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Nile Monitor Lizard (Varanus niloticus) Species Profile: Diet, Housing, and Care
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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Varanus niloticus

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 an occasional cooked egg
Water: Keep it clean and fresh
Terrarium: 20 gallon aquarium for juvenile lizards; custom housing for larger specimens
Substrate: Aspen, lizard litters, and aquarium gravel and water combinations
Decoration: Live or artificial plants; provide rocks and driftwood for climbing
Lighting: full spectrum lighting with UVB
Temperatures: 80°F - 90°F, during the day and 78-80° F at night
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

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. They will require very secure, large enclosures, and it is recommended large monitors should not be handled alone. Some localities may require special permits to keep a nile monitor.

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. These enclosures should be very secure so the nile monitor does not escape. Small animals can be kept on aspen, 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, and an occasional cooked egg 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 UVB and several basking areas within the enclosure for self-regulation of temperature. General temperature requirements should range from 80°F in the cool area to 90°F in the basking areas by day. Keep nighttime temperatures in the high 70s.

Click here for a pdf version of this article.  See related products at DrsFosterSmith.com Pet Supplies  
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