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How to Care* for Your Argus Monitor

How to Care* for Your Argus Monitor


Argus Monitors (Varanus panoptes horni) are huge (3.5 -5’; males are larger than females), diurnal, terrestrial reptiles native to Indonesia, New Guinea and other nearby islands.  Other subspecies of V. panoptes are found in Australia but are not available in the pet trade.  Argus Monitors usually have a brownish or reddish background color with dark markings around the head and banded spots on the body. They are known for occasionally running on two feet and for standing upright, using their hind legs and powerful tail for balance.  Argus Monitors are intelligent reptiles who do not like to be handled. Due to their temperament and size, they should be considered to be intermediate to advanced level pets.



Adult Argus Monitors require large enclosures.  The enclosure should be minimally 8’x4’ and at least 5’ tall.  The enclosure should include sandy dirt substrate to a 24” depth to allow the Argus Monitor to construct underground burrows.  A mixture of soil and coco fiber is best for allowing the Monitor to dig burrows. Always ensure that the soil obtained is from an area free of pesticides, or purchase commercial vivarium blends. Additional cage items include a large, stable water bowl, large enough for the monitor to soak or swim in, and stable hiding spots such as large cork rounds and pieces of wood or branches that are securely fastened.  The enclosure should be misted daily to achieve a humidity level of 70-80% and to ensure that the top few inches of substrate are moist.

Heating and Lighting

Argus Monitors require a basking area whose temperatures should reach at least 115 degrees F or higher on the floor.  Since the Argus Monitor is a large reptile, a single light is often not enough to heat its whole body. Frequently a cluster of 3 floodlights will be used, one of which can be a full spectrum light to provide the Monitor with UV. Alternatively, the UVB light can be a full-spectrum 10.0 florescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure.  The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels.  The air temperature on the warm side of the enclosure should be 100F and in the mid 70’s on the cool end. A temperature drop at night is acceptable.

Food and Supplementation

Argus Monitors are carnivorous, opportunistic feeders.  When they are young, they should be fed daily on crickets, Dubia, and other roaches.  Insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3. Adult Argus Monitors require larger prey items and are primarily fed frozen and thawed mice, rats, and other mid-sized mammals or birds. It’s healthier to feed them whole prey items as opposed to pieces of meat. Adult Argus monitors may enjoy the largest Dubia Roaches in addition to the prey items described above.

*This care sheet contains only very basic information.  If you are new to Argus Monitors, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.

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