Food: Insects, rodents, chicks, fish
  • UVB Lighting: Can be provided
  • Ambient Temperature: Between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Spot Temperature: 100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit

Argus Monitors are another large species, native to areas of Australia and Papua New Guinea. They inhabit grasslands and savannas. They can have bold and boisterous personalities. They are predominantly brown with rows of dark spots running down their bodies. Lower down, lighter spots are also visible, whilst their tails are banded.

These terrestrial reptiles require a large enclosure with a big water tub where the Monitor can soak or swim in. Around two feet of loose substrate should be provided for the Argus Monitor to dig into. The humidity should be maintained between 60 and 80%. They will need UVB light and will also need a couple of basking bulbs to help them evenly heat their entire body.

Accessories should include logs and rocks that are fixed in place so the Argus Monitor cannot dig them out and potentially cause injury. Climbing sections can also be provided as well as hiding spots.

Argus Monitors are aggressive feeders, so take care when bringing them food. Insects and rodents will be the main source of food, such as crickets or thawed mice. Chicks and fish can also be given whole. The insect staples should be dusted with calcium and multivitamin supplements.

Argus Monitors can be tricky to handle due to their confidant and aggressive manner. Direct handling is not recommended as they may bite or scratch. Spending time around your Monitor will get it used to your presence. This species will often hiss and may even rear up on its hind legs and puff its body up. This is called “tripodding”. Take great care when interacting with your Monitor.

Conclusion

In this list, we have covered ten of the best pet Monitor lizard species. These reptiles are some of the largest pet species available and will all require focused care. When handling especially, check that it’s alright to handle your particular species. Monitors are intelligent, but often aggressive and many species can do serious damage through scratching, biting, or whipping.

That said, Monitors are usually incredibly active and fun to observe in their enclosures. They are smart, adaptable, and curious pets. However, they can also be aggressive and messy feeders and do have some extensive and costly care requirements.

For beginners, the best monitors are likely going to be King Dwarf Monitors or Ackie’s Dwarf Monitors. Their smaller sizes are much more manageable than their larger cousins, and they are also the easiest species when it comes to handling. However, both of these types of Monitors can be expensive and difficult to find.

For intermediate keepers, we recommend Timor or Green Tree Monitors. Both species are mainly arboreal, but nervous. They may take some time to get used to you. However, they are still a relatively manageable size.

Expert keepers are best served by keeping Black-throated Monitors. This larger species is relatively docile and calm and can be handled once they are used to you. Black-throated Monitors will require a custom-built enclosure and a large water tub. They can be rewarding and impressive pets to keep and show off to friends and family.

If you enjoyed this list or want to obtain one of these Monitor lizards yourself, don’t hesitate to comment below! You can also visit our individual reptile pages for more information.

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