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Old 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM   #1
Ackie caresheet?

Hello, I'm new here and i'm thinking about buying my first monitor lizard soon and i think im gonna go with an ackie. I currently have a leopard gecko and a snow corn snake. I've tried to find stuff about them but i can't really find a good caresheet. Does anyone know of a good one or would like to give me some information? I need to do my homework on these guys before i decide whether one is right for me. All help is appreciated
Old 04-25-2012, 03:21 PM   #2
Originally Posted by Mallowolf View Post
Hello, I'm new here and i'm thinking about buying my first monitor lizard soon and i think im gonna go with an ackie. I currently have a leopard gecko and a snow corn snake. I've tried to find stuff about them but i can't really find a good caresheet. Does anyone know of a good one or would like to give me some information? I need to do my homework on these guys before i decide whether one is right for me. All help is appreciated
Care and Breeding of V.acanthurus
The Ridge Tailed Monitor, Varanus acanthurus

The dwarf monitors are a great alternative to the large species of varanus. Their manageable size, appetite, and enclosure space are much easier for the average hobbyist to provide.


Baby ackies can be housed in any appropriately sized enclosure, as long as some key husbandry issues are addressed. Adults do best in an enclosure that facilitates a deep substrate, such as a stock trough or plastic tub. Young ackies raised together generally do very well in groups of up to 6, though excessive fighting will call for separation. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up a cage for your new ackies.


The key to keeping healthy monitors is giving them the ability to thermoregulate properly. Ackies are very active, so its important that they be able to replace nutrients and fat quickly. A background thermal gradient of 75F -90F, with a basking spot of 115F-130F will provide for this. A good way to accomplish this is the use of halogen flood lights, which create a much more focused hot spot, with a tighter gradient. Plywood or cork bark stacks should be placed under the basking spot, with gaps just big enough for the ackies to squeeze into. This emulates the rocks they use in the wild to thermoregulate while still being sheltered. I have personally seen ackies eat to the point where they could not swallow the last cricket, sit under the basking spot, defecate, and go right back to eating. If the basking temperature is optimal, this will all be put to growth instead of fat. If your ackie is getting fat, upping the basking temperature may be a better idea than cutting food intake.


Ackies are a burrowing species. It might help to think of them as ground squirrels of the monitor world. Most of their daily and seasonal activities revolve around burrows, so a substrate that facilitates this is key. Your best option is "natural" dirt sifted through 1/8 inch mesh. Dry creek beds are a great place to get sandy dirt with little clay or organic content. While a mixture of potting soil and play sand is workable, results are mixed at best, and it will need to be changed and remixed more often. Natural dirt has the added benefit of breaking down the ammonia and nitrates from the ackie's waste, whereas a sterilized mix will foul quickly from the lack of "good" bacteria. You are shooting for a sandy dirt that will hold a burrow and adequate moisture. The right consistency is something you could make a snowball with, or be able to dig a small tunnel with your finger that won't collapse. Adults will do best with a minimum depth of 1ft, less for juvies.


One of the biggest issues for juveniles is dehydration. While ackies are a desert species, most of their lives are spent in humid burrows approx 70-75%. If you are using any sort of screen top,managing humidity loss will become a big problemvery quickly. The high basking temperature coupled with a screen lid will dehydrate the cage and anything in it at an alarming rate. Covering most of the top with plastic will help, as will daily misting of the substrate and hide areas. When the ackies are out and about you can also pour small amounts of water directly on the substrate around the hide areas and burrows. While some people advocate soaking ackies to address this, the ackies tend to panic when placed in water, and I feel it is a band-aid solution to a easily solved husbandry problem. Ironically, they will run through their water bowl frequently, as well as kick dirt into it, so daily changes are a must.


Young ackies will thrive on a diet of appropriately sized crickets or roaches dusted with calcium powder. For the first year they should be fed as much as they will eat, daily. As adults, you can scale back feeding for maintenance, and vary their diet with other foods such as chopped adult mice. Pinkies are very high in fat and very low in calcium, and should be avoided as a staple food. Ackies will also eat superworms, waxworms, and ground turkey, but seem to favor fast moving insects most and aren't nearly as enthusiastic about other foods.


Ackies are considered the easiest monitors to breed, but they are still a much higher level of difficulty than leopard geckos or bearded dragons. Most of this is due to a misunderstanding of what the monitors need to reproduce, and the relatively long incubation time. Here are some things to think about when trying to breed ackies.

Getting a pair

Monitors are nearly impossible to pop or probe, so you will have to determine sex by visual and behavioral cues. Males have larger heads and tend to be stockier around the head, neck, and shoulders. You can also see the bulges of the hemipenes and thicker spurs in the tail base if you bend it back slightly. They also tend to be a lot bolder, spending much of their time out in the enclosure. Females have much thinner necks, smaller heads, and tend to spend more time hidden in burrows or under the plywood stacks.


Ackies do not require any environmental cycling to breed. Under constant optimal conditions, ackies will copulate frequently, and can easily produce four clutches of eggs a year. Once you notice copulation, begin preparing for reproduction. The goal is to make reproduction as easy on the female as possible. This is where all the things mentioned above come together. She will need a lot of calories and nutrients, and the ability to convert them into ackie (eggs and fat stores) quickly. Supplement the diet with extra calcium, and more fat (worms or pinkies) than normal. Ackies will still try to reproduce on very little resources. Assuming you didn't feed or heat them enough for them to breed can result in a dead female. Ackies can also reproduce as young as six months old. If all goes well, your pair is compatible, and you provided enough resources you will notice the female eating less and less, swelling noticeably around the middle, and hiding more than usual. You had better double check and make sure you are ready for the hardest part of all this. The good news is, once you get this far, you will get lots of opportunities to get it right if you mess up this time.


Everything up to now was easy. The process of getting and hatching eggs is where many people get stuck. This is most likely due to combination of inadequate resources and misunderstandings about nesting. While many people do get results with nest boxes, I myself don't advocate this approach. I feel that the goal is to make reproduction easy for the female, and if a nesting site isn't suitable she will hold her eggs as long as she can until she finds one that is, can't hold them any longer and pitches them anywhere, or dies. I feel the gradient of various temperatures and humidity levels found in a deep substrate is much safer. This is where that foot of dirt you sifted comes into play. As the eggs develop, you will notice the female digging numerous "test burrows" all around the cage, looking for a certain set of conditions. The sooner she finds them, the better. Not only will the female look worse and worse the longer she holds the eggs, but it will also effect hatch rate and juvie development. Many times "weak" hatchlings are the result of eggs held too long. If all goes well, she will dig a very deep burrow, deposit 6 - 12 eggs, and fill the nest back in. An easy way to know when to dig for them is a fairly large drop in weight. You can pretty effectively gauge the quality of nesting you provide by the condition of the female after deposition. Ideally, she doesn't have to hold the eggs long, and only a slight drop in weight is apparent. Eggs deposited on the surface or in the water dish are a sure sign your nesting is way off. When digging up the cage, be careful not to break any eggs, as the nest can be packed fairly solid. Using a backhanded brushing motion is much safer than a forward scooping. Carefully remove the eggs, being careful not to turn them, and place them in the incubator.


Incubation is roughly 90 days at 87F, in a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of water and perlite. The trick is to not let them take on too much water. Conditions that are too moist will kill an egg much quicker than conditions that are too dry. Check them every few days to allow for air exchange, and wipe any condensation off the lid of the egg box. Dimpling just before hatching is normal, but if you suspect the eggs are too dry, place some lightly moistened moss on top of them. DO NOT add water to the incubation medium during the last month under any circumstances, as this is the surest way of killing the embryos. Again, while you can always adjust for conditions being too dry, you can rarely correct eggs that are too wet. Some discoloration during incubation is normal, but a dead egg will discolor and have a distinct, though not rotten, smell. Something like a strong odor of stale dirt. Luckily, once you are getting clutches from your ackies, its pretty hard to get them to stop. You should have plenty of chances to adjust things. The babies should be left to pip and emerge on their own, and left in the incubator until the yolk sac is absorbed. Once moved to enclosures, they can be kept on slightly moist paper towels until the umbilical scar heals, and will take appropriately sized crickets dusted with calcium.

Enjoy your ackies! =)
Old 04-25-2012, 07:47 PM   #3
Thank you very much! this will really help me out
Old 04-25-2012, 08:28 PM   #4
Great info tom

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