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Old 10-30-17, 09:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Ackie Monitor Care

(All measurements in this care sheet are done in feet)

INTRODUCTION- Ackie monitors (Varanus acanthurus). What more is necessary in a sentence? This is my favorite monitor species to own/keep. Yes, there are some fabulous species of monitors out there such as asian water monitors (Varanus salvator) and argus monitors(Varanus panoptes). Both of those species however have the potential to get up to 6'+ in length (maybe not argus monitors but you get the idea), the asian water monitor is the biggest lizard you could possibly own, disregarding the komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). These lizards have incredibly sophisticated and specific care, and should not be owned by anyone other then those who are truly able to take care of them properly (neither should any animal which is why it is important to do your research). The best care sheet I have seen for an AWM can be found at the Vital Exotics Black Dragon Water Monitor Care Sheet. That said ackies are not hard to keep and they will certainly not get 6' in length or need a 12' by 12' by 8' (LxWxH) or bigger cage when they are older. Ackies are a dwarf species of monitor so they can be kept by anyone who can truly put the commitment in, they are not hard to keep as long as you do it right. They are intelligent interesting little creatures so let's get right into it.

SIZE, LIFESPAN, AND COST- Ackie monitors generally won't get much over 2' in length however there are always exceptional cases, don't overfeed your monitor and you should be fine. Red Ackies may get slightly bigger then yellows. Be mindful that most of the monitors size is tail. Ackie monitors will live somewhere between 15 and 20 yrs. of age. In terms of pricing expect somewhere between $250-$350 for a hatchling. Adults can cost between $400-$500, and as much as $600-$800 for a breeding pair. These guys cost a lot of money, in some ways it's good because people won't casually buy it for a gift, like they do with green iguanas (Iguana iguana), and savannah monitors (Varanus exanthematicus), along with several other cherished species in the reptile hobby. Ackie monitors can also be found cheaper in pairs, but I do not recommend buying more unless you plan to breed (See enclosure section for more information), remember the more monitors the bigger the enclosure, and more the overall price everything will come out to be. (More information on picking your monitor in Taming Process section). Side note: Most ackie monitors in the hobby are CBB (Captive born and bred) in the U.S., so that's a positive!

ENCLOSURE- Like I said above these little guys are intelligent and therefore should not be stuffed into a tiny box. These are not snakes, so no enclosure built for snakes is ever good for these monitors. You will not be able to find a suitable commercially available monitor enclosure, luckily they are not that hard to make (more on that in a bit). While snakes may wait in one place for most of their lives waiting for food, these guys will be digging and climbing and running around in their enclosure (don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore snakes, monitor and snake requirements are very different though). I would say the minimum size for one ackie monitor enclosure is 4' by 2' by 2' (LxWxH). I cannot stress enough how much monitors benefit from bigger cages I would recommend a 5' by 2' by 3' (LxWxH) or bigger, this size cage is good for a single adult or a breeding pair. Baby ackie monitors may feel more comfortable for the first couple months of their lives in a smaller enclosure such as a 2.5' by 1.5' by 3' (LxWxH), however no adult should ever be kept in such conditions. Ackie monitors are not a social species of monitor in captivity and while many people keep them in groups they do not benefit from this, in fact it could stress them out. Ackie monitors will compete with each other for food, and superior monitors will bully smaller ones. If you have a big cage with multiple basking spots (see heating/lighting section), and continuously check to make sure that they are not fighting, it can be fine to house more then one monitor together. If they are not a breeding pair I do not recommend to do so though. Ackie monitors will appreciate about a foot of sand-soil substrate (50% playing sand, 50% chemical/pesticide free soil), they love to burrow, and will do so frequently if given the chance. Soil should be slightly damp (not wet) to allow for proper construction of tunnels. Place hides, a water bowl, and decorations such as sticks and plants throughout the enclosure, try to use as much space as possible, ( in terms of adding shelves or plants to access height) no space will go unused. For some reason, ackies have the tendency to stuff themselves in the smallest places they can find when they are going to sleep. Obviously it is because they like to hide but it is really funny how small the places they get into are. For this reason I don't recommend using sliding doors with baby ackies, i have actually seen them stuff themselves through the doors, which can then lead to their escape. These are smart Monitors, their cage should be completely 100% escape proof. A lot of keepers will use wood or stone stacks under the basking light, which the ackies stuff themselves in between this is a great use of material and I highly recommend this type of hide. For building the cage, plywood works well, just make sure to avoid cedar, it is toxic to herps. Pine might not be a good option as well, because of how strong it smells, there is no actual study yet showing that it is bad, but I would avoid it anyway. I recommend using either birch or oak wood. Plexiglass is a good replacement for glass, it weighs less so it can make the enclosure a little lighter. I recommend using a non toxic water proofing stain as well, there will not be a lot of humidity in the cage, but it will increase the overall life of the enclosure. Provide a couple of vents on the two sides of the enclosure to allow airflow, or you can drill small holes into the acrylic (plexiglass). All of these materials can be purchased at Home Depot and Amazon (This will be a lot cheaper then any custom cage commercially available). Enclosures are pretty important for Monitor care, make sure you provide a big, and enriching enclosure for your new pet.

HEATING/LIGHTING AND HUMIDITY- There is a lot of debate in the reptile world on wether reptiles require UVB, this is true in order to protect against Metabolic Bone Disease (UVB Light provides d3 which is the vitamin used to break down calcium) . A devastating disease that happens when a reptile cannot synthesize calcium properly, and starts to pull it out of it's bones leaving them horribly disfigured. This will kill your herp if left untreated. I am going to get to both points on the argument and give you my advice in what to do. Reasons against providing UVB: The animals should get their UVB from their diet of whole prey, consisting on rodents. Reasons for providing UVB: Adds to the animals color (heightens and intensifies). Can boost an animals mood. Help prevent against MBD. All these reasons are logical, and here is where I stand, providing UVB is not required in Monitors, they can get d3 from their diet (Green Iguanas for example cannot eat whole pray as they are herbivores, so they would need UVB light in their enclosure). However providing UVB lighting will only help your animal, so I recommend it (Feeding section will get into vitamin d3 more). Heating is where most people fail in keeping monitor species, they do not need belly heat like snakes do, they need to be under a strong light and bask. Believe it or not these temperatures that Monitors like are crazy to those who have been keeping snakes. Ackies like it HOT, and basking temps of 120°F-140°F are great for ackies (This is also the main reason for their high metabolisms, more on that in Feeding section). I have also heard people seeing ackies bask at temps of 160°F, I would not go above this however, even though this won't burn your ackie monitor (not even close). A good stable ambient temperature away from the basking spot is about 75°F-80°F, this will give them the opportunity to cool themselves down and thermoregulate (control their temperature) if they so choose. At night time most monitors benefit from 24 hour basking, I recommend putting a ceramic bulb in the enclosure and cycling it on and off with the day time bulbs. Night time basking temps can be cooler, 110°F-120°F is pretty good, and this ensures you are not losing any heat at night. In terms of humidity it's not much, they originate from Australian deserts and rocky desert mountains so humidity above ground isn't that important. In the substrate however (mainly the tunnels they dig), there should be some level of humidity 50-60% that would mimic the damp caves and such found under the hot sun. You can achieve this by slightly damping (again not wet) the sand-soil substrate, and perhaps spraying the substrate about once a month, or as often as needed to provide the necessary humidity. The monitor should be able to make the decision on its own whether it wants to be underground or above ground. Make sure you get this stuff right and it should make your monitor very happy.

FEEDING- This is one of the major perks to owning an ackie monitor, or all animals for that matter! in monitors in general people disagree with what to feed them and the amount. I highly recommend breeding dubia roaches as a stable in their diet, dubias are easy to breed with just a box, a couple of egg cartons and a temperature of 85°F-90°F. I use fruits and vegetables with high water content such as zucchini, and apples but you can pretty much give anything to them. Give them anything you would want your animals to eat, but avoid protein as they are already rich in protein. Before feeding them to your monitor or pet make sure to feed the dubias to gutload them, to make sure your monitor gets as much nutrition as possible. When feeding roaches cover them in a light amount of calcium with d3 powder as well, especially for those not on a rodent diet, or those under two years of age. There are some benefits and negatives for providing rodents in a diet, I do not recommend a 100% rodent diet, but I do think they are important in providing a healthy balanced diet. I believe 80-85% of an ackie monitors diet should be made of insects, dubias are the healthiest, but crickets and mealworms are good to provide a varied diet. I recommend leaving a bowl of insects inside the enclosure at all times for the ackie monitor can eat when it so pleases. About 20-15% of their diet should be made up with whole prey such as rodents, I recommend pinky mice for youngsters and rat pinkies for adults (the fur on mice and rats can be hard for lizards to digest without hot temperatures, if you provide bigger mice or rats make sure the mouse or rat is completely digested). Try to stay away from canned/pre made foods, they don’t provide as much nutrition as whole prey, and it can be hard to make sure your reptile is provided with enough nutrients, this is the reason I recommend rodents. Scheduled feeding times can be about 5-7 days a week. This is where their metabolism comes in, because of the hot temperatures these guys digest food very quickly so it is very important to feed babies everyday (provide a food bowl). For adults, as previously mentioned 5-7 days a week with the addition of feeding bowls works well. If you can, it is better to feed your monitors smaller meals throughout the day instead of one large meal a day. As mentioned briefly above, vitamin d3 is necessary in preventing the disease known as MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). For young monitors, all insects should be dusted with calcium+vitamin d3 powder, if UVB is provided in their enclosure dust insects every other day. For Adults, dust insects every other day, if UVB is provided dusting 3-4 times a week should suffice. You can use reptile vitamins on the days you do not provide calcium with d3. Feeding time should be a fun time for both you and your monitor, just make sure they receive proper nutrition.

BREEDING-Please refer to REPTILES Magazine’s article on breeding ackie monitors, I have no experience with breeding ackies, but I have an interest in the breeding them in the future, and I will fill in this care sheet as I learn.

TAMING PROCESS- (Disclaimer: some of these tips and tricks may be similar to VitalExotics care sheet mentioned earlier, regardless, this will help you tame your ackie monitor.)
Ackie monitors are a popular pet, they are a mini monitor, it is absolutely crazy how cool that is. If you have ever looked at videos of monitors on the internet you can see how well they can adapt to your presence, but you can also see how badly they can act to your presence. If you bought an adult ackie monitor that has not been handled, follow the steps for taming babies. If your monitor was consistently being held at the pet store, most likely he/she is already “dog” tame. If not, follow the steps for taming babies. Setting the scene: It is Sunday night, you just came back from your favorite reptile expo, even better you brought home a new friend, an ackie monitor! You still need to setup a cage, but that's okay, you can't wait to bring him out and hold him for a while. When you take your baby monitor out of the container it seems to not want you to hold him, but instead insists on running away. You think to yourself , “maybe it was just the ride, he’ll be better in the morning.” You put him back in the container and setup his enclosure, its getting late so you decide to go to bed. In the morning, to your utter despair you find yourself chasing the monitor all around the enclosure with your hand, all he wants is to run away from you, what's wrong? This type of story happens to often, and this leaves both the owner and the monitor at a loss. Your job is to get the monitor to trust you, and at first that is all that matters, here is what you want to do: The first step is to setup a enclosure before you purchase your monitor (although, this rule can be followed for any species of pet), this will ensure that proper basking temps, and hides will be available for your monitor species. Doing this before hand will give your lizard more time to get accustomed to it’s new home. You should handle the monitor at the store or expo to ensure that they are healthy. The monitor should have bright clear eyes, and should not have too much stuck shed to their skin. (Monitors don’t shed in one piece as snakes do, so its okay if there is some shed on it). Ask to see the monitor eat, and for pictures on their original enclosures. A healthy, eating, and clear eyed monitor is the best choice. This will make the taming process much easier for the both of you. After you bought your monitor, and are home it is best to put them in their cage right away, try not to handle the monitor for 1-2 weeks while they are getting accustomed. After 1-2 weeks, your monitor should be on a regular feeding schedule, at this point you can start the next step of the taming process. Try to get your monitor to feed from feeding tongs, they should start to take the food immediately, but some individuals can be very stubborn, once they start doing this, the next step can begin. Put your hand in the enclosure, you should not be chasing the monitor around, just leave your hand in the enclosure without paying any attention to your pet. Leave your hand inside the enclosure for ten minutes twice a day. Include a well used article of clothing in the enclosure as well, this will familiarize your scent with a safe place. Your monitor should eventually start to get curious enough to investigate your hand, once this happens you can start to handle your monitor inside of its enclosure, remember: your monitor sees its enclosure as a safe place, which is why it is important to handle them inside (during the taming process don’t pick up the monitor with your hand, they should be curious enough to come to you). Outside the enclosure is filled with new sounds and smells, which can be very frightening to both babies and adults who aren't used to being outside. Once they are readily coming out to investigate your hand, and you have handled them inside their enclosure a couple of times, you can then bring them outside. Most likely for the first time, they will try to bolt, just make sure you don’t let them on the floor, these guys are very fast, and they have a knack to get into small unreachable locations. Handle your monitor by placing one hand over another, and continue this process, while the bonding process is starting try not to handle them for too long, 10-15 minutes at a time is good. Repeat this process as often as necessary, but buy the end, you should end up with a “puppy dog” tame monitor that allows you to pick them up and play. The taming process is probably one of the hardest things to do right, the temptation is so great to just hold your monitor right after you get it, but if you want to build a positive, fun relationship, please follow these steps.

CONCLUSION- Ackie monitors are my favorite species of monitor, they are smart and intelligent, and they deserve every bit of respect, so please make sure to follow this care sheet to ensure you and your monitor have years to come. Please give me any kind of constructive criticism to help me improve my writing skills, and if you have any suggestions on what species I should do next please let me know. Rate this care sheet a solid 5 stars! Comments are always appreciated!
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Old 11-16-17, 05:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

Hi, a few small but important points to make; no animal can digest fur no matter what the temps are. Pinky mice have very little nutritional value, the skeleton hasn`t formed and not much in the way of protein, fuzzies are more nutritious if rodents are offered on occasion.
A 5L x 2W x 3H (feet) enclosure is not large enough to house two adults (e.g a male and female) I would recommend at least a 6L x 3W x 3H for a pair.
If decent UVB emitting bulbs/tubes are used there should be no need to offer D3 supplementation, in fact most supplements are pure guesswork, some of no benefit and it`s easy to over or under supplement, much better to do as you have suggested, which is to make sure all the feeders are well fed.
UVB can be of benefit especially if the monitor/s receive mainly an invert based diet.
You make no mention of sexual maturity and of providing suitable nesting (almost from the beginning) which is extremely important because of how quickly they can become sexually mature, and there`s a 50% chance the monitor will be female. You did mention an article on breeding, but females will become gravid on a very regular basis (whether a male is present or not).
It can take literally months to gain their "trust" and there are no guarantees.
They inhabit a variety of conditions from quite arid to tropical, the humidity range should reflect that.
Can you put up a few photos of your monitor`s enclosure (not to criticise, just out of interest). Thanks!
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Old 11-17-17, 07:32 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

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5L x 2W x 3H (feet) enclosure is not large enough to house two adults (e.g a male and female) I would recommend at least a 6L x 3W x 3H for a pair.
If decent UVB emitting bulbs/tubes are used there should be no need to offer D3 supplementation, in fact most supplements are pure guesswork, some of no benefit and it`s easy to over or under supplement, much better to do as you have suggested, which is to make sure all the feeders are well fed.
UVB can be of benefit especially if the monitor/s receive mainly an invert based diet.
You make no mention of sexual maturity and of providing suitable nesting (almost from the beginning) which is extremely important because of how quickly they can become sexually mature, and there`s a 50% chance the monitor will be female. You did mention an article on breeding, but females will become gravid on a very regular basis (whether a male is present or not).
It can take literally months to gain their "trust" and there are no guarantees.
They inhabit a variety of conditions from quite arid to tropical, the humidity range should reflect that.
Can you put up a few photos of your monitor`s enclosure (not to criticise, just out of interest). Thanks!
Hi, thank you for your response, I always like to receive input on how I did. I wouldn't keep a pair in a 5Lx2Wx3H cage either. Which is why I stressed on getting a bigger cage whenever possible. However, depending on age, this isn't a bad thing and depends on how your ackie monitors react to each other. Provided multiple basking spots this type of setup usually works fine, and as long as the two monitors aren't fighting it's not a big deal. It is always necessary to have a backup cage for each monitor, it is completely likely that they will fight at some point, and they will have to be separated. I don't recommend keeping pairs anyway, because they don't benefit from it. But, breeding pairs have to be kept together as often as possible in order to ensure a healthy relationship. I am also not very familiar with breeding, but providing spagnum moss as a material for laying eggs works well because it provides humidity. Most of the time for the taming process, individuals are relatively calm and relaxed, and can easily be tamed, however, there are always exceptions that may need longer to adjust which is why you don't move to fast in the taming process. For a photo, I don't upload photos of my own enclosure, mostly to avoid criticism of what materials I used, or how I did it. I know, the criticism wouldn't be coming from you, but I try to avoid showing what I use in my monitor cage. Thank you for responding, if there is anything else I can do be sure to let me know.
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Old 11-17-17, 07:47 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

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Hi, a few small but important points to make; no animal can digest fur no matter what the temps are. Pinky mice have very little nutritional value
You're right, but the higher temps make it easier for the monitor to pass the fur through, it breaks them down, they don't get digested though. So you don't have to use pinky mice, but just make sure the temps are right if you are going to be feeding rodents. But I wouldn't recommend anything bigger then fuzzy mice for ackie monitors.

Last edited by DJC Reptiles; 11-17-17 at 08:04 AM..
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Old 11-17-17, 04:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DJC Reptiles View Post
Hi, thank you for your response, I always like to receive input on how I did. I wouldn't keep a pair in a 5Lx2Wx3H cage either. Which is why I stressed on getting a bigger cage whenever possible. However, depending on age, this isn't a bad thing and depends on how your ackie monitors react to each other. Provided multiple basking spots this type of setup usually works fine, and as long as the two monitors aren't fighting it's not a big deal. It is always necessary to have a backup cage for each monitor, it is completely likely that they will fight at some point, and they will have to be separated. I don't recommend keeping pairs anyway, because they don't benefit from it. But, breeding pairs have to be kept together as often as possible in order to ensure a healthy relationship. I am also not very familiar with breeding, but providing spagnum moss as a material for laying eggs works well because it provides humidity. Most of the time for the taming process, individuals are relatively calm and relaxed, and can easily be tamed, however, there are always exceptions that may need longer to adjust which is why you don't move to fast in the taming process. For a photo, I don't upload photos of my own enclosure, mostly to avoid criticism of what materials I used, or how I did it. I know, the criticism wouldn't be coming from you, but I try to avoid showing what I use in my monitor cage. Thank you for responding, if there is anything else I can do be sure to let me know.

The most reliable nesting material is a soil/playsand mix and that has been demonstrated over many years and generations.
You clearly did say a 5L x 2W x 3H feet enclosure would be suitable for an adult pair (it certainly would not be large enough).
If you want others to follow your advise you need to provide evidence that your husbandry practices work, that includes photos of your setup and monitor, yet you refuse because you don`t want anyone criticising anything? Please show a few pics and also say how long you`ve had the animal. Thanks!
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Old 11-18-17, 01:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

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For a photo, I don't upload photos of my own enclosure, mostly to avoid criticism of what materials I used, or how I did it.
Surely criticism is how we learn. I am always happy to share my enclosures and will take on board any comments. I won't necessarily agree with them but oftentimes people put forward good suggestions on what could be done differently to improve things beyond what I can achieve on my own.
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Old Today, 10:37 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

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Surely criticism is how we learn. I am always happy to share my enclosures and will take on board any comments. I won't necessarily agree with them but oftentimes people put forward good suggestions on what could be done differently to improve things beyond what I can achieve on my own.
Yeah, I've gotten crap for using dirt in snake cages before. People can criticize but if what you're doing is working those people can either learn from it or shove it lol.
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Old Today, 10:59 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

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Yeah, I've gotten crap for using dirt in snake cages before. People can criticize but if what you're doing is working those people can either learn from it or shove it lol.
Why were you given crap for using dirt in snake cages? Because it's not sterile?
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Old Today, 11:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Why were you given crap for using dirt in snake cages? Because it's not sterile?
Yeah, ball python group think on a facebook group.

I never even considered sterility when I used to keep snakes on paper, it was literally just ease of cleaning and cheapness. Kind of like the belly heat thing, people do something then recommend it for long enough and it somehow becomes necessary. It's kinda silly but eh, oh well.
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Old Today, 02:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

<sarcasm>Dirt is dirty. You should know better.</sarcasm>

Which begs the question, how often are you cleaning/replacing out the soil-based substrate?
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Old Today, 02:22 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Ackie Monitor Care

ball python fb groups are like the extremists of the reptile keeping community it's really either tubs, paper, dark room, no exercise propaganda, or the banhammer.

Not sure if you're in the AHH group on fb, that's a great reptile community where they advocate proper care.
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