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Are Monitor Lizards dangerous? (Full Facts Plus Black-Throated Specie Care Guide)

I personally find the Monitor lizard quite interesting, with such an array of different types, in particular the massive Komodo Dragon and popular Black-Throated Monitor. But before you head out to find one you need to understand the risks associated with them and the facts.  

Are Monitor Lizards Dangerous? In general, Monitor Lizards are dangerous. They are not the safest pets when forced to live with humans in captivity, and can be dangerous to own. Perspective buyers need to understand the commitment needed if they truly want to keep them as pets.

Obviously, this is a broad statement for a whole family of lizards, so I want to focus in on one particular specie, the throated Monitor and give you more facts on this topic, please read on.

In your quest to find an interesting, unique pet, you may have stumbled upon Monitor-lizards. Maybe you saw them in a pet shop, online, or at a friend’s house.

Maybe you saw videos of Komodo Dragon fighting on Animal Planet. No matter where you saw them, these animals give off an intimidating and intriguing impression. These characteristics can be quite attractive to many pet owners.

So, if you’ve found yourself interested in becoming the owner of a monitor lizard, what do you need to know? If you’ve never owned a large reptile, you probably have a lot to learn.

If you have before, there’s still a lot to know about owning and taking care of monitor-lizards specifically.

Why Are monitor lizards dangerous?

Monitor lizards are similar to many other reptilian pets. Unlike dogs and cats, these pets have not been domesticated for thousands of years. This means that their typical behavior is more similar to their natural, wild state. To be safe pets, monitor lizards require proper pet safety and education on the animal.

Monitor Lizards are therefore not always the safest pets when forced to live with humans in captivity, and can be dangerous to own. While typical pet lizards are kept in tabletop aquariums and fed crickets, monitor lizards grow much to large for such enclosures.

Depending on the subspecies of monitor, they can grow up to 7 feet and length and be aggressive creatures. Furthermore, some subspecies are considered even more aggressive than others, leading many reptilian pet experts to say they are impossible to safely keep as pets.

The exceptions to these considerations are the Savannah Monitor and the Ackies Monitor. Due to their small size, affordability, and comparably calm disposition, these subspecies of monitors are less dangerous than their supersized relatives.

But even the aggressive subspecies of monitors can be safely kept as pets, as long as the owner knows what they are doing. Proper diet, handling, and living conditions will keep your monitor lizard happy. A happy lizard is not usually a dangerous lizard, though accidents can happen

Are they safe to keep as pets?

Monitor lizards are quickly becoming popular for people seeking an exotic pet species. However, due to their naturally dangerous tendencies, large size, and acute intelligence, many species of these animals are not safe to keep as pets for most people. Monitors are especially unsafe for pet owners with little experience owning dangerous reptiles.

If you are just looking for a cool pet to show off to your friends, there are much safer alternatives. However, if you’re an experienced pet owner with the proper enclosure for such a large creature, you may be able to own a monitor lizard safely.

For the safety of the animal, monitor lizards require daily attention, proper diet, and, depending on the subspecies, a large enclosure.

If you’re willing to do the research, pay attention to the animal, and practice safe handling, monitor lizards can be safe to keep as pets. Otherwise, owning a monitor lizard can be dangerous for you and especially dangerous for the animal.

Is the Black-throat Monitor a popular pet?

The Black-throat Monitor is a fairly large subspecies of monitor lizard that is a native to Africa. The climate in this area maintains yearly temperatures at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to their relatively calm demeanor compared to similar sized relatives, the black-throat monitor is becoming an increasingly popular pet. While experienced and diligent pet owners can safely keep them, we do not recommend inexperienced reptile handlers to own these large animals.

Black-throat monitors can turn aggressive with humans, especially if they are not frequently handled. These lizards will slap their large tails, hiss, and puff up their body. Worst-case scenario, a Black-throated monitor will bite their owners or others. These behaviors are rare though, and they are usually calm pets, but it can happen.

How big is a Black-throat Monitor Lizard?

Black-throat monitor lizards, like other reptiles, are hatched from eggs. When young, they are quite small, which leads many pet owners to underestimate their adult weight. However, these lizards can grow to be some of the largest reptiles on Earth.

It is not unusual for a the Black-throat Monitor to grow to 7 feet in length from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose. The largest of these animals can weigh up to 50 pounds, or the size of a golden retriever!

However, typical black-throat monitors will not grow to these huge sizes. Most animals will be around 3 feet and length, and weigh less than 15 pounds. Still, these animals will need large enclosures that give them enough room to roam around.

What is the best type of enclosure for a Black-throat Monitor Lizard?

If you decide that you can handle taking care of a black-throat monitor lizard, the next step will be to create an appropriate enclosure for the animal.

While young lizards can be housed in typical glass enclosures, the black-throat monitor lizard will quickly outgrow this undersized home.

We recommend that owners build their lizard’s adult housing, out of plexiglass or wood. Doing this yourself will allow you to curtail the size of the cage to your specific lizard.

The cage must be large enough for the lizard to roam around, stretch, and comfortably turn. If the lizard does not have enough room there are numerous negative consequences that will affect its health and demeanor.

First of all, it is cruel to house a large animal in a small enclosure. These animals deserve to be treated respectfully and kindly. Second, animals kept in uncomfortable living conditions can become more aggressive and dangerous.

Lastly, black-throat monitors kept in inadequate enclosures will be unhealthy and have a lower life expectancy.

If you are unable to provide a black-throat monitor lizard with housing of this size and specifications, then you should not purchase one as a pet. The small, young lizards will eventually become much, much larger.

What is the Black-throat Monitor Lizard's Scientific Name?

The black-throat monitor lizard’s belongs to the class reptilian, order squamat, family varanidae, and genus varanus. Its scientific name is Varanus albigularis microstictus.

This name describes its white throat, as well as its sometimes aggressive nature. Varanus is a word with Arabic origins that loosely translates into “warn” or “warning,” as in “warning, do not own this pet if you don’t know what you’re getting into.”

What other names do monitor lizards have?

Monitor lizards have numerous different subspecies with their own unique names. As previously mentioned, there are the Savannah Monitor and the Ackies Monitor, as well as the popular Black-throat Monitor.

One of the most well known species of monitor lizards, which should under no circumstances be owned as a pet, is the Komodo Dragon. These super massive lizards are ferocious predators that can grow to ten feet in length and weigh over 1000 pounds.

Komodo Dragons are apex predators found on islands in Indonesia. They are known to prey upon deer, pigs, and even cattle, utilizing their toxic saliva and super strong jaws.

Obviously, we highly recommend that you do not purchase a komodo dragon as a pet. It could eat you.

Where are monitor lizards found in the wild?

Species of monitor lizards are found all over the world. They are found in areas of Africa, all over India, in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and beyond. 

Recently, as failed pet owners have began releasing captive monitors into the wild, natural sustaining populations of these lizards have been found in South Florida and Singapore.

The Savannah monitor, one of the most common species kept as pets, is found in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. This area includes Senegal and Sudan, and reaches to the Congo River.

In these areas, the lizard lives on the ground, and also sometimes bushes and trees. When threatened, Savannah monitors will shelter in burrows.

The Ackies monitor, another popular species for pet owners, is found in the northwest region of Australia. Also known as the spiny-tailed monitor, this smaller species of monitor lives in an arid area.

It spends most of its time living between rocks and boulders, but also ventures into outcrops.

The Komodo Dragon, which we think is the coolest species though it is completely unsuitable for pet ownership, is found mostly on the island of Komodo and surrounding islands in Indonesia.

This area is prone to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and wildfires. It is a harsh environment, even compared to this ferocious animal.

What is a monitor lizard’s typical lifespan?

Another aspect of monitor-lizards to consider before purchasing one as a pet is their lifespan. Whereas most pet dogs will live around 10 years, monitor-lizards have lifespans commonly exceeding 20 years.

This creates problems for pet owners at times, especially when their living conditions changes. If you decide to purchase a monitor lizard as a pet, you need to realize that it is a long term commitment that you are held to no matter your living situation. Do not purchase one of these animals as a pet if you are constantly moving homes.

Do monitor lizards need a hide box?

Many pet reptiles such as boas and ball pythons require hide boxes in their enclosures to be comfortable. This is because these animals feel more comfortable when they have somewhere dark and cozy to retreat to.

Monitor lizards, however, do not require a hide box. Their enclosure’s focus needs to be on providing enough room for the lizard, and maintaining a proper temperature.

What is the ideal substrate for them?

After building an adequate enclosure for your monitor lizard, you will need to decide the appropriate substrate for its cage.

Maintain the proper humidity and temperature are imperative for the quality of life and health of these animals. One of the most important factors affecting the enclosure’s temperature and humidity is the substrate.

Many species of monitor-lizards, including the popular savannah monitor, require a thick layer of substrate. For adult animals, the best substrate to use is soil.

This is because monitor lizards enjoy digging complex systems of burrows that can be quite long and deep. Sand is unsuitable for this activity, as it will collapse, even when moistened.

The soil in the cage can be potting soil, clay, or whatever dirt you have in your backyard as long as it is deep and can be tightly packed. In general, the substrate needs to be about 1.5-2 feet deep. It will require daily watering at appropriate amounts, avoiding pools.

Young lizards do not require soil of this depth, and can even live on smooth gravel, mulch, or moistened paper towels.

These young lizards often also enjoy plants and sticks that allow them to practice climbing.

What Lighting and Heating do they need?

Monitor lizards, like most reptiles, are cold blooded. This means that they require outside sources of heat to regulate their internal temperature. For monitor lizards, this means they need to spend about half of every day exposed to UVB lighting to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While natural sunlight is undoubtedly the healthiest source of heat for your lizard, it is often times unrealistic as a consistent method of lighting and heat.

Sunlight can warm your monitor lizard on occasional walks around your neighbourhood, provided the outside temperature is appropriate and your lizard can be safely walked. Walking a 5-foot lizard down the street is sure to turn some heads!

When natural sunlight is not available, artificial lighting is the best alternative to keep your lizard warm. Sunlight coming through a windowpane is not appropriate or adequate.

Fluorescent light bulbs can give your animal the UVB lighting they require. The bulbs need to light the entire cage so that the entire animal is exposed. Be aware of how hot the cage is, and maintain a high enough temperature while avoiding burning the lizard with the hot bulbs.

Sometimes, artificial lighting sources will not be enough. In the wild, monitor lizards also receive a significant amount of heat from the Earth itself. You can imitate this in your enclosure by placing heating pads underneath the cage to warm the substrate.

Basking bulbs are another method of providing heat, and many species of monitor lizards enjoy them. Again, it is important that these lights are close enough to the animal to provide heat, but not too close so that they can burn their skin.

Within the cage, you want to have a warm side of the cage, the basking side, and a cooler side. The warm side needs to be around 100 degrees F and the cooler side needs to be around 75 F. This will allow the lizard to maintain the exact temperature it desires by going to the other side of the enclosure when it is too hot or too cold.

How much water do they need?

The amount of water your monitor lizard will require depends on the subspecies of monitor due to the variability of their natural habitats. Some subspecies will require wading pools or even swimming pools. 

Others will just need a water bowl to provide drinking water. If your lizard does require water to swim or bask in, you still need to be sure to have a separate source of drinking water.

The source of drinking water needs to be heavy enough to not be tipped over and spilled, or attached in a way that will prevent the large lizard from knocking it over.

How often do their cages need to be cleaned?

As we previously mentioned, monitor lizards are not easy pets to keep. One of the most difficult parts of maintaining these animals is keeping their enclosure clean.

Food and water bowls require cleaning every day with soap and water. Depending on whether or not your lizard uses them as a bathroom, wading and swimming pools may also need daily cleanings.

The substrate of the enclosure is likely where the lizard will defecate. You will be able to obviously notice your lizard’s bowel movements, and they need to be promptly removed to avoid disease and illness.

The entire substrate needs to replaced on a monthly basis at least to avoid mold, mildew, and indescribably bad smells.

All other material in the cage, such as rocks, sticks, or anything else need to be removed and cleaned on a regular basis. If you see any waste on these surfaces, remove them and clean them promptly.

What possible health issues should you be aware of?

Monitor lizards are tough as nails, and if properly cared for, they will likely live long, happy lives in captivity. Just like all other animals, though, these lizards can have natural health issues and can be seriously threatened by accidents, poor nutrition, and improper handling.

One common health issue for monitor lizards comes from improper heating and lighting. This often times can result in burns on the lizard’s body that are uncomfortable and can lead to dangerous infection. 

If your lizard is burned by its lighting, treat the burns with ointment and soapy water, then adjust the lighting to keep them out of reach from the lizard.

Another common health issue for monitor lizards comes from inadequate or improper diets. If fed the wrong diet, or excessively supplemented, monitor lizards commonly develop Calcium deficiencies and over supplementations, as well as Vitamin D3 deficiencies.

High stress in your lizard’s life can cause it to develop serious infections. This possibility is increased by unclean living conditions, and can result in loss of appetite and swelling. Both of these symptoms can seriously affect your lizard’s quality of life, and life span.

An important health indicator to monitor is how often your lizard passes waste. Though monitor’s bowel movements are tied to the temperature of its enclosure, these animals need to pass waste regularly to avoid digestion problems. If your lizard becomes constipated, it can result in an impaction or blockage, which can pose a serious threat to its health.

Broken tails are common with monitors, as they aggressively whip it when excited or threatened. Severely broken tails may require amputation, as monitor’s tails are not meant to naturally fall off like other lizards.

Broken claws can also result from natural activity or improper handling. Since their claws can be quite long and sharp, it is safer for you and your pet to keep them at a shorter length.

The last major thing to watch out for is cuts and scrapes. These can result from your monitor’s natural behavior, or improper handling. Small cuts and scrapes can be treated at home with ointment, soap, and water, but large cuts and scrapes may need veterinarian attention.

Are they a good pet for beginners?

Most species of monitor lizards are not appropriate for beginner pet owners. Inexperienced reptile handling can pose threats to the health of the lizard, and can result in injury to the owner himself or herself. 

This fact is especially true of monitor lizards, as they are large and powerful creatures that can become aggressive towards humans.

Monitor lizards also require diligent care to maintain a healthy diet and living conditions. This is a difficult habit to develop without previous experience.

Inexperienced individuals can manageably own some of the smaller species of monitor lizards, but it is imperative that you choose the right species, and research that animal’s living requirements.

Can you potty train a Monitor Lizard?

Monitor lizards are incredibly intelligent animals. As such, if you have the desire to potty train your monitor, it will likely have the mental capacity to do so.

Monitor lizards require proper heating and lighting, but as long as they know where to go to warm up, they can be allowed to walk around your house much like a dog or a cat (though, you may not want your monitor to be walking around if you have dogs or cats).

Some subspecies of monitors have a natural tendency to bury their waste. You can take advantage of this tendency by creating spaces in your home or its enclosure that allow it to dig. The lizard will likely find these places and choose to pass waste there instead of on your floor.

Can you own a Monitor Lizard in California?

California has some strangely strict laws determining the legality of possessing certain animals as pets. For example, hedgehogs and ferrets, which are commonly owned across the world, are illegal in the state.

Surprisingly though, these laws are not as strict when it comes to reptiles. Therefore, except for alligators and crocodiles, most non-venomous reptiles are legal to own in California, including monitors.

Can you own a Monitor Lizard in Canada?

Canada, opposed to California, has noticeably relaxed laws pertaining to exotic pets, and most of them are in place to prevent invasive species from infiltrating natural environments. It is therefore legal to own a monitor lizard in Canada, provide that it is not an endangered species.

How fast can a Monitor Lizard run?

Answer: With so many species of monitor lizard, the top speed they can run has a large degree of variability. Some of the smaller subspecies are relatively slow, and reach top speeds of less than 10 miles per hour.

Larger species, such as the komodo dragon, are a different story. They are known to be able to run down deer, and can easily outrun a human. Their top speeds can be over 20 miles per hour. Seeing such a large lizard run at such high speeds is a sight to see.

Final Thoughts

Monitor lizards are complex animals with very specific needs. Their enclosure must be the right size, have the correct substances and surfaces, and be properly heated and lit. Their diets are vastly important to their health, and neglecting this area can lead to serious health issues. They must always have clean drinking water.

But, if you’re up for the challenge, monitor lizards can be fun and interesting pets. So, if you’ve done your research and know you can handle them, a monitor lizard may be your next companion. Just don’t let it get too close to the cat!

There you have it. Did you enjoy reading and learning more about monitor lizards? If so, tell us what you thought in the comments below, and share the article with your friends and family (especially the ones thinking about getting a monitor lizard as a pet!).


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.