How to Care for Your Argus Monitor

February 09, 2021


Argus Monitors (Varanus panoptes horni) are 3.5 -5’, diurnal, terrestrial lizards native to Indonesia, New Guinea, and surrounding islands. They usually have a brownish or reddish base color with dark markings around the head and banded spots on the body. Argus monitors are well known for their ability to stand and even run on their hind legs, using their tail for balance.

Argus monitors are intelligent reptiles which generally don’t tolerate handling. Due to their temperament and size, this is an advanced-level pet.


Adult argus monitors require large enclosures. The enclosure should be at least 8’L x 4’W x 5’H with a 24” tall substrate barrier to facilitate a deep layer of sandy soil for burrowing. A mixture of sand and clean topsoil is inexpensive and works well. Always ensure that the soil obtained is from an area free of pesticides.

Additional cage items include a large, stable water bowl, large enough for the monitor to soak or swim in, stable hiding places such as large cork rounds, and well-secured branches and platforms for climbing.

The enclosure should be misted daily to achieve a humidity level of 70-80%. Periodically pour water into the substrate to help it hold burrows.

Heating and Lighting

Argus monitors require a basking area with a surface temperature of at least 115°F.  Since the argus monitor is a large reptile, a single basking lamp is often not enough to heat its whole body. You will need a cluster of at least three floodlights, placed on one end of the enclosure over a flat stone basking surface. The air temperature in the warm side of the enclosure should be 100F and  in the mid 70’s on the cool end. Heating should be turned off at night.

UVB is also required. Use a Zoo Med T5 HO 10.0 or Arcadia T5 HO 12% bulb, half the length of the enclosure and placed on the same side as the heat lamps. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Keep in mind that UVB bulbs decay over time, so you will need to replace the bulb every 12 months to make sure your monitor is getting enough UVB.

Food and Supplementation

Argus Monitors are carnivorous, opportunistic feeders. When they are young they should be fed daily on crickets, dubia roaches, and other roaches. Insects should be dusted with calcium and a low amount of vitamin D3.

Adult argus Monitors require larger prey items and are primarily fed frozen and thawed mice, rats, and other mid-sized mammals or birds. It’s healthier to feed them whole prey items as opposed to pieces of meat, as these contain more complete nutrition. Large insects, such as adult dubia roaches and discoid roaches, may also be offered, but these need to be dusted with a calcium supplement.

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Argus Monitors, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.


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