Keeping a monitor lizard

Keeping a monitor lizard

Monitor Lizards are a beautiful and unusual pet. Monitors come from the same genus as Komodo Dragons, and are incredibly intelligent. Some can even count! They are becoming a popular pet for those who like observing animal behaviour, and looking after unusual breeds.

Do your research before you buy!

There are many species of Monitor Lizard, some of which grow up to 7 feet long. Unless you are planning to buy a large tank or constantly upgrade it, you should make sure you are buying a lizard which grows to a size you can cope with. The Bosc Monitor Lizard is very popular among beginners, as they grow between 3 and 5 feet in length.

Monitor Lizards are solitary creatures, so do not need to live in pairs. You shouldn’t keep them with any other species, as they are likely to attack and kill them.

They are not ideal as a pet for children. As well as growing to a large size quickly, they have incredibly sharp claws, with strong tails that can sting. They can be quite aggressive as they get older, so need careful handling. Their bite is very strong, and it can be hard to unattach their jaws once bitten.

Monitor Lizards are ideal for people who love to observe animal behaviour. They are very active, and come in a variety of beautiful colours. They are incredibly clever, so you must be prepared to exercise their brains.

Always research where you plan to buy your lizard. Many now come up for adoption as people are not prepared for their rate of growth, so there are many that will need homes. Breeders will also be able to show you the parents and advise you on any special dietary requirements. Always make sure your lizard is healthy before you purchase. Check that the eyes are clear, and there are no injuries on the body or legs that may cause problems.

What size tank do they need?

Monitor Lizards grow very quickly, so it advised to get a large tank straight away so you don’t have to replace it often. The recommended size is 8 feet by 5 feet. You will need to separate the tank into different areas – lizards love to bask so one end should be 35 degrees C, preferably with a UV light so they can also develop strong bones and grow quickly. The cooler area should be around 30 degrees C. Make sure you can control the temperature and drop it at night, replicating their natural environment.

Monitors are messy eaters, and as they eat so much they will need their tank cleaning very regularly. Some owners use newspaper or paper towelling which is easy to remove. Gravel or wood chippings are much more natural, but be careful that the lizard doesn’t accidentally eat any.

Provide a large dish filled with water so your lizard can bath often. Make sure it is easy to remove, as it will need cleaning regularly.

Make sure your terrarium is made of very solid material. Monitor lizards can destroy screens, and escape from anything that isn’t 100% secure. These lizards love to climb, so find large pieces of wood which they can clamber up – the wood may need to be disinfected if found in a local wood. Also provide different levels to hide food, and for the lizard to investigate. Places should also be provided for your lizard to hide in and sleep. Even a lizard needs privacy!

What can they eat?

All Monitor Lizards are carnivores, who rely on their senses to hunt their prey. As a result, they prefer their food to be alive. This keeps them active, in body and mind. Most Monitor Lizards will eat a diet of small rodents, but their diet should not just be this. They can also eat eggs, insects, earthworms, and even goldfish. Monitors are not fussy at all, and are prone to obesity so be careful not to overfeed them.

When feeding you lizard, be careful when offering them food. Monitor Lizards have an extremely strong bite, and their salvia is toxic. Use tongs to offer them food, or hide it in different places and levels within the terrarium. This will encourage your lizard to behave as it would it the wild.

Be very careful if you own other pets. Monitor Lizards will attack anything they think they can overpower – this includes your household pets. Make sure you keep an eye on your lizard, and keep the tank sealed when you are not around.


Monitor Lizards are not an animal to get if you want a tame pet to pick up and hold often. They are very independent. They react aggressively to any fear stimulus, so their large claws will scratch deeply into your arm. Some species are tamer than others, with the larger varieties being more aggressive. If you get your lizard as a youngster, you will be able to tame them and learn their boundaries – every lizard is different so adapt to their behaviour.

You can let your Monitor Lizard out in the house, but keep them away from other pets in case they view them as prey. Never let your lizard outside, as it will wander and probably escape. Monitor Lizards do swim. You can let them swim laps in your bath, which is extremely good if you notice your lizard is getting a little fat.

If you do let your Monitor out, make sure you plan carefully how to catch them. They are fast and intelligent, so can escape you easily. If you grab them not only could you hurt them, they will most definitely hurt you. Look for places they could climb or hide in around your room. Block any holes, and remove any objects you don’t want destroying. Leave the terrarium open so they can return if they feel threatened. Encourage them with food to return after a certain period of time out. As they become tamer, and used to the routine, it will become easier to manage.



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