Caring for Your New Nile Monitor
The inside scoop on Varanus niloticus

 
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Nile Monitor Factoids

Nile Monitor

Comes from Africa and grows to six feet

Day Temperature

85o to 95o gradient, 90o to 100o for basking

Substrate

Mat, dirt, sand, gravel, or bark

Climbing Area

Provide stout limbs and rocks to climb on

Security

Prefers a security box or hiding place

Humidity

Provide a large water pan and mist babies often

Foods

Insects, fish, crayfish, rodents, birds, eggs

Supplements

Calcium and vitamins

Lighting

Full-Spectrum or sunlight

LA
Young Nile monitor -- about 16 inches long

LA
Couple foot-longers snacking on boiled eggs.


LA
Nile monitor after a successful hunt.

Honkers:  Those cute snake-tongued guys grow into huge honker lizards that eventually need their own room.  You can keep baby Nile monitors in aquariums for a while, but these guys will all need a bathtub-sized swimming pool when fully grown.  These are definitely not a lizard for youngsters to keep.

 

Environments:  Nile monitors come from the river banks of Africa.  Any critter that invades crocodile nests and eats their eggs is a force to be reckoned with (or avoided).  They like climbing areas and swim more than some other monitors.  They need a large swimming “pool.”  When young, Nile monitors love climbing and swimming.  As they grow, they spend even less time in the water. Baby Nile monitors need lots of swimming room and love being misted.  

Temperature:  Monitors demand 85o or better during the day.  Too cool temperatures make them susceptible to disease.  High temperatures speed up their metabolism.  This helps them digest their food more easily and fight off diseases.  Sick monitors often respond to temperatures around 100o.  Take your ill monitor to a good lizard vet fast.  We like Rick Harmon.

LA
Nile monitor on right grabbed his goldfish the first time it was offered.  Left guy pickier.

Foods:  Go to the savannah and water monitor pages for food ideas.



This 18" Nile monitor very delicately ate his first egg (with shell), tiny bite by bite.

Lighting:  Nile monitors need full-spectrum fluorescent lighting or daily sessions in real sunlight.  The closer they can climb to your bulbs, the better your bulbs work.

LA
Goldfish contain needed calcium for the fast growing bones of Nile monitors.

Supplements:  Because the bones of small Nile monitors grow so much, your baby monitors need calcium and vitamin supplements dusted on their food.  

Heat:  An under-cage heater plus a basking heat source make a good combination.  Provide a range of temperatures for your Nile monitor if possible.  Heat rocks also provide a good basking site.  Clean your heat rock often to discourage bacterial growth.  

LA
Delicately drinking from a four-inch bowl.  He drinks like a pigeon.

Water:  Nile monitors love soaking in the water.  They also enjoy catching fish swimming in their water bowl.  And they love turning over their water dish and making a royal mess.  They snake their head under it and flip it over.  Possibly trying to hide, looking for food, or just having fun.  Use a very heavy water container or buy a heavy-duty mop.  Use a deep container, because they tend to overflow their container.


Nile monitor babies are wiggly and bitey.  Big guys are much bitier.


Seven weeks later, still a biter -- but a larger biter.

Handling: Savanna and water monitors tame quite easily.  Handle them often.  Niles monitors are harder to tame.  The smallest ones are easiest to work with.  When you first get your Nile, you may need to use stout gloves to handle it.  Some Niles will never adjust to handling.  They can snake their neck around and sneak a quick nip.  A large, mean Nile monitor is more than most people can handle.  Keep your shoes on.  They like toe food.

LA
Can you see the second Nile monitor hiding under the cypress chips?

LA
Nile monitors show up better over a light colored substrate.

LA 
Nile monitors like to walk across their ceilings also (and sometimes lose toenails).

Inquisitive:  Nile monitors like to explore their surroundings.  Give them branches and rocks to climb on and caves to explore.  If you provide them a diggable substrate, they will probably burrow into it for fun.  They like variety.

 

Biters:  In the Nile monitor’s high school Year Book, Varanus niloticus was voted “most likely to bite.”

LA
Nile monitors love to eat if you keep them warm.

LA
Nile monitor, not big yet, but already eats 4-inch comets.

LA
Here's a similar guy (tegu) chowing on a koi.

LA
And tegus like those tasty hissing cockroaches.

LA
Baby Nile monitor just emerging from his deli cup.

LA
Handle the bigger ones carefully.  They do bite and are quick.

LA
Nile monitors twist their long necks around and try to bite you.

LA
He's trying to look harmless.

Last Words:  Remember that Nile monitors walk around in their own digested food.  This means they probably carry salmonella.  Wash your hands after handling all reptiles.  Also, don’t feel too bad if your Nile monitor never grows to full size.  We rarely see full grown ones.  LA.

© 1997, © 2003, © 2004, © 2007  LA Productions

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