Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Nile Monitor

Varanus niloticus

Adapted from a San Diego Herpetological Society care sheet by Mark Baumann


The Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) is distributed across most of Africa, except the northwest. It can get up to 7 feet (2.1 meters), but averages 4.5-5.5 feet (1.5-1.8 meters).

This species is extremely hardy in captivity when properly maintained. Wild caught animals should be checked for internal parasites. The Nile monitor has a very aggressive temperament with a powerful bite and a lashing tail. With a lot of patience, frequent handling, and a well stocked first aid kit, Nile monitors can be tamed. Babies and small juveniles are recommended to start with as they are easier to tame.

Nile monitors are carnivores. In captivity, they can be fed crickets, mealworms, kingworms, waxworms, butterworms, rodents, and fish. Feeder insects should be fed rich diets prior to being fed off. The monitors may occasionally be fed cooked eggs, canned dog or monitor food or raw beef heart. They should receive vitamin supplements once a week and calcium supplements twice weekly.

Small juveniles should be housed in at least a 20 gallon vivarium. Due to their large size, adults will require custom built quarters. Pine shavings, aspen bedding, or orchid bark can be used as a substrate. Landscape with rocks, driftwood, or hollow logs. A water dish large enough for the lizard to soak in should be used. Nile monitors have a tendency to crap in the water dish so clean it whenever soiled or at least daily.

Varanus niloticus should have a daytime temperature gradient of 80-90° F (27-32° C) and a nighttime temperature of 78-80° F (26-27° C). An under tank heater should be used for surface heat. An incandescent bulb in a reflector should be situated at one end of the vivarium to provide gradient daytime heat. At night, a red or black light bulb or ceramic infrared element may be used. A thermometer should be used to verify the temperature. The humidity should be moderate. Unfiltered natural sunlight is best, but fluorescent full spectrum / UV radiation reptile lights may be used.

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