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Captive FAQ

Foreword Introduction Purchasing Housing Feeding Handling Further Reading

FEEDING

4.0 What can I feed my monitor in captivity?
4.1 How often does a monitor need to eat?
4.2 How do I give food to my monitor safely?
4.3 Should I feed live or pre-killed food?
4.4 What about vitamin supplements?

4.0 What can I feed my monitor in captivity?

In captivity the most common prey offered to monitors are crickets and mice. The larger species of monitors can easily take rats as well, though smaller food items may beneficial . Various other insects can also be offered. Hissing roaches (as well as other roach species) are becoming more popular due partially to their large adult size and their prolific reproduction. Superworms, meal worms, silk worms, stick insects, fish, crustaceans and snails are also commonly offered.

Whenever possible one should offer whole prey rather than any processed diet. Dog food is offered by some people however it is my belief this is not a good food source. There is no roughage in dog food and this leads to runny stools. At best dog food may be used as an emergency backup if no other food items are available.

Some believe a varied diet is necessary or in some way beneficial to captive monitors. There is no real proof either for or against this. Having fed just about everything to some of my monitors and mice/cricket diet to others, I have seen no difference.

4.1 How often does a monitor need to eat?

This depends on many factors. A growing monitor should be feed everyday or every other day. For hatchlings I recommend feeding enough crickets or other insects, of appropriate sizes, until the monitor no longer shows interest eating. Then throw in a few more so it has something to eat if it becomes hungry later in the day. The size of the prey should be adjusted to the size of the monitor as it grows. I also have had success feeding chopped up mice to small/young monitors. Smaller prey items are easier and more efficient for a monitor to digest. As your monitor begins to slow down in growth, feeding should also slow down so that the monitor does not become obese.

Some argue that feeding mice can be harmful and cause impactions in the digestive tract of the monitor. Impactions only happen as a result of poor husbandry, not due to diet. Dehydration and inadequate temps are the causes of impactions. Monitors have very effective digestive systems and when they have access to proper heat (130 degrees +) their metabolism becomes high enough to digest anything. Proper hydration is also important for digestion. If the monitor becomes dehydrated its urates will become large and solidified which make them difficult to pass. This is due to the monitor trying to utilize all the available moisture in its system.

4.2 How do I give food to my monitor safely?

Most monitors will accept live or dead prey without hesitation. The easiest way to feed them would be to throw the prey into the cage. If you must jiggle pre-killed prey in front of your monitor then you should not do it by hand. The monitor can easily miss the food or mistake your hand for food. You should get a long pair of tongs and offer the food from them. Monitors also remember where their last meal came from. If it came from your hand then the next time you stick your hand in their cage they may think it has food and you will get bit. However, this can be used to your advantage.

4.3 Should I feed live or pre-killed food?

This is really up to you. Insects should be offered live as there is no reason not too and monitors tend to ignore dead insects. However in my experience monitors will readily take pre-killed or live rodents. Live food offers a chance for your monitor to get exercise while trying to capture the prey. It is also my belief that monitors enjoy killing their own food.

4.4 What about vitamin supplements?

Growing monitors need lots of calcium to support bone growth. A good quality source of calcium is needed while growing. The two brands I use are Repti-Cal and Miner-all. It is especially important to dust insects with a calcium supplement. Monitors on a mouse based diet do not need as much calcium supplementation as those on an insect based diet.

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