Nile Monitor Lizard: Stats & Facts

posted: 05/15/12
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Nile Monitor Lizard: Stats & Facts
David A. Northcott/Corbis Images
More Information[b]Iguanas & Other Lizards Main[/b], [b]Reptile Guide Main[/b]

Varanus niloticus

There are two variations of Nile Monitors in the wild. They are the V. niloticus (Nile Monitor), and V. niloticus ornatus (Ornate Nile Monitor). The Nile Monitor has five torso bands, while the Ornate Nile has seven. The Ornate Monitor tends to have a brighter coloration, and be smaller than the Nile Monitor. The Ornate Nile Monitor is restricted to the southernmost sections of its wild distribution. In captive specimens, an albino form has been developed, although these are rare and costly. Captive and wild specimens have an approximate life span of 15 years.

The Nile Monitor resembles and has similar habits as the Water Monitor (V. salvator) from Asia, and the Mangrove Monitor (V. indicus) from the mangrove swamps in India and other eastern coastal Mangrove swamps. Nile Monitors are not for beginner herp owners. They normally have an aggressive temperament that does not tame down. Although each animal is different, most will carry a nasty disposition all of their life. Niles can inflict serious wounds to an inexperienced handler. Niles grow excessively large and have specialized requirements. They should be left to the experienced hobbyist that can provide proper care and handling.

Small Niles can be kept in a small terrarium, although adults and sub-adults will need custom housing that provides a water area large enough for swimming and deep enough for full submersion of the animal. Small animals can be kept on aspen, vermiculite, lizard litters, and aquarium gravel and water combinations. They will dig though. Make sure that the substrate, regardless of its type, can be changed easily and that in between changes, feces can be removed.

Young animals can accept insects enriched with vitamins, and prepared canned foods. As the animals grow, rodents, cooked egg, and mollusks can be introduced. Care should be taken not to feed "local" finds from the woods or yard as you do not know what the insects/rodents have been eating, and some native reptiles, especially toads, can kill your Nile Monitor.

Care should be exercised, as with any animal, that there are no dangers associated with housing decorations. Hazards include sharp edges on rocks, climbing areas that allow the animal to access heating and lighting sources, and so forth.

Provide full spectrum lighting with 5% UVB and several basking areas within the enclosure for self-regulation of temperature. General temperature requirements should range from 70°F in the cool area to 90°F in the basking areas by day, with moderate tank temperatures of 78°F - 85°F. Keep nighttime temperatures in the high 60s to the low 70s.

Quick Stats: Nile Monitor

Family: Varanidae

Origin: Most of Africa, excluding the northwestern portion

Size: To 7 feet (2.1 m) in the wild; to 4.5 - 5.5 feet (1.5 to 1.9 m) in captivity

Diet: Juveniles: enriched insects and canned foods; adults: rodents and cooked egg

Water: Keep it clean and fresh

Terrarium: Small enclosures for small lizards; custom housing for larger specimens

Substrate: Aspen, vermiculite, lizard litters, and aquarium gravel and water combinations

Decoration: Live or artificial plants; provide rocks and driftwood for climbing

Lighting: full spectrum lighting with 5% UVB

Temperatures: 78°F - 85°F, with a 70°F cool area and 90°F basking area

Compatibility: Best kept alone; can be very aggressive towards others

Sexing: Difficult; males tend to be larger

Cautions: Niles can inflict serious wounds to an inexperienced handler

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