General information
Varanus tristis is divided into 2 subspecies: tristis tristis and tristis orientalis. The biggest difference between these 2 species in color and length. Varanus tristis tristis is mainly black and can reach up to 80 cm, Varanus tristis orientalis is light grey with a red coloring on it;s head and a red pattern on the back and can rech up to 60 cm. The base color of the tristis orientalis is light grey with a bright red pattern with dots. Some animals have more red coloring on the head. That's why sometimes people speak of red heads and red backs. Caring for the animals is the same except that tristis tristis might require a bigger cage as they are bigger but in this caresheet I will stick to tristis orientalis. These monitors live in Western and Northern Australia and the Queensland area. Tristis orientalis are slender monitors that love to climb so keep that in mind when designing your cage.

These monitors live in northern and western Australia which is mostly forest and half forest. The temperatures in their surrounding vary from 45C during the day to 15C at night. Therefore you need to use extra heat for your cage as the regular temperature will do. The animals live in the forest arear so humidity level should be around 40% to 80%. Also these animals feel comfortable is very narrow hiding places and love to climb.

The total length of the tristis orientalis is 60 cm head to tail. About half of that is tail so the head and body are about 30 cm. The base color is light grey with red coloring and a red pattern on the back with dots. The tail is dark grey to black. The difference is easy to tell with older animals. The males have huge pores on their tails at about 2 cm under the cloaca. Also males have a more distinctive pattern as the females and they have a bigger and wider head. Also males tend to be larger than females in general.

I keep my tristis orientalis in a cage that is 160cmx60cmx90cm. I made a backwall of styrofoam and cement so that the animals can climb away. I also use corque logs and wooden elements so they can climb and hide. On the floor I use bark but perhaps sand can be used also. I use a T-rex UV heat lamp of a 100watt en a 60 watt heat lamp. With these two lamps I provide UV en 2 sunbathe spots that are approximately 55 C en 45 C. I leave the lights on for about 12 to 13 hours. A waterbowl is a must for these animals as they drink a lot.

I feed my couple 4 times a week, 3 times crickets and one baby mouse or baby rat. Sometimes I vary using grasshoppers. Spraying the cage is unneeded but I do fill the waterbowl daily. These animals are fast and smart so be carefull they don't escape. Tristis orientalis monitors aren't diggers so you don't have to use a lot of bark or sand. Just make sure there are plenty of places to hide. These animals aren't particularly shy but providing enough hiding places will make them more comfortable and show themselves more often.

These monitors are ready for breeding after about 9 months to 1,5 years. It's important to either seperate the animals or give them a wintersleep. I prefer wintersleep as seperating them hasn't worked with my animals so far. Wintersleep lasts about 2 months in which the animals get about 6 to 7 hours of light a day. They become less active and pretty soon they will start mating. The male and female start curling their tails and the male walks over the female nudging her and flicking his tongue very often. After that the typical lizardmating follows where the male bites the female's neck and folds his tail around hers. The female carries her eggs for about 6 weeks, after that she will lay them in an undeep nesting spot.

Incubating orientalis egg is rather easy, I have been most succesfull with a mix of 1:1 vermicullite/perlite/water) The eggs will lay for about 100 to a 110 days in the incubator at temperatures between 28 to 30 C I try to removed already hatched babies as quicky as possible as they are instantly very active and run over the other eggs.

Hatched babies are exact copies of their parents. After about a week they start to eat. They drink from the start. I feed them small sized crickets, they can eat anything smaller than their headsize. After a while they can become territorial if they do they must be seperated. If you are interested in keeping 2 or 3 young tristis' together I advice you to put them together quickly so they don't have to fight so much over who's at the top of the foodchain. Other than that you keep babies the same way as adults except that you spray them daily and feed them more often using a vitamin/calcium powder.

Varanus tristis orientalis are fascinating animals and suitable for people who are a bit more experienced. As with every reptile it is important to gather and read information first so this caresheet is a good start. The animals are not very demanding and relatively easy to keep. Breeding is also doable and fun. Varanus tristis orientalis are very active and so a great choice.


Eidenmuller, B, 2003, Warane lebensweise, pflege, zucht, Offenbach:Herpeton, 2003, blz.66-68.