Housing Ackie Monitors
How To House Ackie Monitors
Bigger is always better when it comes to monitor enclosures. There are minimums that should be followed however. The enclosure should be twice as long as the monitors length and as wide as the monitor is long. So for adult Ackies the minimum size enclosure should be 4 feet long x 2 feet wide x 2 feet high. If you have room for a larger enclosure it will not go to waste. If you have the room you may go higher as Ackies are partly arboreal and will climb if given the opportunity. Ackies are very active and will put any available space to good use. Also the larger the enclosure the more available temperature and humidity gradients there will be for your Ackies to choose from. Remember that Ackies have a quick growth rate so plan for that large enclosure ahead of time.
The majority of enclosures fall into two categories 1. front opening or 2. top opening. Front opening enclosures have sliding glass doors or doors that swing open. The benefit of front opening is that these enclosures can be stacked. However it's not that easy to stack monitor enclosures that have 100 + lbs of substrate in them. If you choose a front opening enclosure you must remember that the doors must be raised off the floor high enough to allow for the deep substrate. Also if you choose to use sliding doors, design it carefully to keep substrate from falling into the track. The use of sliding doors also makes it easier to keep crickets in the enclosure. With swinging doors crickets can hang on them and drop onto the floor when opened.
Top opening enclosures are easier to make and seal. There are cons to this method as well. The light fixtures are usually in the way. It's also more difficult to clean out. Also younger Ackies will get skittish when picked up from a hand coming down on them. This is because birds are a big threat to them in the wild. Ackies are excellent climbers, escape artists and very strong for their size. They will eventually escape any enclosure that has a loose fitting lid or other weak points.
An ideal enclosure would be made of plywood coated with 2 or 3 coats of polyurethane. It should contain an adjustable vent on the side and the top to control the amount of humidity in the enclosure. The doors can be sliding glass on the front but should be kept off the floor 8-12 inches to allow for the deep substrate. Acrylic of any kind is not recommended where it is reachable. It will be scratched considerably by their sharp claws.
Keep in mind the basic necessities of Ackies. Basking areas, hide spots and water are essential. Water dishes should be kept as clean as possible at all times, with fresh water daily. Don't use a bowl that's too deep that a hatchling might drown. Adults on the other hand can be given a large bowl up to the depth of the shoulders. Some Ackies will enjoy a soak in the water while others might not be interested.
Hide spots should be provided throughout the different temperature gradients. This will allow your Ackie to access both the temperature they require as well as having the security of a hide spot. Not doing this will force your Ackie to utilize a hide spot that might be too cool or too hot.
Basking sites should also be provided. The simplest and best method of supplying this is the Retes stack. First designed and used by Frank Retes of Goanna Ranch. Frank is considered to the most knowledgeable breeder in the U.S. of over 16 species of monitors.
The Retes stack is basically plywood squares separated by 1 - 1 ½" spaces. A quick search on the internet will show many examples and different variations as well. This stack enables the Ackies to climb to different heights which provide temperature gradients and hiding areas to prevent stress as well. They will also use their burrows to hide in. But other furnishings could be rocks and large branches to climb. Plants and flowers can be introduced as well. However many will be uprooted, trampled and destroyed by the Ackies. Perhaps silk plants are a better alternative. There is a fair amount of grassland where they are found as well.
Keep in mind that for monitors, substrate is an important part of husbandry. No linoleum here. The best substrate to use is plain old dirt. Some Ackie owners mix in a bit of sand as well trying to create a sandy loam. The best soil to use is the type you dig up yourself. It should be extracted from an area that is free of pesticide and fertilizer use. Agriculture fields are not a good source. Other than that it may be purchased in bag form from a garden center. However the black soil tends to dry out rather quickly. Make sure here as well that it contains no growing additives, usually the cheaper the better. Maintaining a level of moisture in the substrate is important for holding burrows as well as for insuring complete sheds. Not doing this could cause loss of toes or tails from retained dead skin.
Author: Mike Donkersgoed
All Images © Mike Donkersgoed