Varanus acanthurus lives in north, west and central Australia. Varanus acanthurs can be divided into three subspecies: Varanus acanthurus acanthurus,
Varanus acanthurus brachyurus and Varanus acanthurus insulanicus. Of these subspecies Varanus a. brachyurus is the most common kept species. So called
“red ackies” are monitors of the subspecies Varanus a. acanthurus, red ackies can be recognised by the deep red coloration on their body. Ackies as
these monitors are refrased to most, are monitor suitable for beginners.
Varanus acanthurus lives in the desert to semi-desert parts of Australia. Temperatures in these parts of the World during the day are in the vicinity of
55 °C, to 10 °C at night. The animals can stay in their enclosure at night without extra heating, room temperature is sufficient. The animals live in the
dry part of Australia and the air humidity is between 20 % and 60 %. Ackies sleep in holes in the ground, so try to offer them the possibility to dig.
Total length of the monitor is between 60 and 70 cm (head-to-tail). Approximately half the length of this monitor is tail, this leaves about 30 cm of
head-to-tail base length. The lizard is coloured with a yellowish/beige base colour, with a variation of red/brown patterns over the base colour.
The monitor has a tail covered in spikes, with looks like an armour.
You can recognise the sexes in these animals by the bigger pores on the side of the tail on the tail base of the male Varanus acanthurus.
Other means to sex these animals is the size of the lizard, and the size of the head (males have wider heads than females).
I had a nice enclosure ready for my pair of ackies, the cage was 150 cm long, 62 cm wide and 62 cm high. I had dressed the enclosure walls with
Styrofoam and cement, to create an artificial rockwall for the animals to climb and utilise. On the bottom of the cage I put a layer of clay and sand,
to make sure that the animals could dig in the substrate. The animals really appreciate a thick layer of clay to dig in. I also use a small bowl of
water in the enclosure to enable the animals to drink, they don’t drink often but they need the possibility to drink. I used one T-rex UV heat lamp
and one 60 watt light bulb for heating and UV. This lightbulb configuration offers the animals two sunspots one of approximately 55 °C and one of 45 °C.
The animals get about 12 tot 13 hours of light a day.
I feed my pair about 3 times a week, they get three feeds of crickets and somethimes a baby rat or jumper mouse. Sometimes i
offer my pair grasshoppers and dola’s as a variation. Once a week I spray the animals with water, to give them the opportunity to drink.
A pregnant female has a greater desire to drink, so they should be offered water more often. I keep very low humidity-levels in the enclosure
of the ackies, only when my female is pregnant I increase the level of humidity to about 60 %. You also need to create moist areas in the enclosure
to enable the animals to lay their eggs. The animals aren’t easily stressed, but I do not handle my animals if it isn’t necessary.
The animals live mainly on groundlevel, but utilise possibilities to climb. My male ackie is the biggest climber but also the female uses the
walls to climb. These animals also love digging, so try to offer the animals a minimum of 12 cm substrate.
The animals are kept well in pairs, threesomes shouldn’t be a problem either (1.1 , 1.2).
When the animals are about 1,5 to 2 years old they reach sexual maturity. I have successfully bred these monitors once, while I had eggs for two times
now. The second time I lost the eggs because of a kind of fly that had laid eggs in the eggs of the monitor. To get these lizards to copulate it is
important to either separate the lizards or give them a winter rest. Personally is I offer the animals a winter rest. The winter rest lasts for
approximately 2 months, in which I offer the animals 6 to 7 hours of light in the enclosure. The animals are less active and when you start to
increase the hours of light the animals mate in about two months. Mating behaviour with these monitors consists of tong-flicking and twisting with
the tail. After a few hours of this behaviour the animals copulate in a standard lizard-mating. After about 6 weeks the female lays her eggs in a
shallow hole. Female monitors are notorious for eating their own eggs. Females position the eggs in the nest sometimes, so don’t mistake this behaviour
for eating of the eggs. I always remove the male when the female is pregnant, because most times he stresses the female with mating opportunity’s and
could try to eat the eggs.
Incubation of Varanus acanthurus eggs isn’t very hard. Most successes have been achieved with a mix of perlite/vermiculite and water to a ratio of
1 : 1. The eggs need to be in the incubator for 100 to 140 days, with a temperature of 28 to 30 °C. I remove baby monitor as fast as possible when
they hatched because baby monitors start digging and running around instantly.
The baby’s that hatch are an exact copy of their parents. Immediately after hatching the animal are very active, the first baby monitor I
hatched ran from my hands. After a week the animals start eating, I feed them dust crickets. Baby ackies are easily raised together with a
few others. You only got to make sure that there isn’t a food shortage, because the lizards will bit of each others toes and tail tips.
After a certain time the ackies start to be territorial and fighting will occur. When you see this starting to happen, you can separate
the most dominant animals from the group.
If you want to create a group of ackies, I recommend to keep the animals together as soon as possible. If you introduce some animals later this
will not be as easy. You can keep the baby the same way as their parents, you should offer spraying water about two times a day to enable the
animals to drink. I feed my baby’s each day a small amount of crickets or buffalo worms, always powdered with vitamins and calcium.
The ackies is very good beginner monitor. As with all reptiles it’s important to gather the information, this caresheet is a good start.
The animals aren’t very demanding and easy to keep. The breeding of ackies isn’t very hard either, the only thing that is important that
you get a compatible couple. The animals are extremely active and run through their enclosure. I can advise these monitors to everyone.
Eidenmuller, B, 2003, Warane lebensweise, pflege, zucht, Offenbach:Herpeton, 2003, p.40-43.
Arth, S., Haltung und nachtzucht des stachelschwanzwarans(Varanus Acanthurus), Reptilia nr. 63 Februari/Maart, year 12, p.24-33.