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Captive Care Of The Nile And Asian Water Monitors...

Discussion in 'Monitors' started by murrindindi, Feb 4, 2018.

  1. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Some basic advise on caring for the African Nile/Ornate monitor and the Asian Water monitor in captivity.

    By "murrindindi" with help from Nguyn Thanh Ngọc (Viet Nam).... .
    Caring for the Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) from Africa, and the previously described Ornate monitor (Varanus ornatus) which is now considered a morph of the Nile monitor and not a separate species, and the Asian Water monitor (V. salvator spp) in captivity can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever undertake with a reptile. Unfortunately, many of these lizards die or get given away within their first year or so due to the misinformation on their captive care... These are not "beginner" reptiles, and should never be bought on impulse. They may be relatively cheap to buy, but need a lot of hard work, are expensive to care for, and they can live for many years when they receive proper care (perhaps over 20)....


    Housing:

    In my opinion, the bigger the better from the beginning, there is really no such thing as a "large" enclosure in captivity, compared to their wild home ranges, we keep them in "shoe boxes".
    A solid wooden enclosure is normally best if they are kept indoors, it must be fully sealed and capable of holding the weight of a deep layer of substrate @ 30 to 60+ cm... Normally constructed from 12 to 18mm plywood with a 5 x 10cm framework and properly sealed throughout. Below substrate level it is recommended to use either FRP (fibreglass reinforced plastic) or other waterproof sealers such as fibreglass resin paint/similar...
    The babies grow extremely quickly under optimum conditions @ 5 to 7+ cm) per month. I feel it is less stressful to keep them in larger enclosures from the beginning if that is possible, but if a smaller enclosure is being used, the minimum size I would recommend for hatchlings would be approximately 120 long x 75 wide x 90 high (cm) although at that size it will only last a very few months. The height will enable a fairly deep substrate @ 25 to 30 cm which is acceptable for hatchlings and juveniles, it will allow the animal/s to burrow and it will also help with the humidity and enable a good temperature gradient (most important)...
    For the adults of these species a very large enclosure is necessary, it will probably be room sized at 400+long x 240 wide x 180 to 240 high (cm) or more..

    All glass fish tanks are NOT suitable for housing Varanidsother than very temporarily (several weeks at most), they usually have a screen lid which will make it almost impossibe to stabilise both temps and humidity, not to mention they offer the animal/s no privacy at all being open to view from all sides....

    Make sure there are a lot of hiding places, they are extremely nervous and defensive by nature, everything that moves is a perceived threat, stress is unhealthy, in extreme cases it is also a killer...The only way to try and gain their "trust" is with food (tong feeding) absolutely no forced handling until the monitor is fully acclimated to the enclosure which can take many, many months. There are never any guarantees they will ever become tractable, but it is always worth trying...


    Substrate:

    Either a chemical free soil or soil/playsand mix is required, it must be very firmly packed down and only slightly moist, not wet. A covering of leaves will help to stop it drying out too quickly. If the monitor Is a female it is extremely important to provide suitable nesting, which means a relatively deep layer of substrate (approximately 45 to 60cm +) and this must be in place at all times, better from when the monitor is a juvenile rather than waiting until it is a gravid adult. The reason is that when they are kept under supportive conditions in captivity they can grow very quickly and become sexually mature much sooner than in the wild (in some cases months, not years). Sexual maturity is mainly achieved at a certain snout to vent length, it is not related to the age of the monitor to any degree.
    It is now believed that all Varanid species may be able to reproduce parthenogenetically (asexual reproduction) which means the females can lay fertile eggs without ever mating with a male, all the offspring will be males in that case.
    We must consider that it is possible 50% of monitors in captivity are female which is why providing nesting sites as soon as possible is so important even if the keeper is not sure of the gender on acquisition...



    Water container and enclosure furnishings:

    As these are semi aquatic monitors a pool/water dish is required, large enough so they can soak but not too deep for the youngsters, make sure they can get in and out easily. They will probably use the water bowl as a toilet, so change the water daily. I have a large pond with an external filter which helps keep the water clean, it is heated to approx. 30c.
    Use some stout, firmly fixed branches for climbing, they often spend a lot of their time in trees for the first year or so in the wild, and they have a semi-prehensile tail as youngsters, and are good climbers even as adults.



    Heat:
    All varanid species need relatively high basking surface heat...

    I recommend daytime ambient (air) temperatures of approximately 24c on the cool side, and between approximately 50 to 60c on the SURFACE of the basking object (such as a wooden shelf, large log, flat stones etc, as those are materials that will retain the heat better)...
    Nightime temperatures should not fall below approximately 24c in the coolest parts of the enclosure (including down in the substrate). Without those relatively high basking surface temperatures they cannot function efficiently and they will not thrive or show their natural behaviours, their immune system will be compromised which can lead to many health problems.

    Many less experienced keepers keep them undermetabolised (underheated, etc) and while they may linger for fairly long periods, they usually die long before their potential life expectancy...

    A digital hygrometer/thermometer is a must, the analogue types can be very inaccurate. an infrared Temperature-gun is required to measure the basking surface temperature, it cannot be accurately measured with a thermometer. Here is a link to a Temperature-gun.... Digital Infrared Temperature Temp Gun Thermometer Non-Contact IR Laser Point | eBay
    £ 9.87


    ebay.png
    Digital Infrared Temperature Temp Gun Thermometer Non-Contact IR Laser Poin...
    How it works: Infrared thermometer measure the surface temperature of an object. The units optical system sense ...



    Humidity:

    These species should have a fairly high humidity range of between approximately 60 to 75%+, although this may be lower immediately around the basking area, which is quite acceptable....



    Lighting/Heating bulbs and tubes:

    I prefer to use some supplementary lighting during the daytime, mainly because my enclosures are relatively large and I find with just the basking bulbs the rest of the enclosure can be quite dark. A normal household fluorescent tube emits some UVA (not UVB), and is usually much cheaper than the "reptile" type. I use the 6,500k "daylight" tubes.

    Many keepers these days are using the halogen light bulbs @ Par 30 or 38 (must be flood beam, not spot) for the basking area, these can be fixed in a row of 2 or 3 to evenly heat at least the snout to vent length, which is extremely important. They can be used in fairly low wattages (50w+) and positioned fairly close to the monitor, this means they do not dry out or overheat the rest of the enclosure and they are usually cheaper than the "reptile specific" basking bulbs...
    Either an infrared bulb or ceramic heat emitter can be used during the night if the temperature drops too low....

    I am now convinced that providing they are kept at optimum temperature levels etc, etc, and offered whole animal prey (including a regular supply of vertebrates) which themselves have been fed a healthy diet, the monitor/s should remain in good health, long lived and productive for many years without the use of the UVB emitting lamps, the D3 levels being maintained through the diet.
    There is no evidence to suggest UVB bulbs and tubes are harmful when used according to the manufacturers instructions, and if the keeper chooses to supply UVB that is fine...
    Foods and feeding:
    I offer the babies/juveniles small whole fish (fresh or saltwater) shrimp/prawns (whole, including the head and shell), rodents, chicks, fertilised eggs (quail or other), insects such as crickets, cockroaches, etc. There is no need to feed live vertebrate prey such as rodents, they can cause injury to the monitor and they may also suffer unnecessarily.
    Feed hatchlings/juveniles daily (their metabolism is at it`s highest) as much as they will eat, but reduce feeding amounts as they come into adulthood, bearing in mind how little excercise they are getting when compared to their wild counterparts... It is acceptable to feed adults each day but only small amounts.
    It is extremely important to keep in mind that they only require as much energy as they use, especially once into adulthood when growth has slowed/stopped, to offer more will result in large fat bodies being stored which the animal cannot possibly make use of and is likely to result in an early death in many cases....
    Important: Lean meats, your own recipe turkey diets etc, are not what is best, whole prey should be considered superior....

    Adult size: Varanus niloticus is known to reach 240cm ....
    Varanus salvator macromaculatus ("common" Asian water monitor) can reach over 270cm...

     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
    Darkbird likes this.
  2. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Thank you Stefan!
    I am stickying this!
     
  3. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Thanks Merlin!
     

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