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How Important Is Cage Size?

Discussion in 'Monitors' started by Lori68, Jul 15, 2018.

  1. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    This question is directed towards those who have been keeping monitors for quite some time, not for new people just getting started. My reason for that is because long-term keepers have gone through years of seeing the effects of both good and bad, not just regurgitating someone else's info.

    I started keeping monitors myself in 2012, so I'm still considered fairly new when it comes to the length many of you have been keeping. I am far from a beginner, but I'm not all-knowing. In fact, many of the aspects of keeping them have been missed by me because I'm not out to breed what I keep or look to get ones that are cool just because they're uncommon. I actually fell into monitor keeping by accident and because of the way I got into keeping them, my views are quite different than many of you.

    I was a foster for a neglected sav that was dumped at a reptile rescue. Prior to that, I was just a snake keeper. Because of seeing the horrible state this sav was in, that became where I found my passion for monitor keeping. Getting the husbandry right. Fast forward 3 savs later and now 6 years of keeping them, I'm still stuck on the opinion that husbandry is far more important than anything else. That should come first and foremost before ever thinking of getting a female knocked up. Unfortunately, it seems the twisted ideas seen on social media is turning the idea that if you are breeding your animals, that must mean you are doing things right so caging can be altered to fit the keepers needs, not the monitors needs. I know that isn't true but I can't help feel that this is being pushed now.

    My point I'm trying to get at is, with my current monitor...he grew up in this cage I had built for my previous savs. They were females and because of that (and being comprimised early on just from shitty care before I got them). This one is still far too young to make any judgement call on what a large cage size can do for them, but seeing any other sav that is his age who are already obese is frustrating. Granted, I am also a keeper who isn't stuffing him full of food every day either.

    Does any long term keeper feel cage size is debatable, especially when talking about young ones? Granted, I don't argue about juvie cages, but these smaller cages shouldn't be used for long. But I see the arguments that even the standard 8x4x4 cage is a bit too much. This can't be right....right?

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  2. Darkbird

    Darkbird Moderator Staff Member

    You know, it's funny (in a crummy, ironic sort of way) I was just having this discussion. I help a friend of mine vend at the local reptile show, and one of his customers came back and told us that the sav he got died. We didn't really get as far as cage size issues as we found there were other serious husbandry issues, the typical too cold and too dry syndrome. But cage size came up in our subsequent conversation. We are always very honest with people about these animals and what they require, but people get them anyway. Some of the looks I get when they ask me about my caging, and I explain how big the cages are and that I wish some were bigger still, make me believe that people just don't value the pets they keep as anything more than interesting ornaments. And yes, I know of people at http show which would tell a customer anything to make the sale, including stupid stuff like monitors being ok in fish tanks and such. And sadly there are also those people who will say they knows what they're doing even when they haven't a clue or are operating on what is old and severely outdated info at this point. Most of those promoting smaller caging I have seen either are trying to make a sale or do so because that's how they did it years ago or how someone told them to, never mind that the animal didn't live very long. And since this is starting to become a rant I'm going to stop now, lol.
    murrindindi likes this.
  3. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    Thanks for your reply Darkbird, I do appreciate someone responding :)

    Can I ask what you feel is outdated with husbandry specifically? And what would be considered good husbandry, as opposed to what is crappy? I myself have a pretty good handle on what is and isn't decent....but some people (actually many, many people) out in social media land have completely twisted things into now pushing the idea that nobody knows how to keep them at all period. Considering how many of this specific species actually gets anything more than a fish tank to grow up in until they reach some magical size to deserve something better, that isn't even taken into account when we add up all the dead savs out there that failed. The current opinion is that so many have died over the years and its thought that these hundreds upon thousands of deaths occurred even with these savs being housed in good conditions. I know that is utter crap but you know....some people.

    Do you think that if ALL savs had been given good husbandry right from the very start of being thrown into the pet trade market and not kept by beginners....would there be hundreds of thousands of dead savs piled a mile high still?
  4. Darkbird

    Darkbird Moderator Staff Member

    Well, the crappy info is the same old stuff that has been out there for 30+ years or whatever at this point. You know, what we now understand to be totally wrong things like using dry bark chips for substrate, totally inadequate basking temps of anything from the low 90s to maybe 100°f, hot rocks, fish tanks with screen tops, etc. The sad thing with the internet is that anyone can make a care sheet, put anything they want in it, and put it up for any unsuspecting new keeper to stumble across. And once it exists on the net, it'll probably never go away. Even if the person deletes it, someone likely copied it to their site, and to another, and so on. I know what doesn't work because I had tried all those things before, on way too many savs, and was never really successful.
    Now, I still consider myself a rank amateur on monitors. I seem to have the basic general care down, but haven't been successful at breeding yet. I don't think it is so much a matter of no one knowing how to keep savs yet as it is there being some finer point we as keepers still need to work out in general. I think we are pretty close to having the environment down, though size could still be a legitimate argument (as in should we be looking at something even larger than the more or less standard 4'x4'x8' as a minimum size). I think we still have a lot to figure out on what the best captive diet might be, so much so that I'm not even going to mention an example so as to not get this derailed on a side debate. And the other thing is the simple fact that no one has managed to achieve any sort of consistent results when breeding these animals, at least that I have heard. Personally I think the issues relate to the diet issues, but again I don't want to get off topic.
    Now, as for someone being successful starting with a new sav, I can see some issues. First thing is that there needs to be some better way to import these animals so that they aren't arriving at deaths door in the first place. Responsible importers should then hold the animals for a bit to let them recover from that stress before offering them for sale. Then the keeper has to be ready for the animal before they get it home, meaning caging is already built and set up and running before they go to the show/dealer/pet shop. All of this would give us the best starting chance at having one of these pass the 20yr mark successfully. Do we now have all the knowledge we need for that yet? I honestly can't say for sure. I think we still have some way to go yet on locking down the proper captive diet for these guys. We still need to figure out the key to breeding them consistently. That in turn would allow us to relieve some, if not all, of the need to import these at all.
    Now, would there still be a pile of dead lizards behind us? Maybe not us personally, but yes there still would be. Too many people treat these animals as disposable decorations rather than living things, and sadly it doesn't just apply to savs, or even just reptiles in general, but all animals. And at this point I'm getting off on a tangent again, so I'll leave it at there being problems with us humans to overcome too. I'm not sure I really answered your questions well, but I hope some of this short novel helps get my thoughts across. And I'm almost thinking someone needs to start a separate thread on savannah monitor diet issues, lol.
    kriminaal, Lori68 and murrindindi like this.
  5. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    You did give me a good deal again, so thanks for the response to my questions. I do have the same feelings as you regarding them. Although, I highly doubt that successful breeding will take the place of imports. Who can compete with a $25 price tag? Nobody. There have been people who have bred them (though not consistently), the only one I know of who has done F3's is a lady in Europe but she stopped breeding because of the pain it was to have all these babies on her hands and hardly any responsible homes for them to go to. More expensive monitors would be a bit easier to weed out the trash but that's not a guarantee. With savs though, that is almost a guarantee that the home will not be taking much seriously at all. Its a sad state for this species.

    My male sav I have now is still quite young at just over 2 years old. I can only see what a youthful monitor looks like growing up in the cage I've got for savs, was built for my females so its not small. There are still some years to see what he will look like after more time and who knows if he will have any length in his life anyway...he may not. But I still feel its more important and almost insane to feel that a decent life while in captivity means nothing but other aspects of keeping them do.
    I wish his cage was actually bigger but I don't have more room to give. He looks so much better off than many who are even younger than him and I feel it has a lot to do with the ones who are already obese and act lethargic have grown up in something tiny with no stimulation or enrichment in their cage. I try but I'm not the best keeper out there by far. Better than many but not the best...I just wanted to hear from others who are more experienced than I am who haven't gotten brainwashed from social media as for what's what. Count yourself fortunate and more intelligent than most if you've kept off that kind of thing. Its a freaking nightmare the state things are in many groups. Not just ones specifically for savannah monitors either. Its the general mindset of keeping everything. You think it was bad a few years ago, good god its so unrecognizable now in some places you would be grateful for the days of outdated care being pushed.

    Honestly, I don't even know why I posted the question in the first place the more I think of it. I am just frustrated there is no longer any real "community", so I was reaching out to hopefully find like-minded people around still. Healthy debates are one thing, to be able to talk civilly to one another and hear each other out is community. To bash, degrade, lie and cheat is not and this is what its like now. Whatever happened to the days when it was about the animals well being and welfare first, because we felt like it was a privilege to keep these monitors. Now its all about the ego's because the novelty has worn off unfortunately. The animals are an afterthought, or just pawns in the bigger picture if that makes any sense.
  6. Darkbird

    Darkbird Moderator Staff Member

    In terms of the social media issues, yep makes complete sense. Since there is typically little to no moderation, or if there is as often as not it's by people who cause more issues than they solve, there is no sense of where a line should be drawn with regards to behavior. And there are far too many who cant or won't do it for themselves. I liken social media to that giant pile of dinosaur poo in the original Jurassic park with about $100k of diamonds scattered in it. The goal is worthwhile, but you have to sift a lot of stuff to get to it.
    Lori68 likes this.
  7. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I do miss
    Too bad it couldn't keep going.
    Yes there are many blowhards that think they know everything, then their monitor dies and they disappear instead of just admitting maybe,just maybe they didn't know everything.

    I'll throw some info out there that should have at least a little bearing.
    I'll try to keep these thoughts organized but we'll see, probably be long-winded so grab a beer or a spot of tea :)

    I've kept a few different species of vananus, yellow and red Ackies and Tristis.
    My findings would be (here comes the shock) Cage size for dwarf monitors does not need to be oversize if setup properly.
    Think of it this way. A prison cell (which is what a cage is anyway) has all the basic necessities a person needs, climate and food. Throw a female in there and with enough food she'll have off-spring. Sure the mental aspect won't be great.
    A tidbit of info, an acquaintance of mine (won't name names) breeds many different dwarf monitors including trees. He is probably the most successful of anyone I've heard off and makes a good deal of money doing it.
    Many have tried to copy him, buying pairs and trios but are not successful. (hand sheepishly raises)

    The terrestrial monitors are in enclosures that (I won't disclose actual size) everyone has already said are too small and the substrate a depth of what you would say isn't even close to a bare minimum. Yet he is extremely successful at multi-clutching.
    Of course I have had many conversations with him about it. The answers are basically "they don't need it" and I'm not hauling that much dirt into my basement.

    I must insert here that I don't know how old the females are before he sells them off and replaces with younger stock.

    Sooo. A small enclosure can work just fine if the conditions can be met. Long term 6+ yrs might be a different story.
    Again this is with Dwarf monitors.
    Now with my Tristis I eventually moved them to a larger habitat. The male didn't eat for probably 2 months after the move. You couldn't tell though, he really didn't look like he lost any weight. He was a big ornery b@st@rd.
    My problem was I couldn't get enough heat in there. I made it all fancy and the basking areas were fine but the hides and areas where they decided they like to hang out didn't have sufficient heat.

    So morale of the story is we can tell people bigger is better but it only is IF it's setup properly. We all know and keep telling people that the cost of the reptile is nothing but a chip off the iceberg compared to what a properly setup habitat cost is. They never seem to listen though and so the cycle of buy and die which perpetuates the hobby continues.

    In the end all reptiles die prematurely because of our errors. Sad but true. It's not a pleasant way to learn. But hopefully people are learning and sharing their failures so others don't doom their reptiles to the same fate.

    thanks for posting, I don't get here very often anymore . So I had to make a jumbo post.
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  8. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    In response to Michael`s remarks; just because someone successfully breeds them doesn`t necessarily mean the animal`s have "all they need" for a long, healthy life. I can understand when keeping relatively large numbers, space has to be an issue, but keeping them in a "restricted" area for year upon year must have a detrimental effect mentally as well as physically. They certainly wouldn't be able to function as effectively as their wild counterparts, because in comparison the stamina and musculature must be quite reduced, in effect they are not in the best of health. To my mind, in many cases it`s more about what`s convenient for the keeper (how small a space will they fit in). I`ve never personally kept a healthy varanid that declined to use more space, so suggesting they "don`t need it" is far from true.
    I don`t mind naming names in order that newcomers especially realise how little practical experience some of the current "experts" have who run some of the social media groups.
    Dr. Daniel Bennett for example, suggests that an 8L x 4W x 4H (feet) enclosure isn`t really suitable for a Savannah monitor, he advises offering a 4L x 4W x 8H for an adult (a large male can reach 4ft+)?
    Another of his suggestions is that this species should go through a "diapause" in captivity (his word for aestivation) and be starved for 6 months of the year in order not to become obese. While they do remain mostly inactive during the dry season and do not feed during that time in the area he`s studied them in, there is no evidence as far as I`m aware that keeping them active year round has a detrimental effect on their health per se, the problem I see is that the overwhelming majority are not being supported fully from the beginning (hatchlings).
    Very few keepers are aware of the gender of their animals, nor how soon they can reach sexual maturity in captivity, and as a result most females die long before their time from reproductive failure (for the sake of argument we can guess that 50% of captives may be female).
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2018
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  9. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    Thanks so much Stefan, glad you finally decided to grace me with your opinion ;) I fully agree with you the most out of everyone to be honest. I have seen just what bare minimum (or less) does to the species first hand since I had to have it shoved in my face not once, but three times. All 3 that came from shitty or less than ideal care were not great examples even after I tried my best with rehabbing them back into shape. They never did fully "recover" enough to be as comparable as a healthy well raised one. To say all will end up like that, I can't say. I'm only going off of my own experiences first hand. I hate that the monitor community standards are beyond low....lower than low in some circles as we know. I loathe some people even more than the entire community because....well you've heard me moan and complain enough so I'll stop.
  10. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    This is what I thought we were doing by not advocating smaller cages and minimal housing to beginners...and to be a self policing community so things stay the course. Correct me if I'm taking it to a level you didn't intend, but this is what my reasons are (or should I say were) for wanting to be a voice on behalf of these reptiles. Because I've learned the very hard way what becomes of monitors raised or kept in less than ideal conditions. Not my doing, but I was the one who had to deal with the problems and try in vain to fix them.

    I do appreciate any opinions from you guys regarding this, no matter if they disagree with mine. I've all but walked away from the idea of keeping in touch with monitor people because in my opinion (which I admit can get a bit on the extremist level), there is a line that too many people cross that should not have ever been crossed. Whether its to get more babies from their breeding stock so they cram too many into one space or cage, or to fit more animals into their basement because they can't stop collecting them like baseball cards or feeding off their impulse to get something cool. Not everyone goes to such lows though...there is a tiny handful out there who have decent ethics/morals but they are so hard to find. Fortunately I have a few like-minded people I keep in touch with from time to time, just so I have some monitor people I can chat with, so I'm not totally alone. But regardless, it feels quite lonely to not have a group mentality mindset like that anymore....if there ever was one.
    kriminaal likes this.
  11. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I always appreciate open and candid conversation.
    Savs were really the reason I started in monitors. I had one probably around 1997 if I were to guess.
    Moved to a different apartment and had to sell him so I really only had him up to 4 months of age.
    Just to clarify my own opinion. I do advocate larger setups. I just wanted to make note of my failure at a larger one, because of not having it setup properly. So while a smaller one can bake a monitor, I guess a larger one not setup properly can do the opposite. they would die from not having adequate temps for metabolizing.

    The reason I never got an other Sav was I knew the proper space requirements was something I could not deliver on.
    My first Ackies I bought a trio from Ravi Thakordyal, and he explained the size of his enclosure he had used. Not something I could get into. I usually just be blunt and tell people NOT to buy a Sav.

    I always raise an eyebrow speaking with people who 'love' reptiles. Keeping a room full of different species and really not knowing much about any of them and not providing the best of care.
    I guess 'love' means something different to them??
    Lori68 likes this.
  12. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    True that a large cage NOT set up properly is just as bad as a small one that will roast whatever is living in it. A cage that isn't working is still a cage that isn't working no matter what size it is...and for some, (especially newer keepers) they are barely grasping how to achieve the proper parameters in even something small as opposed to how to work with very large caging. But still, space does need to be large enough to be able to provide the right kind of heat and still be able to get away from it. Being able to provide the right temps and humidity can be achieved in a standard size cage...or as close to standard as one can do but can't in a small cage no matter what the excuse is. It's just the substrate temperatures in a large cage where many fail with, myself included with my past females. This could be addressed with solutions though. Raising the cage off the floor, installing heat cables or some form of heat from below the cage

    My question was posted after having the thought of looking at my current sav (who grew up in this cage while still very young) as opposed to the ones I took in as "rescues". Those kept and raised with the common shitty method of being in a small glass tank with a screen top and zero thought they actually needed some humidity. Those few I had before did not have good muscle tone, or didn't move as fast as this guy I have now does. I see a huge difference in what a decent cage does for them growing up as far as visuals go (internally I don't know). I can see this in social media posts made by others who keep theirs in something pathetically small or sparse who are around the same age as mine, who are now fat lazy blobs (or worse already dead). I know a good cage set up makes or breaks a monitors health...I've know that for years, but standards are getting so low and despicable I can't even comprehend how they can look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves....when they are committing animal abuse in every sense of the word and actually advocating others to do the same as they are. Is there no more decency in keeping standards now? Am I the crazy one for being so anal retentive? This is why I had to post the question, regardless of how silly it sounds.

    If I was to be given a chance to start over with monitor keeping, I'm positive savs would not have even been one that I would be keeping. If I had been able to ignore sav specific topics to stop being beaten up daily via my eyesight with seeing so much shitty care happening, I might have even been interested in the breeding aspect of it too because I am totally fascinated and awed by monitors. But getting into savs and actually caring about how unfair this species is being treated in the pet trade really ruined it for me.
  13. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    I know this is a bit off topic.
    You are correct Lori about the breeding aspect. I have done breeding, not a whole lot. Keeping the price on the high side helps eliminate those impulse buys. Although there are some that have money to throw away.
    When you put a lot of effort into breeding, the excitement of the eggs hatching and raising them up. You sure don't want to see them go to someone who is just going to kill them. I also had some at a pet store where I stopped in again and was horrified to see what they looked like. Of course someone bought one, it died and I replaced it.

    Good point about the muscle mass in Savs. They would certainly need more than an 8ft enclosure. I recall seeing some videos I think it was Justin(Krusty bk in the day) of his Argus sprinting around. The legs on that thing, pure tree-trunk muscle. I can't recall anyone posting videos of a Savannah monitor like that.

    There are serious keepers around that have great setups like Stefan. The problem is they stick to themselves mostly as the forum thing is just too irritating.
    You are not the only crazy one. I'm sick of people asking questions that they really don't want to know the answer to.
  14. Darkbird

    Darkbird Moderator Staff Member

    Anybody gotten the old "But I thought it would only grow as big as the cage?" thing lately? I haven't, but some of the stuff here brought it back to mind, lol. I actually try not to give people too hard of a time on the cage size issue so long as they are providing proper conditions within what they have. I get a lot though that give me the blank "deer in the headlights" type look when I ask them the exact temperature of thier basking site and general humidity levels in the cage.
    Now as to the cage size issue, which seems to be the main point of discussion, I think Mike and Stephan both make some really good points. I do consider breeding success to be something of a metric by which we can measure the success of keeping monitors in captivity. To me at least, someone that can have consistent production has figured out most of the finer points of the care for that species. For someone breeding to sell however, space is almost always an issue, but I have to believe that using the same parameters in larger caging when space is not the limiting factor, would seem like it would have better results, or at least healthier animals if not increased breeding production. This is just me speculating of course since my limited attempts at breeding weren't actually successful, and do to some changes in my life it doesn't look like I'll get back to trying soon, if ever. Now if someone was able to start breeding savs consistently without going through a lot of females, I would be very interested in learning the details of how they were keeping the them. Still waiting to see it though.
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  15. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    That is pretty much it. Few have done that although I know of one in Europe who has bred several times over (I was also told bred F3 savs but I have a hard time believing it. I do know this woman was successful to breed her female again at least a few times, not a brand new one each time). Another woman in Europe as well, bred her pair and the female didn't die...whereas the ones held up on some god damn pedestal now have had a female drop some eggs and the female is dead. What is so f***ing successful with that??? The conditions these monitors where that dead female are/were kept in is what made me think of animal abuse in every sense of the word too.

    Does just longevity count to you guys or no? That is to say, to keep one who has a longer than average life. I know that is few and far between because most savs are never kept well to begin with...or started well. But I do know of one keeper who had a sav live to almost 16 years old. Another woman rescued savs who were kept poorly until she got them and one was 7 and the other was 8 (humanely euthanized due to going downhill after going blind).

    It seems to be that just when we want to take one step forward, the entire mindset has now taken 5 steps back because decent housing is being thrown in the trash as part of the reason any do well. Both those European breeders I know of kept their savs in decent cages with room to move around and choose nesting sites.....not a tiny space crammed full of other savs.
    Darkbird, as for the question you asked about people assuming the monitor will only grow as big as the of course that's still around. I'd like to say that is one of the more stupid ideas still out there now but sadly it isn't. I don't even know where to begin with what is wrong with the general mindset now and what turned me right off being a part of any sort of monitor community. The biggest reason is the people leading the way to some imaginary promised land of doing things differently are going to get much better results. Very few savs ever get to live with decent husbandry to begin with....but believing many did and they all still died is wrong.
    The respect I had for those I once tried learning from died and I'm nobody special. I don't breed anything fancy, or breed anything at all for that matter because I honestly don't trust anyone to be a good home for babies I'd bring into this world. Why purposely do that to a life? To prove something??? My ego isn't that insecure that I need to prove I can do it just to get a fanbase for myself. I kept them because they are magnificent animals to observe and hopefully interact with from time to time. All I wanted to do was inspire others to take more responsibility for what they are 'supposed to be' taking care of. A live lizard is not some fun toy to play around with.
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  16. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    Forgot to add something. I don't think there has been decency in the hobby for quite some time. I know when I started 6 measely years ago, it was pretty rampant then too. There probably has never been a time where it has not been present. But in the last year or so, its gotten to levels so low it can literally make one sick to their stomach
  17. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Well put Lori.
    I've been in the hobby for close to 30 yrs now. I have never really put a number on how many reptiles I have killed myself in the past. It is part to blame as most of them were before the internet was invented. (that makes me sound old) Food I would say was fine but husbandry was definitely off. The not so funny thing is what I learned 20 yrs that I did wrong people still are doing the same thing.
    I guess if you find 4 sources on the web and 3 say the same thing. I guess that must be the right answer?
    I don't remember who said it but stick with one species and get that right before getting others.
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  18. Lori68

    Lori68 Established Member

    Kriminaal, have you ever considered trying to do a remake of Like a 2.0 forum for those who knew what it was like to have a wealth of info that had decent monitor keepers on. I've heard from many who were around in those days. Every single person said it was a great forum.

    Sure, ones like this are a great start, but as I've heard was well run. So you didn't have the kind of stuff posted that would kill your mood. And people could only join by invite...or something like that. Would be a great thing to have another one similar around for those like myself to strive to be good enough to join. And for all you seasoned keepers to feel good about the hobby again
  19. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Invite was one of the best things about it. It's not that you had to have 12yrs experience under your belt. Basically just someone to vouch for you. If you were disrespectful--GOODBYE. People weren't there for ego stroking.
    I forget the administrators name but at the end there was talk of archiving the forum. Not sure if they ever did.

    They gave notice about shutting it down and I was very surprised that no one took over running it.
    Forums come and go. I will pm all you about this topic.
    Lori68 likes this.

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