When it comes to owning a reptile, one of the best parts is designing their enclosure. Not only will you be able to see your new scaled friend enjoy your efforts, but it can also make a nice decorative feature for any home.
There are many ways you can provide a home for a healthy, calm and active Ackie Monitor.
Ackie Monitor found at Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory
There are two extremes of reptile enclosure design, and in zoological terms, these are described as sterile and naturalistic . Like many aspects of the herpetoculture, there are pros and cons to both of these herp-itectural designs.
A sterile enclosure has a main focus on hygiene, more specifically, the prevention of harmful bacteria, diseases and parasites. They are relatively easy to maintain, cost effective and a time-saving way of keeping cold-blooded creatures. Depending on the species, they are provided with furniture that is always sanitized and changed out regularly. These kinds of enclosures are ideal for large collections of research animals or for reptile breeding purposes. Wildlife veterinarians tend to recommend this way of keeping herpetofauna when under quarantine or if there is a suspected illness. However, it does have restrictions on enrichment and the animals’ ability to perform natural behaviours, such as digging or burrowing, and, in most cases, it can be hard to determine how this will neurologically influence your pet. The lack of ideal substrate to maintain their feet and claws can also bring new kinds of intense health problems. For example, an ackie monitor, like any varanid, is known for its’ intelligence. This means that is likely to show stereotypic behaviours if he/she becomes bored, unstimulated or stressed.
This is why it is more commonly seen that pet Varanus species are given a naturalistic home. More expensive and time-consuming yet completely creative-based and rewarding, this is the style of vivarium that will be explored in this article.
From the hot arid dry regions of Australia, Ackie Monitor's are complex ectotherm that behaves like a mini version of its’ close relative the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). Curious, way too smart for their own good and (mostly) gentle with their carer, they bring an interesting dynamic to a herpetofauna collection. This species can be tamed, handled and will exhibit primitive hunting and feeding behaviour if given the opportunity to do so. Chasing live crickets, black soldier fly larvae and live mealworms in one bite and wrestling with pinkies rats on feeding tongs, anyone who loves the power and aggression of varanids are sure to get their fix.
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory
When it comes to their naturalistic-style vivarium, heat, temperature and substrate take the spotlight as most important features. Next, furniture and microclimates. And lastly, features for grooming and shedding. From here, it’s time to get creative with plant species and the layout of your components.
Starting with the basics, for an adult ackie monitor, a 90x45x45 terrarium is ideal. This allows the animal to live out its desired terrestrial lifestyle, as well as a little space for climbing apparatuses. The temperature gradient should be managed, using heating lamps, abiotic features, water sources and plants. One side should be basking temperature and the other should provide a cool space- towards to lower spectrum of this goannas thermoneutral zone (26-29°C). The hot side should contain a heat lamp, flat basking rock and the surface temperature should be measured with a temp gun regularly, in order to make sure it maintains the recommended 35°C basking temperature.
There should also be logs and other climbing features (make sure they aren’t placed too high where your lizard can get burnt by the heating lamp, or you can cover it with a mesh protector for extra peace of mind). They should be placed near the “hot side” so they stay warm and give the animal more temperature variety. As the vivarium transitions into the cool space, plants, digging features and more rocks can be used to neutralise the middle zone. The cold end should contain logs, plants and drinking water, as well as a shallow pool (these pools are ideal for shedding purposes and helping with humidity). These areas of different temperature ranges provide a range of microclimates and allows the animal to choose where it wants to rest or play. A thermometer, or a few of them, should be placed into the enclosure for ambient temperature readings. Now the difficult part, which vivarium substrate is best?. There are many ongoing debates about which substrates are best for reptiles, luckily, the ackie monitor is reasonably straight-forward in what it needs. As this species explores the vast deserts of Australia, sand-based substrates are preferred and the most effective at making them feel comfortable. These substrates can even be alternated, keeping your ackie curious. These include the Komodo CaCo Sand White Blend, Sand Terracotta Blend or Sand Amethyst Blend - or a mixture of all 3! (Remember: educated creativity is key). Sand substrate is easy to spot clean and ackies will love making diggings and shallow burrows to bask in. It is also good at retaining heat- ideal for this varanid.
As mentioned above, there are many ways you can keep a reptile, they are adaptable species and as long as they are able to thermoregulate and receive adequate nutrition, they tend to thrive without complications. The important things to note about starting a reptile collection is the ongoing cost and commitment- many of these species have long lifespans, require live food and regular substrate changes.
If you are interested in keeping a species like Ackie Monitor, it is urged to do extensive research before committing to one. They are unique pets, require a mini zoo enclosure and can be a cool lifelong hobby to be a part of. As fun as it can be, it’s not something to take lightly as they are more challenging than some easier reptiel pets like Bearded Dragons. Although, it’s hard to think of anything cooler than having a mini dinosaur living in your home
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Ackie Monitor Reference List:
1. Carmel, B., Johnson, R., 2014. A guide to health and disease in reptiles & amphibians. Reptile Publications, Burleigh, Queensland.
2. Rees, P.A., Rees, P.A., 2011. An introduction to zoo biology and management. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom, Malden, Massachusetts.