Timor monitors (Varanus timorensis) are 26-30” long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to the Timor islands. They prefer tropical forest habitats, but when trees are not available, they have been known to colonize rock walls.
Timor monitors have long, slender bodies with a streamlined head, long tongue, long neck, sharp claws, and a long tapered tail. They typically have a dark gray or black base color, with an irregular pattern of cream or yellow rings and spots on their back and a ringed tail. The belly is pale and speckled. They also have a dark stripe through each eye.
Timor monitors can make good pets because of their more manageable size and general intelligence. However, due to their husbandry requirements and generally shy dispositions, they are still an intermediate- to difficult-level reptile. With good care, they can live up to 20 years.
Minimum terrarium size for timor monitors
The absolute minimum enclosure size for a single timor monitor is 5’L x 2’W x 4’H. This may seem huge, but keep in mind that monitor lizards are particularly active, and you need plenty of room to accommodate a generous substrate layer. Of course, if you can manage it, larger is always better!
Housing multiple timor monitors in the same enclosure is generally not advised.
Do timor monitors need UVB?
Yes! Although they have been proven to survive and breed without access to UVB, using UVB light in captivity is still best practice. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, supplies all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and provides other benefits.
Here are the best UVB bulbs for timor monitors:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 34”
- Arcadia Forest 6%, 34”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture like the Arcadia ProT5. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. If the UVB lamp is mounted inside the enclosure, place the basking platform so the lizard’s back will be 11-12” below the lamp. If there is mesh between the lamp and the lizard, reduce this distance to 7-9”.
Timor monitors are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment as well. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the enclosure to thrive.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for timor monitors
Timor monitors should have a basking surface temperature of 130-175°F, as measured by an infrared thermometer. To provide an optimal selection of temperatures for the lizard to choose from, use a Retes Stack for the basking surface.
The cool side should be between 75-82°F. Providing an escape from the heat is essential for healthy thermoregulation.
Provide heat for your monitor with a cluster of at least two halogen heat bulbs placed above the basking platform. Halogen bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Heating should be turned off at night, but temperatures should not go lower than 70°F.
Best humidity levels for timor monitors
Timor monitors are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 70-85% on average. Humidity should be measured via a wall-mounted digital hygrometer in the middle of the enclosure.
Increase humidity by misting your monitor’s enclosure 2x/day with a large pressure sprayer or automatic misting system. Mist in the morning and at night, preferably when the lights are off. If you need more help maintaining humidity, install a cool mist humidifier connected to a humidistat to run at night.
Best substrate for timor monitors
Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) in the enclosure will help maintain correct humidity, cushion your timor monitor’s body, provide a digging medium, and also help make your enclosure more attractive!
We recommend the following substrates for timor monitors:
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Zilla Jungle Mix
A 40/20/20 mix of topsoil, coconut fiber, and play sand also works well. Scatter a layer of leaf litter over the substrate to further assist humidity and add enrichment value.
Substrate should be at least 12” deep (absolute minimum) and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with any contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a timor monitor terrarium
An empty enclosure makes for a bored lizard, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Here are some ideas to get your started:
- hiding places
- sturdy branches
- braided vines
- cork hollows
- live or artificial foliage
Training and designing enrichment activities are also good ways to help keep your monitor engaged, as well as provide a nice opportunity for bonding!
What to feed to a timor monitor
Timor monitors are insectivores, which means that they need to eat a diet of mostly insects in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. Offer food every morning. Juveniles should get as much as they can eat in one day, but subadults and adults should only be allowed as much as they can eat in a 5-10 minute period.
Feeder insects for timor monitors: crickets, dubia roaches, red runner roaches, black soldier fly larvae, mealworms, superworms, darkling beetles, hornworms, silkworms, snails, grasshoppers, centipedes
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your lizard from developing a deficiency. Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
You will also need a large water bowl or plastic tub to help keep your timor monitor hydrated and offer a place for it to soak. Change the water at least twice a week and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your timor monitor
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Timor monitors are generally shy and prefer to avoid humans, but you can help them become more comfortable around you by offering food from feeding tweezers.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!