Lace Monitor

Varanus varius

Last updated: November 14, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Liquid Ghoul/CCBYSA2.5 / Original

When communicating, they make a loud, terrifying hissing sound, and they will strike any potential danger with their mighty tails.


Lace Monitor Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Varanus varius

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Lace Monitor Conservation Status

Lace Monitor Locations

Lace Monitor Locations

Lace Monitor Facts

Insects, small mammals, eggs, reptiles, and birds
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
When communicating, they make a loud, terrifying hissing sound, and they will strike any potential danger with their mighty tails.
Other Name(s)
Goanna lizard
Incubation Period
8 to 10 weeks
Semi-humid – humid forests that include river basins
Dingoes and birds of prey
  • Diurnal
Common Name
Lace monitor
Average Clutch Size
Nesting Location
Hollows in trees

Lace Monitor Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Cream
Skin Type
10 to 15 years
44 pounds
5 to 6 feet
Age of Sexual Maturity
4 to 5 years

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Lace monitors are massive reptiles native to Australia. There are two types of lace monitors, each with its own coloring. The first type is dark grey to bluish-black and covered in cream spots. It has a black head and snout with distinguished black and yellow bands under the chin, extending to the neck. In addition, its tail has thin black and cream rings that get wider towards the end of the tail.

The second type is yellow with subtle black mottling and thick dark brown or black bands from the shoulders to the tail. They have black heads. This color pattern is called bell’s form.

Lace Monitor Facts

  • The lace monitor is massive and is the second-largest lizard in Australia, narrowly missing the top place held by the perentie.
  • These monitor lizards are slightly venomous. If bitten, humans can experience shooting pain, disruption of blood clotting, and swelling.
  • Females prefer to lay their eggs in termite mounds inside trees.

Lace Monitor Scientific Name

The lace monitor’s scientific name is Varanus varius, and they belong to the order Squamata. This order is the most diverse of extant reptiles and includes animals like lizards and snakes. They are known for their flexible jaw structures and have shields or scales instead of shells or secondary palates.

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These lizards are members of the family Varanidae, which consists of giant tropical Old-World lizards like monitors. What sets them apart is their elongated necks and tails. In addition, these carnivores have well-developed limbs.

Lace Monitor Appearance

Lace monitors are coved with blue-grey scales and have cream underbellies, along with cream bands. However, another variation is yellowish-brown scales and yellow rings instead of cream spots.

These lizards have blue-grey tails with cream rings that start to thicken as they get closer to the base of the tail, which is so long, it makes up about half of their length. They have forked tongues, similar to snakes. They also have long claws that help them climb. These lace monitors are massive and measure between 5 to 6 feet long, and weigh about 44 pounds!

Lace monitor

Lace monitors are covered in cream spots and bands.

©Ken Griffiths/

Lace Monitor Behavior

The lace monitor is typically solitary and likes to be on its own. Therefore, people only see them together during mating season. Unfortunately, these sneaky reptiles often venture out foraging and hunting on agricultural land, poaching poultry and chicken eggs.

When communicating, they make a loud, hissing sound, and they will strike any potential danger with their mighty tails. These monitor lizards don’t have the best hearing because their auditory organs are not full-fledged.

Lace Monitor Habitat

The lace monitor has a diverse habitat and can be found along Australia’s east coast on slopes, ranges, and the adjacent plains of eastern Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

In addition, some of these lizards can also be found in certain areas of south Australia.

Their habitat of choice is semi-humid or humid forests that include river basins. While they are often spotted on the ground, these lizards spend most of their lives in the hollows of trees. Should anyone or anything approach them, they will spiral around the tree, ensuring that the trunk is always between them and the perpetrator.

Lace Monitor Diet

The lace monitor diet consists of the following:

Lace monitors will use their sharp claws to climb trees and invade the nesting holes of birds like the lorikeet to prey on their young. You’ll know when one of these massive lizards is on the prowl when you hear birds squawking ferociously.

These monitor lizards have long, sharp teeth curved towards the back of their mouth, making it very hard for their prey to escape their jaws.

Researchers recently discovered that lace monitors are venomous. One bite from these giant reptiles causes bleeding and swelling in humans. It was once thought that they carried bacteria in their saliva that caused these symptoms, but we now know it is venom similar to a rattlesnake, but not as potent. Although this toxin only causes slight symptoms in people, it is strong enough to subdue small prey.

Lace monitors don’t chew their food; they swallow it whole or tear it into pieces with their front claws and teeth. In addition, they scavenge from time to time, and it’s not rare to see several lace monitors feeding on a dead animal.

They are often spotted in public campgrounds or picnic areas, where they become very tame, and forage the bins and grounds for any discarded scraps.

Lace Monitor Predators and Threats

Dingoes and birds of prey are the only animals that hunt and eat lace monitors.

Lace monitors are listed as Least Concern on IUCN’s Redlist and are abundant in Australia, as they are very adaptable and protected by law.

Lace Monitor Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The lace monitor’s breeding season takes place between September and December. Multiple males may court the same female, and they will try to establish dominance by engaging in ritual combat.

These fights are not as violent as they sound. First, the rival male lizards will stand on their hind limbs and hold each other up with their front limbs. Next, they puff out their throat pouches to intimidate each other. Finally, one of the rivals will tire and fall to the ground in defeat or run to shelter.

The victor will approach the female with confident head-shaking movements and use his tongue to explore her body. Once mating starts, it can last for several hours.

These lizards lay eggs four to six weeks after mating. Females can lay up to 20 eggs and deposit them in a termite mound or a hole in the ground. Eggs are elongated and have a parchment-like shell that measures around 2 inches long.

To make sure the eggs stay warm, the female will fill the hole with leaf litter or grass. As the plant matter starts to decompose, it generates enough heat to incubate the eggs. If the female lays her eggs in a termite mound, the termites will close the hole, keeping the eggs warm and safe from predators.


Lace monitor eggs take eight to 10 weeks to hatch, depending on the temperature. They can take longer to hatch if they are incubating in cold temperatures. Offspring have a sharp egg-tooth, which they use to peck their way out of the shell.

After mothers lay their eggs, they will stay close by to help their babies escape the termite mound. When the hatchlings emerge, they are generally 12 inches long and weigh around 1 ounce.


These massive lizards only reach sexual maturity at around four to five years old. However, they can live 10 to 15 years in the wild. Astonishingly, they can live up to 40 in captivity.

Lace Monitor Population

Although the exact number of lace monitors is unknown, their population is stable, and there is nothing posing a threat to their survival. In fact, Australian law protects them, and citizens may not harm them.

Lace Monitors in Captivity

Monitors, in general, do well in captivity. They eat well, and females lay eggs in their enclosures. However, if you have more than one male, they will fight, although there will probably be no casualties. Still, these conflicts can result in scratches because fighting usually involves clawing rather than biting. However, there have been reports of lace monitors being seriously injured by their rivals.

In captivity, lace monitors establish a social hierarchy based on size and strength. This hierarchy is especially predominant during feeding time. Larger individuals will attack the smaller lizards to get to the food.

In captivity, lace monitors tend to spend more time sunbathing than their counterparts in the wild. In addition, they are more likely to be out during cold weather. While some of these magnificent lizards will want the shelter to retreat to at night, others won’t mind sleeping in the open.

When it comes to decorating your enclosure, make sure there are logs or beams where they can bask. You may provide large plants for these lizards to sleep on, but most prefer logs and an enclosed shelter where they can hide. In addition, they might enjoy a shallow pond where they can submerge themselves.

While these giant lizards eventually become tame, this takes time. Some owners have said it took years for their lace monitor to take food from their hands without biting them. In fact, some may never become tame.

In most cases, lace monitors kept alone tend to settle down quickly, and taming them is easier than taming those living in groups.

However, their temperaments tend to vary depending on the individual; they all cope with captivity differently.


Captive lace monitors need to be fed throughout most of the year, excluding the colder months, as the cold affects their digestive system.

Their diet in captivity should include the following:

  • Fish bones
  • Reptiles
  • Frogs
  • Small mammals
  • Snails
  • Eggs (including goanna eggs)
  • Chopped meat (kangaroo is generally preferred)
  • Birds


Most lace monitors will try to reproduce in captivity. The male will approach the female, try to mount her, and stroke her with his tongue. In addition, males like to wrap their tails around the female’s tail.

She will walk away if she isn’t interested in a particular male. However, this does not deter the male; he will keep trying to mate for a whole day, sometimes longer. There have even been records of males courting a single female for weeks on end.

Females often copulate with more than one male, and males can mount more than one female daily. Fighting will only occur if more than one male is interested in a particular female. However, this rarely happens in captivity because of the well-established hierarchy.

When the female lays her eggs, the other lizards in the enclosure will try to eat them, so it’s best to separate her before she lays.

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

Lace Monitor FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are lace monitors aggressive?

Males generally display aggression if provoked or during mating season.

Are lace monitors good pets?

Yes, these giant lizards make good pets if cared for properly. However, if more than one lives in an enclosure, they are not as tame.

Is a lace monitor the same as a goanna?

Yes, goanna is another name for the lace monitor.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. Auckland Zoo, Available here:
  2. Reptile World Facts, Available here:
  3. Wikipedia, Available here:

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