Monitor Lizard As A Pet: Is It A Good Idea?

Crocodile monitor
© Vladislav T. Jirousek/

Written by Emilio Brown

Updated: October 1, 2023

Share on:


Monitor lizards can make an excellent pet for the right person, but they are a much different experience than owning a pet like a dog or a cat. Keeping a monitor lizard takes patience, learning new skills, and adequately caring for them daily. While having a pet lizard may seem fun, monitor lizards are a big commitment and are not a pet for most people. 

In the world, there are around 80 species of monitor lizards and 4675 lizard species currently. Not every monitor lizard can make a good pet, as some can grow to be much larger than others. Monitor lizards are some of the largest species of lizards in the world. The Komodo dragon is also a monitor lizard and is currently the largest extant lizard species. While not all monitor lizards will grow to be giant, it is essential to know the species you are getting.

Monitor lizards can be good pets for a reptile lover but are a big commitment. In this article, you will learn about keeping monitor lizards as a pet to decide if it’s right for you. Lizards can be exciting creatures to examine, but they are wild animals that need extensive care to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Let’s learn about keeping a monitor lizard as a pet to see if you are up for the challenge. 

Can You Keep A Monitor Lizard As A Pet?


80 different monitor lizard species exist.

©Arpingstone / public domain – Original / License

In the U.S, it is legal to keep a monitor lizard as a pet, but that doesn’t mean it is the best idea. Monitor lizards are not a pet for beginner reptile owners or even intermediate, as they need very special care. Before getting a monitor lizard, you should do as much research as possible to ensure you are up for the challenge. Under the right circumstances, they can make for amazing pets, but if you are not prepared, it can be dangerous for you and the animal.

Monitor lizards are intelligent animals that can become tame and docile under the proper care. While they will never be like a dog, some will seek attention and enjoy playing with humans. If you are thinking about buying a monitor lizards you should consider:

  • The long term commitment to the animal
  • Monitor lizards require a large space to live
  • As wild animals they can sometimes be unpredictable
  • They can be expensive to buy and maintain 
  • Monitor lizards have a partially venomous bite 

Before going out and buying a monitor lizard you should know what you are committing to, and the care that they need. Finding the right species is important as some can grow extremely large. If you are thinking about buying a monitor lizard there are a few species that make better pets than others. 

small reptile

Baby monitors can be cute, but some can grow to the size of a dog.


There are around 80 species of monitor lizards, and some are more popular pets than others. It is important to know what species of monitor lizard you are getting before buying them. Some monitors like the Asian monitor and black-throated monitor look small as a baby but grow to an extremely large size.

Monitors lizards are some of the largest lizard species in the world. The black-throated monitor is a popular pet, but is able to grow to 7ft. Keeping a monitor lizard is not for a beginner reptile enthusiast, and should not be taken lightly. 

Here are some of the  most popular species of monitor lizards species that are kept as pets:

  • Ackies dwarf monitor 
  • Savannah monitors 
  • Black-throated monitor 
  • Asian water monitors 
  • White-throated monitor 
  • Green tree monitor 
  • Nile monitors 

Even smaller monitor lizards can be a handful if you are not prepared correctly. Knowing how to care for them and what is needed is best to decide if this exotic pet is right for you. Ackies are one of the best pet monitors, because of their small size. They are also easier to care for than larger monitors. 

Caring For A Monitor LIzard 

Newly Hatched Monitor Lizard on Hand

In states like Florida, monitors have become invasive due to people releasing them in the wild.


Learning how to properly care for a monitor lizard can be difficult for beginner reptile owners, and is why having experience with the animal is best if you are deciding to get one as a pet. Having a proper home, and knowing how to keep your lizard healthy is important in giving your lizard a long life. Monitor lizards generally live around 8 to 30 years depending on the species, if they are cared for correctly. 


A large environment suited for the specific species is needed for your monitor lizard to be healthy and happy. The cage of the lizard needs to be as large as possible, and the minimum will vary depending on the size of the lizard. For example, a medium-sized monitor lizard will need a container of at least 5ft x 4ft x 4ft to have ample space. Larger lizards will need even more space. 

In the enclosure, a source of UVB lighting is needed for around 12 hours per day for the lizard. Reptile bulbs can be bought at a store, as well as other items to provide enough heat in their homes. To keep your lizard busy, decor can be used to replicate its natural habitat and give it places to climb.

Different species will require specific environments so knowing your species is best to keep them healthy. Monitor lizards also need a substrate in their cage to replicate dirt. Most of the tools needed to house a monitor lizard can be bought at a pet store. These large lizards can be expensive and require a lot of space. Moisture, light, and enough space are required to allow them to be comfortable in their home. It is common for some people to use entire rooms to make the home of a monitor lizard.   

Feeding Monitor Lizards

What do monitor lizards eat - a water monitor eats a mouse

Monitor lizards are able to breathe and run, a trait not found in other lizards. This helps them chase down prey.

©Valt Ahyppo/

If you want to get a pet monitor lizard then you will have to feed them regularly. In the wild monitor lizards are hunters and scavengers, eating various animals that they may come across. Here are some of the things a monitor lizard eats in the wild:

Smaller lizards usually only eat insects and other small invertebrates. Monitor lizards are mostly carnivores so you will have to feed them meat around 1 to 2 times a week. Younger lizards are fed 2 to 3 times a week, and babies will be fed every other day. A constant water source or bowl should be provided so they are able to stay hydrated. 

Some of the things you can feed a pet monitor lizard include roaches, mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers. You can also buy monitor lizard food at a pet store that has all the right nutrients. Human food and other animal food should not be given to these lizards since it can make them sick.

Are Monitor Lizards Dangerous 

Monitor Lizard in the Borneo island

Komodo Dragons are the largest lizard species in the world.


Monitor Lizards will only bite if they are provoked or feel threatened. Keeping a monitor lizard is possibly dangerous if you do not know how to properly handle them. The bite from a monitor lizard is not deadly, but they are venomous and can cause severe pain. The tails are also powerful and can deliver a strong whip. 

Knowing how to handle a monitor is important in safely keeping them as a pet. If you are not experienced with reptiles or monitor lizards then it may not be a good idea to get a monitor lizard as a pet. Monitor lizards are less dangerous if you know how to handle them or let them live peacefully. If you plan on getting a monitor lizard as a pet it is best to know everything about these giant dragon-like lizards. They are cool animals but are extremely difficult pets. 

Can monitor lizards form bonds with humans?

Ackie Monitor

Ackie monitors are a good choice if you are looking for a lizard that will bond with you!


While it might be surprising because reptiles are not usually known for their intelligence, there are some lizards that will become close to their humans and actually form bonds with them. However, this typically is limited to the lizards that are the smartest of the breeds.

One great example is the Ackie monitor. They are smart and fairly docile. Over time and when they are comfortable, they can be quite friendly. Because they are on the smaller size, it makes handling them easier, and just in case you were to be bitten it will not be too much to worry about!

While these are a couple of good examples, it should be reiterated that it will take time and training in order to develop a strong bond with your monitor lizard.

Share this post on:
About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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