Red Ackie Monitor

Varanus acanthurus

Last updated: November 6, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Fivespots/Shutterstock.com

The red ackie prefers burrowing to climbing.

Red Ackie Monitor Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Varanidae
Genus
Varanus
Scientific Name
Varanus acanthurus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Red Ackie Monitor Locations

Red Ackie Monitor Locations

Red Ackie Monitor Facts

Prey
caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, snails, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, ticks, cicadas, smaller lizards, such as geckos and skinks.
Name Of Young
hatchling
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The red ackie prefers burrowing to climbing.
Biggest Threat
predators, metabolic bone disease, obesity
Most Distinctive Feature
Red spots
Other Name(s)
Red ridge-tailed monitor, red spiny-tailed monitor, red ackie dwarf monitor
Temperament
docile
Incubation Period
three to five months
Litter Size
6 to 18 eggs
Habitat
arid woodland, scrubland
Predators
Snakes, raptors, larger monitor lizards.
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Solitary
Common Name
Red ackie
Origin
Australia

Red Ackie Monitor Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Dark Brown
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
15 to 20 years
Length
2 - 2.5 feet
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Low

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The red ackie prefers burrowing to climbing.

Red Ackie Monitor Facts

  • Master of disguise: The color and pattern of the red ackie’s spots correlate with their natural habitat to help them camouflage to prevent easy detection by predators.
  • Defense mode: Red ackie monitors in the wild mostly use their spiny tails as a means of self-defense against predators. When threatened, they wedge themselves in-between rock crevices and block the opening with their tails.
  • Red ackie monitors are one of the smaller species of monitor lizards and are often preyed upon by larger monitors.
  • Underground dwellers: Red ackie monitors prefer a hot, dry climate and burrow underground to keep their humidity and temperature under control.

Summary

Red ackie monitors are one of the smaller species of monitor lizards. Their name comes from the pronunciation of their specific name “acanthurus.” In addition to this, they have an beautiful pattern of red and reddish-orange spots which makes them attractive as pets. Red ackie monitors are highly curious and active lizards. They make great pets if you give them the proper housing space and diet.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the red ackie monitor is Varanus acanthurus. The name “ackie” comes from the pronunciation of the Latin specific name “acanthurus.” They have red and reddish-orange spots on their body. Other common names for the red ackie monitor are red ridge-tail monitors, red spiny-tailed monitors, and red ackie dwarf monitors.

The red ackie monitor belongs to the Varanidae family with other carnivorous lizards such as the Asian water monitor, crocodile monitor, and black-throat monitor. The genus Varanus is the only genus of this family that contains living species.

Appearance

Ackie Monitor
Ackies are docile, curious, and intelligent lizards.

Eric Isseelee/Shutterstock.com

Red ackie monitors are generally medium-size, lengthy and slender lizards. They have short legs, tapered snouts, a snakelike tongue, and a long tail. Their tails are about 1.3 to 2.3 times longer than their body. Red ackies are also covered in scales which resemble spines, hence their nickname “spiny-tailed” monitor. The middle part of their body can contain anything from 70 to 115 scales. They typically have three pale stripes on their pointed head that streak down to their neck.

Red ackie are dark brown lizards with reddish-orange spots with dark dots inside them. These patterns morph into bands around the tail.

Red ackies are much smaller than most other monitor lizards. Because of this, they are “dwarf” monitors. They are usually about two feet long, with their tails making up about half of this length, but some red ackie monitors have been recorded to be as small as 17.3 inches and up to two and a half feet.

Behavior

Red ackies are curious and active lizards. Their size makes them popular as pets because they are easier to handle than bigger monitor lizards. They are perfect for owners who want to start small at lizard-keeping.

Ackies are some of the best monitor lizard pets as long as they are given the proper care and shelter they need. They are gentle, and can live in captivity for up to 15-20 years. They have a great temperament and do not typically get defensive unless mishandled, or afraid. When handling red ackie monitors, it is important to start small by rubbing the lizard first before eventually picking it up for short minutes daily. You can also be present in their enclosure for periods of time without touching them to allow them to get used to you.

Red ackie monitors are a burrowing species, and spend considerable amounts of time underground. They love to dig and burrow, so it is imperative that they be given enough space to do so. These monitors also prefer damp soil because it enables them to control their humidity and stay hydrated. Housing a red ackie can be expensive because of the space they need to be able to exercise.

If your pet red ackie tends to burrow right after you feed it, or tries to stay away from you, do not force an interaction. Keep going steady until you eventually win their trust and they become accustomed to you.

Red ackie monitors are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day and prefer to rest at night. They are also very active lizards, loving to climb and move around freely. This species cannot thrive in a small environment.

Red ackies are usually solitary animals and don’t mind being kept alone. They can get territorial, so if you are thinking of putting two inside one enclosure, you might want to think again.

Habitat and Population

Red ackie monitor lizards are terrestrial lizards native to the arid regions of northwest Australia, and parts of Queensland. They are adapted to the dry woodlands and scrublands of these areas, as well as some of the islands off of the northern coast of Australia. Wild red ackie monitors can be found in rocky terrain and outcrops.

Red ackie monitors prefer hot, dry weather with enough rocks and boulders. They dwell under these rocks and within their crevices where the temperature is cooler. Red ackies also burrow underground. These burrowing spaces are important for the red ackie monitor as they enable them to regulate their temperatures and humidity. The monitors rely greatly on the humidity from the damp soil in these burrows to keep them hydrated enough to withstand the dryness of their environments.

Red ackie monitors are common in the wild as well as in captivity. They are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Reproduction and Lifespan

While it is usually a cinch to tell male and female animals apart in other species like cats and dogs, with monitor lizards, they are not so easily distinguishable. The most accurate way to differentiate a male lizard from a female is by a process called hemipenal transillumination. With this method, you hold a non-heating light source around the tail area of the lizard to determine its sex. Male red ackie monitors are a bit bigger than the females, and they have bulkier heads and spikier scales under their tails.

Red ackies in the wild start the mating process from December all the way to March. The male red ackie monitor initiates the process and lives with the female monitor for about five days. They mate intermittently during this time, after which the female searches out a decent spot to lay her eggs. Female red ackies typically lay eggs at the end of rodent or termite nests where the temperature and humidity is optimal. In captivity, the female monitor will scout the enclosure until she finds an area suitable enough to dig tunnels. She will return after about 20 days to lay her eggs. The female red ackie will need plenty of nourishment to successfully lay her weight in eggs.

Breeding takes place from the spring to the summer and the eggs hatch after three to five months of incubation. Females can lay up to 6 clutches annually, providing around 6-18 eggs per clutch.

The hatchlings come out at about six inches long. The male red ackies become sexually mature at 12 inches long, and the females at about 10-14 inches. Adult red ackie monitors reach lengths of two to two-and-a-half feet.

When cared for properly, red ackie monitors in captivity have a relatively long lifespan of 15 to 20 years.

Diet

Red ackie monitors are carnivorous and prey on invertebrates such as caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, snails, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, and cicadas. They also eat smaller lizards, such as geckos and skinks. Calcium powder supplements should be brushed onto the insects before feeding the monitor. This will help supplement their calcium intake and prevent bone disease.

Whole animal prey such as small rodents can also be given to the red ackie monitor on occasion, depending on the weight of the monitor. Red ackies, unlike larger monitor lizards, are small and active. If the red ackie is too thin or too fat, that would determine the frequency of its meals. When selecting each meal, pet monitor owners should consider that about 70% of the red ackie’s water source is derived from the food it eats.

Red ackies will eat cat or dog food but this should not be their staple food because processed or canned food do not contain all the necessary nutrients red ackies require daily.

Predators and Threats

Red ackie monitors in the wild face many predators. Unlike larger monitors, they are quite small so intimidation is not on their side. They are preyed upon by larger monitor lizards, eagles, snakes, and raptors.

Red ackie monitors in captivity don’t have to worry about predators, but they do face certain health issues. Pet monitors are prone to metabolic bone disease (MBD) which results from calcium deficiency. When the monitor doesn’t receive enough calcium, its bones become brittle and weak, causing immobilization and, eventually, death.

Another common health issue red ackies face in captivity is obesity. This comes as a result of excess feeding. Determine feeding by the activity level of the monitor. The red ackies can be fed intermittently throughout the week instead of daily. Fatty foods like eggs should be given as treats on occasion. It is important to keep a watchful eye on the weight of your pet red ackie monitor so that it does not get too fat.

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About the Author

Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Red Ackie Monitor FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are red ackie monitors dangerous?

Red ackies are on the smaller side of monitor lizards so they do not pose any serious danger to a human being. However, when aggravated or threatened, they can bite or whip their tails at their assailant.

Are red ackies friendly?

Red ackie monitors are known to be very friendly and affectionate once accustomed to human presence. They are smart creatures and like to be around their owners.

Are red ackie monitors venomous?

Yes, but should worry more about harmful bacteria in their bite than their venom. Their venom is only strong enough to knock out small rodents such as mice temporarily. It is not lethal to humans.

Can I feed red ackie monitors cat or dog food?

Red ackie monitors will eat dog or cat food but it not advised to give it to them as a staple part of their diet because it doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients for the monitor’s proper survival.

Do red ackie monitors make good pets?

Red ackies make good pets when they are properly handled and cared for. They are active lizards and need enough space as well as a balanced diet.

Do red ackie monitors attack humans?

Red ackie monitors do not usually attack humans. In the wild they would more likely avoid humans entirely. In captivity, they can snap at you when aggravated or lash their tails about like a whip. However, they are known for their even temperament.

What do red ackies like to eat?

Red ackie monitors prey on invertebrates such as caterpillars, spiders, grasshoppers, snails, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, ticks, and cicadas. They also eat smaller lizards, such as geckos and skinks.

How big do red ackie monitors get?

Red ackie monitors are a small species of monitor lizard. They usually grow up to two feet in length and their tail is about half of their size.

Can a human survive a red ackie bite?

Red ackie bites are not lethal but they can be very painful and harmful because of the bacteria that come with it. A bite wound should be treated as soon as possible at a hospital.

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

Sources
  1. Swell Reptiles, Available here: https://www.reptiles.swelluk.com/help-guides/how-to-keep-an-ackie-monitor-lizard/
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiny-tailed_monitor#:~:text=The%20spiny%2Dtailed%20monitor%20(Varanus,of%20monitor%20lizards%20(Varanus).
  3. National Aquarium, Available here: https://aqua.org/explore/animals/spiny-tailed-monitor

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