Ackie Monitor Care Sheet: Habitat, Diet, and Care Advice for Owners

As one of the BEST pet lizards (opens in new tab), especially for beginners, Ackie Monitors are an attractive choice for first time reptile owners and those with experience alike!

Their mild mannered temperament and ease of care couple with their awesome appearance makes their appeal a no-brainer. In fact, they’re one of the ONLY larger lizards to be considered beginner friendly.

Regardless of whether you’re thinking of adopting an Ackie Monitor or have recently brought one home… chances are you may have a couple questions. 

But rest assured, this Ackie Monitor Care Sheet will provide you with a thorough overview of how to properly care for your new or prospective pet!

What You’ll Learn In This Ackie Monitor Care Sheet:

  • Background information on Ackie Monitors
  • Relative cost of an Ackie Monitors
  • Proper diet for all ages
  • How to properly set up an Ackie Monitor enclosure
  • Health concerns to be aware of (plus how to prevent them!)
  • Handling & bonding tips
  • & So much more!

So, if you’d like to learn more about proper Ackie Monitor care, simply keep reading!

What is an Ackie Monitor? 

What is an ackie monitor
The majority of an Ackie Monitor’s length comes from their tail, which typically measures 2x the length of their head and body combined! If you want the biggest Ackie Monitor possible, opt for a Red over a Yellow as they tend to be bigger and be sure to choose a large enclosure, and provide plenty of heat and UVB.

Native to the arid deserts of Australia, the Ackie Monitor (Varanus acanthurus), is a striking lizard that at first glance, some may find intimidating. 

You see, Ackie Monitors have a distinctly prehistoric look and many reptile enthusiasts are delighted to learn they share lineage with the notorious Komodo Dragon! However, Ackie Monitors are much smaller, and are regarded as medium sized lizard.

Yet, unlike their intimidating Komodo Dragon and larger monitor lizard relatives, Ackie Monitors are relatively gentle and can be downright quirky at times!

⭐️ Fun Fact: Did you know? The Ackie Monitor is often also referred to as the “Spiny-Tailed Monitor”, “Ridge-Tailed Monitor”, and “Ackie Dwarf Monitor”.

And although there are several Ackie Monitor morphs, you will typically see Ackie Monitors available in 2 color variations… 

The first Ackie Monitor coloration is that of the “Red Ackie” which showcases a dark reddish brown body peppered with brown spots all over the head and body. The tail is noticeably darker and features bands instead of spots.  

The second color variation is the “Yellow Ackie” which is similar to that of the Red but instead features a golden brown base with yellow spots.

Both the Yellow and Red Ackie are regarded as the same species, despite their color differences. As such, the information in this guide will work well for either lizard.

In terms of how big Ackie Monitors get, you can expect an adult Ackie Monitor to reach between 24 and 28 inches in length when fully grown. Most of this length comes from their tail, which on average is 1.2-2.3X the length of their head and body.

Aside from its long length, an Ackie Monitor’s tail also showcases what are referred to as “Spinose Scales”. These scales are responsible for the tail’s spiky appearance.

In some Ackie Monitors, these scales can be found extending up their body. However, they tend to be much less spiky.

When it comes to lifespan, Ackie Monitors can live on average between 15 and 20 years, making them a lifelong commitment for pet owners.

🤓 Expert Tip: To maximize the size of your Ackie Monitor and ensure they live a long life, it is crucial you provide them with a proper diet and habitat setup from a very young age.

In terms of temperament, Ackie Monitors are easy going and well suited to captivity. They seldom display signs of aggression!

However, as with most new pets, there will naturally be a small adjustment period in which you will need to give them time to warm up to you, which you can read more about in the Bonding and Handling section further down.

🔑 Ackie Monitor Background Key Takeaways: Ackie Monitors are fascinating, prehistoric looking reptiles that share lineage with some of the world’s most intimidating lizards – like the Komodo Dragon! They hail from Australia and grow to be around 2 feet on average. Despite their tough guy appearance, they are relatively mild mannered, making them fabulous pets. However, their long lifespan of 15 to 20 years means adopting one should not be taken lightly.

Ackie Monitor Diet and Feeding

Ackie Monitor Diet
Ackie Monitors enjoy a wide variety of foods and are much less picky about their diet than other reptiles. However, they can become bored of their food if given the same thing day in and day out. This is one reason why offering a varied diet is important. Photo Credit: u/arashikage01

One of best things about caring for an Ackie Monitor is their voracious appetite – they’ll eat pretty much anything!

This means you shouldn’t have to worry too much about dealing with hunger strikes like you would with other reptiles.

Here are some examples of foods you can feed an Ackie Monitor…

  • Dubia roaches
  • Rodents (pinkie mice)
  • Mealworms
  • Locusts
  • Crickets
  • Eggs
  • Shrimp

However, this large appetite can be problematic, as it makes them prone to obesity, especially as they get older and stop growing.

As such, one of the biggest responsibilities in Ackie Monitor care is monitoring their weight. 

🤓 Expert Tip: While roaches and crickets should form the backbone of any Ackie Monitor’s diet, the healthiest diet will be one that is varied. All the calcium supplements and vitamins in the world won’t make up for a diet that’s lacking in vital nutrients.

Baby and juvenile Ackie Monitors should be fed a variety of insects, such as crickets, small roaches, and mealworms daily.

Most owners will encourage you to let them eat as many feeders as they like within a 10 minute window.

If your Ackie Monitor is still growing, dust their feeders with calcium 4-5 times per week. Dust their food with a vitamin 2 times a week, on days they donit receive calcium.

Once your Ackie Monitor reaches 12 months of age, you can begin offering them a pinkie mouse as a treat several times per month, typically once per week is acceptable. However, once they are full grown, around 2 years, you’ll want to cut back significantly to ensure they don’t become obese.

Adult Ackie Monitors do NOT need to eat daily. Since they are not nearly as active in captivity as they are in the wild, they simply don’t need the extra calories.

Try feeding your adult Ackie 4-5 days a week once they reach 2 years of age. If they are overweight, you’ll want to avoid treats and feed less insects.

Dust their food with calcium 3 days a week and 1 day a week with a vitamin.

🔑 Ackie Monitor Diet & Feeding Key Takeaways: Ackie Monitors possess a healthy appetite and will eat just about anything, which means owners should be wise to adjust feedings and treats to avoid their pet becoming obese. Whilst growing Ackies should be fed insects daily, adult Ackies can survive on being feed several times a week. Both will need calcium and vitamin dustings, but naturally, babies and juveniles should be given them more often.

Ackie Monitor Habitat and Tank Setup

Ackie Monitor Tank Setup
To create the most naturalistic enclosure possible, be sure to include a variety of textures. Rocks, branches, and plants work great to make any Ackie Monitor feel at home. Just be sure, nothing added is small enough to be accidentally ingested. 

In the wild, Ackie Monitors inhabit scrublands and rocky deserts, and as such, are used to intense heat. They also are quite fond of burrowing in humid soil to escape the heat and hydrate. And as fairly active reptiles, they will need plenty of space to run around.

As an Ackie Monitor owner, you’ll need to do your best to replicate their natural environment. 

Ackie Monitor Enclosure Types

Although a class enclosure may naturally be your first choice for your Ackie Monitor… you may want to rethink it. Why?

For starters finding a glass enclosure that is large enough to house your Ackie Monitor may be difficult. Most pet stores do not sell glass enclosures that measure 4 feet in length. Additionally, even if you could find one, chances are it would be very expensive.

Lastly, glass can be difficult to work with when it comes to maintaining the proper temperature gradient. This is especially true with larger enclosures.

Although glass enclosures work great for smaller lizard species like the leopard gecko and bearded dragon, they really aren’t your BEST option for an Ackie Monitor.

So, WHAT enclosure is the best for an Ackie Monitor?

The best enclosure for an Ackie Monitor is going to be one that is made by hand from sheets of PVC. Why?

Well, for starters PVC is very affordable and insulates extremely well. This will make it easy to keep your Ackie’s temperatures where they need to be. Additionally, PVC also won’t rot or mold the way wood will if it gets wet. This means your enclosure will have a long and reliable lifespan whereas a wood enclosure may only last a few years.

If you’re looking to give your Ackie Monitor the best possible enclosure AND save money in the process, a custom built PVC enclosure is the way to go.

🤓 Expert Tip: Put off by the idea of having to make an enclosure yourself? Don’t be! There are plenty of tutorials online that you can follow that make the building process a breeze. Most owners find the process to be easier than they initially imagined. 

Ackie Monitor Enclosure Size

At minimum, you’ll want an enclosure that is at least twice as long as your lizard. So, if your pet grows to be 24 inches long, your tank should be at least 4 feet in length.

But, bear in mind this is the bare minimum and extra space is always encouraged. 

In terms of width, aim for a tank width that is at least as wide as your Ackie is long. Doing this will ensure they can easily pivot and turn around without feeling claustrophobic. But again, bigger is better.

Since Ackie Monitors aren’t big climbers, their tank won’t have to be very tall. For height, 2-3 feet works fine as this still allows for burrowing.

Ackie Monitor Temperature & Lighting

Ackie Monitor Enclosure Temperature
Please note, the basking spot temperature above is most suitable for hatchlings or baby Ackie Monitors. Juveniles (3 months+) and adults do better with a basking spot between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ackie Monitors are used to extreme heat and bright sun, as they spend their days basking and absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Doing this allows them to synthesize Vitamin D3,

You’ll need to maintain a temperature gradient with a unique…

  • Basking spot temperature
  • Warm side (ambient) temperature
  • Cool side temperature

For their basking spot, aim for 120 degrees Fahrenheit for babies (hatchlings) and 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit for juveniles and adults. 

You’ll be able to best achieve this temperature through hanging an overhead ceramic heater.

For the warm side, you’ll want an ambient temperature of around 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For the cool side of the enclosure, you’ll want to establish a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow your Ackie Monitor an ample space to escape the heat of the warm side should they desire.

Because your Ackie Monitor needs UVB in addition to heat, you’ll need to provide a UVB bulb of some sort.

By far the most popular and recommended option from beginner and experienced reptile owners alike is a fluorescent tube UVB bulb. You’ll want to use one that supplies between 10 and 12% UVB, like this one here.

🤓 Expert Tip: When shopping for a UVB bulb, be sure to avoid compact and coiled bulbs. These bulbs are notoriously dangerous as the UVB they produce is too strong for reptiles, often times burning them. 

When it comes to where to place the UVB bulb, you’ll have a couple of options…

If you purchase a tube style bulb, you can mount it up high inside the enclosure on the back side. Be sure to place it all the way to the warm side so they can absorb UVB while basking. 

If you purchase a regular bulb or Mercury Vapor Bulb (not recommended for first time reptile owners – they require more caution), you can mount it on a far side of the enclosure. Again, this would be best done on the warm side.

Regardless of the heat and UVB bulbs you buy, you’ll want to keep all lights on for 12 hours a day to emulate a natural day to night cycle.

Also, be sure to turn your Ackie Monitor’s lights on an hour before they eat and leave them on for at least an hour after they finish. This will help spark their appetite and help with digestion.

Ackie Monitor Substrate

To allow your Ackie Monitor ample burrowing space, you’ll want to provide at minimum 6 inches of substrate. However, 10 to 12 inches is a more ideal Ackie Monitor substrate depth.

Since they are used to borrowing in humid soil in their natural environment, you’ll need to purchase a substrate that can easily hold moisture.

In fact, the substrate should help contribute to humidity level of 65-80% in your Ackie Monitor’s enclosure.

It is also important to select a soil that is loosely packed for easy digging.

The following make good options for your Ackie Monitor substrate…

  • Cypress Chips
  • Coconut Fiber
  • Sand

However, the BEST substrate option for an Ackie Monitor will be a mix between 60% Eco Earth and 40% play sand. You’ll want to combine these two and add warm water until the substrate is dense enough to support a burrow. You can poke your finger in it to test as you go.

To maintain the soil’s humidity, you may need to mist it regularly or remove it and remix with more water. 

Do NOT under any circumstances use Reptile or Calci sand. These options are notoriously dangerous for reptiles as they often lead to impaction when ingested, can stain your reptile’s skin, and cause irritation in their nose and eyes.

🤓 Expert Tip: Ackie Monitors have been known to be clean freaks in the reptile world, and have even been documented as being a little feisty and aggressive when under the stress of living in a dirty tank. To keep your pet feeling happy and friendly, be sure to keep their tank squeaky clean, removing waste upon sight and deep cleaning the tank monthly.

Decor and Accessories

A house truly isn’t a home without decor and finishing touches. In the same way, an Ackie Monitor’s enclosure won’t feel like home without the proper accessories!

To give your pet the most lifelike enclosure possible, one that will keep them happy and stress-free, you’d be wise to include natural rocks, non-splintered pieces of wood, and hides or caves.

Your Ackie Monitor will also benefit from the introduction of plants, be they real or artificial. Just make sure you choose plants that are reptile safe.

To help your Ackie stay hydrated, include a large bowl of fresh water daily. Make sure you use filtered water and that the bowl is big enough for your pet to soak in.

🔑 Ackie Monitor Habitat & Tank Setup Key Takeaways: As a medium sized lizard, Ackie Monitors will need plenty of space. At minimum an enclosure of 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep is required, but bigger is better. A custom made enclosure from PVC sheets will be your best bet. You’ll need to provide at least 6 inches of substrate for burrowing. A 60% Eco Earth and 40% warm water mix works best. Basking spot temps should be high – 120 degrees Fahrenheit for babies and 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit for adults. Include a large water dish for soaking, rocks, and plants as well. Keep the cool side in the 70s and the enclosure squeaky clean.

Ackie Monitor General Health Information

A relatively hardy reptile, Ackie Monitors don’t tend to have too many health issues. However, they can still be prone to specific issues that all owners should be aware of ahead of time…

Like most reptiles who need UVB, Ackie Monitors can be prone to Metabolic Bone Disease.

This disease happens when an Ackie is unable to properly absorb calcium, leading to brittle bones, deformities, and in some severe instances, even death.

More times than not, this occurs because an Ackie Monitor is not being supplied with enough UVB, which they require to absorb calcium.

This means owners will need to take special care to ensure they are providing their Ackie with great UVB and changing out bulbs every 6 months.

Owners would also be wise to dust feeders with calcium in accordance to the recommendations in the diet section above.

Additionally, as discussed throughout this Care Sheet, obesity can also be a problem considering how large an Ackie Monitor’s appetite is.

However, this issue is pretty easy to prevent so long as you keep a close eye on your pet’s size and make proper feeding adjustments when needed.

🔑 Ackie Monitor General Health Key Takeaways: Ackie Monitors are relatively healthy lizards, however, they can still be prone to issues such as Metabolic Bone Disease and obesity. As such, owners should take special caution when establishing both a lighting setup and diet for their pet. By providing ample UVB and calcium, and feeding in accordance to what is recommended in this Care Sheet, both of these ailments can be easily avoided. 

Ackie Monitor Handling and Bonding Tips

handling ackie monitor
Although Ackie Monitors are typically quite fond of socializing, you’d be wise to give your pet a few weeks to acclimate to their new home and you after bringing them home. Start by talking to them softly and moving slow. Then move onto gentle body rubs and feeding with tongs. From there, your Ackie should learn to trust you.

Some of the MOST appealing aspects of owning an Ackie Monitor are their tame demeanor, fondness for handling, and easy-going sociability. 

Ackie Monitors are curious by nature, and this is in part what tends to help them quickly warm up to their human caretakers. 

However, new owners should NOT expect to bring home a pet that is ready to be handled from Day 1.

Instead, you’ll want to give your Ackie Monitor plenty of time to become accustomed to their new environment. Direct handling should be avoid for at least 2 weeks as they settle in.

To minimize stress, be sure to move slowly and never bump or rattle their enclosure. You can also try talking to them in a calm and soothing voice to get them better acclimated to your presence.

🤓 Expert Tip: If you find that your Ackie Monitor is retreating from your touch or burrowing to hide, rest assured this is normal behavior. It simply means they’re not quite ready to be handled or touched by you. Try feeding them with tongs and talking to them more.

Once your Ackie Monitor has gotten used to your presence, you can progress to offering them food off of feeding tongs and work your way up to gently rubbing them whilst they are in their enclosure.

After your lizard seems fully relaxed whenever you rub them, try to gently lift them out of the enclosure. Initially, do not handle them for more than 5 to 10 minutes to minimize stress. Over time, you can gradually increase handling sessions as you build trust.

With a little patience and time, you will come to find that your Ackie Monitor enjoys your company and even looks forward to interacting during handling sessions!

🔑 Ackie Monitor Handling & Bonding Key Takeaways: Ackie Monitors tend to be tame by nature and can be a joy to handle and interact with. However, new owners should be prepared to allow their new pet plenty of time to adjust and warm up to them. 

Is an Ackie Monitor Right for YOU?

If you’re considering a mild mannered, medium sized lizard with a long lifespan, then an Ackie Monitor may be right for you!

These curious and friendly reptiles provide a great companion for the whole family, and have a less intimidating diet and habitat requirements than other reptiles… so long as you can find or build a large enough enclosure.

However, with a long lifespan of up to 20 years, adopting an Ackie Monitor should be viewed as a lifelong commitment and taken very seriously. 

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