If you are looking to own a lizard larger than most dogs, you should look at the water monitor. Originating from India and Malaysia, Water Monitors have some demanding care requirements, and are not a good impulse buy.
The water monitor reaches nearly 6 feet long, weigh over 60 pounds fully grown, and can live to be older than 20 years old. Water monitors have a long, skinny body for their length and are speckled black, yellow or green.
Wild caught water monitors have an unpredictable and aggressive reputation, but with regular handling from a young age, they can become tame. Always keep your guard up around big reptiles because if they bite or whip you with their tail, you will hurt. Many keepers keep them for their looks, not for interaction. Wear leather gloves when holding a water monitor so it doesn't scratch your hand.
Younger monitors will eat crickets and cockroaches along with an occasional pinkie mouse. Adult monitors eat dead animals in the wild, so their diet will consist of animals like mice, rats, chickens and eggs. No matter what their age, variety in their food is important. Dust food with vitamin d3 and calcium supplements once a week to keep their bones strong.
Hatchlings will need to eat crickets every day until they is full. Adults only need food every five to seven days. Remove any uneaten insects or food items from the cage after each feeding to keep the enclosure clean.
Hatchlings can start out in a 20-gallon enclosure for the first couple months of their lives. As he or she grows, so should the cage sizes. As an adult, a water monitor will need a minimum of 9 feet by 4 feet of space. If you can, give them half of a typical bedroom. Space is extremely important to provide because cramped enclosures are stressful, unhealthy, and dangerous for a large monitor.
When designing or looking to purchase an enclosure for your monitor, remember that they are large, powerful creatures. It is important that you invest in an extremely secure enclosure so you do not have to deal with an escapee.
Loose substrates like cypress mulch and peat moss are the best options to maintain humidity, and make the enclosure feel natural. The substrate should be at least 6 inches deep.
Multiple shelters need to be found in the enclosure. For adult water monitors, a small doghouse or large branches work well. Make sure that the hides are sturdy and safe.
Water monitors are exothermic, meaning they need high temperatures to function properly. A basking spot of 100F at one end of the enclosure is important and the ambient temperature should be around 85F. A basking bulb that is out of reach is the best way to provide enough heat.
It is important to provide a hotter side and a cooler side so your monitor can regulate its temperature. These lizards do not require UVA/UVB lighting as long as you dust food items with vitamin D3 supplements.
Water monitors like their humidity. Keep a tub big enough for them to soak in inside of the cage. A humidity holding substrate helps with the overall humidity as well. Use an automatic mister on the cool end of the cage to provide a humid spot, or spray it by hand daily.
Replace the substrate every 2-3 months and spot clean daily. Keep the water tub full of clean, fresh water at all times.
A pair of water monitors need to be fully mature, and need to have plenty of room to mate properly. A male and a female will mate within a week if the cage is set up properly, and 20-25 days after mating eggs will come.
Once mating has occurred, separate the male from the female so the female is not stressed or threatened while preparing to lay her eggs. Provide a nesting box filled with peat moss or vermiculite large enough for the female to fit inside of fully. She will dig out a hole, lay her eggs, and cover them. Once the eggs are laid, she is no longer responsible for them and will not care for them. If the eggs are left in the laying box too long she may dig them up and eat them.
Eggs need to be incubated at about 85-90F for nearly 8 months before hatching. Once they hatch, move them into a separate cage.
Hatchlings can be kept by themselves or in groups. As they grow, they will go through multiple enclosures, but can start in a 20-gallon enclosure in pairs. Hatchings need to eat appropriately sized crickets daily as much as they will eat in 20 minutes. Provide a basking spot of 120F, and a tub of water for them to swim in. Most of their care is similar to the adult care.
Water monitors are huge lizards that are not meant for beginners. They can live up to 20 years, and they have large food demands, but with the right care, they are certainly worth it. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
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