This detailed, comprehensive guide on mangrove monitor care will teach you about their housing, health, diet, behavior, and more!
The mangrove monitor is a semi-aquatic Australian native, but can also be found on surrounding Pacific islands. They are similar in appearance to the Komodo dragon, but not as large. They are most often found in forests with saltwater streams and rivers, but can be found in other habitats.
Their biggest threat is hunting, as their skin is used to make leather for drum heads. They do well in the wild and populations have been steady or growing, so they are currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Mangrove Monitor Availability
Mangrove monitors are mostly sold by specialist reptile stores or private breeders. The average price is $200/£175 but this is dependant on region, age and sex of the monitor.
They generally live around 10 years, but they are capable of living up to 20 years in captivity.
Mangrove Monitor Appearance
Mangrove monitors look like small dinosaurs and move in a similar way to crocodiles. When they swim, they tuck they legs flat against their body and use side-side motions to swim. Their long tails gives extra propulsion.
They have a large, smooth head and a long neck. Their body is covered in small scales and they have 5 clawed toes on each foot.
Size: Most adult Mangroves grow 3.5-4 feet/1-1.2m, however, records show they can grow as long as 5ft/1.5m.
Color: The body is a dull brown, with some individuals showing a very dark body. They are also covered in small yellow dots along their back and tail.
Mangrove Monitor Terrarium Requirements
Housing for mangrove monitor care have some specific requirements in order to mimic their natural habitat.
Due to their large adult size, these monitors require custom built enclosures as they grow. Hatchlings and juveniles can be kept in terrariums or large aquariums, but once they reach 2ft, they should be moved to a larger enclosure. This will need to be at least 6ft long, 3ft wide and 3ft deep. If you have a pair, you will need a large space.
Heating and Lighting
As with other reptiles, monitors are ectothermic, so you need to provide a heat source for them to control their body temperature. The ambient temperature should be 80-90°F/26-32°C, with their basking spot sitting between 95 and 100°F/35-37°C. This should heat the surface temperature under the basking lamp to around 120°F/48°C. If you require an additional heat source, try ceramic heaters. They help to maintain heat but do not produce light.
A basking bulb controlled by thermostat or an MVB bulb manually monitored will both provide adequate light and heating. Bulbs that emit UV light are also important as this helps reptiles to absorb vitamin D. Your lighting should be on around 12 hours per day and off for 12 hours to create a day/night cycle. At night, the temperature should be allowed to fall to around 78°F/28°C.
Providing a large water bowl or swimming area will help to maintain the humidity of the enclosure. You can also add a layer of hydroton ball beneath the substrate to retain moisture. Misting the enclosure once or twice a day will also boost the humidity.
For the substrate, a deep layer of Cypress mulch and moss or a soil/sand mix would work well. If you plan on including live plants, try to choose a nutrient rich substrate.
Plants and Decorations
Plants can be used to create natural barriers and hiding spots for your monitor. This is especially important when they are young, as juveniles tend to by nervous. Add a hide either by using a simple box or building one with pieces of wood and rocks. A large water bowl is essential for these water lovers. If you have the space, a large enclosure could be built to house a swimming area at one end rather than using a bowl or tub.
Water bowls for drinking should be refreshed daily and swimming water should have floating debris or animal waste removed. Also check for any sheds or leftover food.
Youngsters are naturally nervous, so require very calm and careful handling. Do not force them to accept human interaction. Feeding them with tongs can help to form a trust and handling can progress from there.
Mangrove Monitor Health
As with any reptile, the environment has the biggest impact on health. A good enclosure and varied diet can prevent most common ailments.
Common Health Issues: shedding issues usually arise from low humidity. Misting your monitor and his enclosure will help to loosen shed skin. You can also place them in a warm water bath.
Internal parasites are common when feeding live foods. Get a fecal sample every 6 months to keep for parasites.
Injuries can occur from fights if you keep other monitors, from enclosure decorations or from bacterial infections. Keep an eye particularly on the toes and the tip of the tail.
Healthy Signs: a healthy mangrove monitor will be eager to eat and will spend a lot of time in water. They will have bright eyes and no problems shedding.
Mangrove Monitor Food & Diet
Mangroves are carnivores. A varied diet is important as they can become bored with the same food. They should be offered both insects and rodents. Rats, mice, eggs, locusts and crickets are all good options. Adults may also show a preference for seafood such as prawns, crayfish and sprats. Any food items that do not contain bones should be dusted with calcium powder.
Juveniles should be fed smaller food items daily, whereas adults can be fed 4 or 5 times per week and larger prey items.
Behavior & Temperament
Juveniles are skittish and will be slow to adjust to human interaction. Monitors also have sharp teeth and can deliver a nasty bite if they feel threatened.
Males should never be housed together. If you are wanting to breed, a pair or 1 male and 2 females is acceptable.
Mangroves are certainly not a beginner pet, but if you can provide the space, time and enrichment, they are a truly marvelous pet. They are full of character, love to swim and are capable of living more than a decade if you provide adequate mangrove monitor care!