Care and Husbandry of Varanus kingorum and Varanus storri

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WeirdzandBeardz

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Mitchell Hodgson

V1 10/02/2021
V2 19/02/2022

Introduction:

The Storrs monitor (Varanus storri storri and Varanus storri ocreatus) and Kings Rock Monitor (Varanus kingorum) are two of best pet varanids you can get! These lizards inhabit the rock outcrops across tropical Australia. These two species are widespread in captive collections within Australia, though unfortunately on advanced licenses in some states. At the time of writing, Varanus kingorum cannnot be owned legally in Victoria on standard licenses. In my opinion Varanus kingorum is potentially the best pet dwarf varanid that I've kept. Their diminutive size and big personality makes them wonderful pets!

Choosing a lizard:

When selecting an individual for purchase a good sign is a nice fat belly and alert or attentive posture. These animals are active and inquisitive, without such a display of behaviours it could indicate that they are sick or malnourished. Another big tell of sick animals is that the tail shape changes from a nice round plump look to a caved in start shape. Several localities of Storr's monitors are widley avaible in the captive trade including representatives of Varanus storri storri and Varanus storri ocreatus.

Enclosure:

As hatchlings these animals can be housed in enclosures around 60cm x 45cm x 45cm, commonly the typical 2ft tank dimensions seen in the hobby. With that said, most species as adults should be housed in 90cm x 45cm x 45cm as they are very active. Extra depth to 60cms is good as it greatly increases the available space, similarly extra height to 60cm can be offered and this allows for the better inclusion of perching objects. These animals inhabit rocky ranges, and as such it is important to factor that into their setup. If housing a pair a minimum enclosure of 90cm x 60cm x 45cm should be provided.

These species should be supplied with tight crevices and rock features to get a sense of security. This is easily provided using natural or mock rocks, or tile. When providing any rocks or stacks make sure to secure the objects so there is no potential for the animals to become stuck or pinned. Use of a standard Retes stack or an offset Retes stack work well with these species. Many substrate types can be used for these species including play sand, soil, commercial red sand, decomposed granite, or mixes of the above. For my personal setups I do a mix of primarily decomposed granite, a bit of topsoil and then commercial red sand for colour. It is recommended to provide a humid hide in the cool end of the enclosure in which they can burrow. This not only allows animals to perform natural burrowing behaviour, but also allows them to better osmoregulate. Both species can suffer kidney damage in captivity from chronic dehydration, even when standing water is provided.

All species appreciate and use additional surface area provided by backgrounds – whether they be home-made or commercial. Care should be taken with cheap soft foam backgrounds as feeder insects will consume them and they suffer wear from climbing quite rapidly. These species can also easily destroy cheap background with their claws or burrow into them!

Cohabitation

Both species can display aggression to cagemates and care must be taken to manage and adverse events. I recommend only running these species in compatiable pairs, usually trying to run trios can end badly. Due to the somewhat secretative and nervous nature of storrs monitors in particualr, they can hide injury easily. Always have a secondary tank prepared and ready if splitting animals is required. Male/female pairs are the safest to keep in the same tank, like most dwarf monitors females of this species can be quite aggressive towards other females and males can combat. Especially if those additonal animals are introduced after a pair has been housed together for a long period of time!

Heating and Lighting:

These Varanus likely have a preferred body temperature range of around 33-38c, and as such heating opportunities reflecting this should be offered. I generally supply my animals with a surface hotspot temperature of 45c-50c, with a warm end air temp of around 35 and a cool end air temp (or hide sites) of 25c-30c. Heat can be offered easily through halogen spotlights, incandescent bulbs and Mercury Vapour bulbs (MVB; which also supply uvb). Take note of manufacturers instructions when using MVB globes as to the optimal height for correct UVB (it varies with distance!). Some brands of MVB will not be appropriate as all-in-one globes due to differences in heat

Items like ceramic heat emitters and carbon filament lamps should not be used as the primary source of heating with these animals. The heat produced by both elements is a longer wavelength (Infrared-C) and not well absorbed by diurnal basking animals. The heat produced by the previously mentioned types of lamps is more in line with what these animals experience in the wild (Infrared A an B light), and from my experience gives them much more energy in captivity meaning that they thrive much better. Similarly, underbelly heating should never be used as a main source of heating this group of lizards as they are heliothermic, meaning that they bask under radiant heat from the sun. These animals very much appreciate a hide directly under the basking source that way they and quickly escape into a warm hide if something spooks them.

These animals need a quality UVB source, without it they can get sickly, and die. This is especially important during the early life stages as these species undergo rapid growth within the first 6-12months and without proper UVB access they can suffer diseases of captivity (specifically a group of disorders grouped into what hobbyists call Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD – Have a google). No formal published information on the UVB needs of either species has been published, however it is safe to guess that they are likely Ferguson zone 3 species (maybe 4). Therefore, it is appropriate to offer them a UVI of approximately 2.9-7.4. Have a google of Ferguson zones and UV if you are unfamiliar with the topic as it will greatly increase your knowledge of correct reptile lighting.

To meet these needs, a UVB source of 10.0/10% or stronger should be offered. Good options for supplying UV for varanids include quality UVB emitting T5 tubes or mercury vapour globes. Depending on brand, a distance of 20-25cm should be appropriate in making sure the correct amount of UVB is provided. Be careful to not allow animals to get too close as excessive UV exposure is likely harmful to animals over long periods. After all, UV is still radiation that damages cells and tissue! Both T8 and compact spiral UVB globes do not emit enough levels of UVB for these species unless being used to raise hatchlings in small enclosures. With that said, adequate shelter should be given to allow them to escape the UV if they so desire. No direct obstruction such as glass or perspex should be present between the UV source and the lizards as both above-mentioned filter UV light effectively (Have a look at the tank diagrams provided). Check manufacture specifications, to ensure that the bulbs are placed at the correct distance for your animal. As final note avoid cheap UVB as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that between brands there is a significant difference in quality. Generally, more expensive brands will last longer (up to 12 months) as well as having a better-quality light emitted. Please check manufacturer specifications on how long the UV output of our globe is! A nifty trick is to write the install date on the base of the globe so you know when to change it.

I offer heat and UVB for 10 hours a day for all juveniles and subadults. For adults, during summer it is acceptable to offer heat for up to 14 hours a day, while during winter it is acceptable to cut down to 8 hours or less. DO not provide UV lighting for excessive periods as there is likely little benefit, and greater harm caused by over doing it with modern UV. These species are tropical which means the temperature of their seasons is not as pronounced as places further from the equator. They have not evolved to deal with a complete absence of heat over the ‘cooler’ seasons. This thermal cycling process is important for breeding and accepted by most keepers to increase longevity. There are risks with cycling animals incorrectly and I recommend having a look online or having a chat to me if you wish to undertake the process. Always provide fresh water while cycling.

Make sure to give these animals access to natural sunlight. Unfiltered sunlight has major benefits for varanids as they can heat, metabolise calcium and see significantly better in natural sunlight. Cheap ($20-35) pop-up dog pens from Kmart work a treat as temporary sunning enclosures.

For more on lighting have a good read of http://www.uvguide.co.uk/


Feeding and Hydration:

Dwarf Varanus sp. are primarily insectivores, meaning that their diet is mostly insects. They are visual hunters and will actively predate fast moving prey such as crickets or woodies. These two feeders make excellent staples for most species. Some species will consume black soldier larvae (marketed as BSF, lizard grubs, oz grubs, calci worms, etc.), however they aren’t widely taken by all species or individuals. What I recommend is trying your lizard on them and seeing if they will eat them, the reason being that BSF are nutritionally some of the best feeders. Dietary enrichment can occur with the inclusion of appropriately sized mealworms or superworms, however these should NEVER be a staple and fed sparingly as a treat – think of them as junk food.

As hatchlings these animals should be fed every day due to their high metabolic rates. Most will reach maturity with 12-18months of hatching and need the energy to grow healthily. As they approach the 6-8month mark feeding should be dialled back to 4-5 times a week, then feeding should be offered 3-4 times a week for adults. If animals thin due to changes in feeding regime, adjust accordingly. I generally feed my adults ad lib, however a good rule for most is 10 appropriately sized crickets. These lizards eat weanies/smalls when they hatch and will be capable of eating medium to large crickets as adults. Discuss with the breeder or seller at the time of purchase about what they are feeding on and how to upgrade food sizes. Feeds should be dusted with appropriate calcium powders. Powers with added D3 added should be used sparingly as with the provision of UV light animals can be overdosed.

Water should be offered through daily sprays for hatchlings and sprays every second day for adults. Water bowls should be offered. Make sure to provide both species with humid hides as animals can develop shedding issues and loose digits without proper hydration and humid hides.

Decoration:

Varanus are awesome captives to really deck out a tank for! They are relatively non-destructive, active and small bodied – qualities that make them excellent display lizards. Decorating enclosures can easily be done with rocks, branches and bark as well as commercially produced decorations available online or through pet shops. When using natural materials sourced form outside, be responsible. Don’t go pillaging natural habitats for the perfect decorations, try check places like gumtree for people re-landscaping and giving away bush rock or arborists trying to move on already lopped trees. I generally don’t treat branches or logs from outside, other than giving them a nice wash down to remove and debris. Please make sure all objects are placed on the base of the tank so that id dragons dig (which these guys will do!) they can’t accidentally pin themselves.

Health:

I’ll only briefly touch on the concept of health as I’m not a trained reptile vet, but what I think anyone with a reptile needs to know is that prevention, not reaction is key! Reptiles can suffer awfully in captivity if adequate steps aren’t taken initially. Don’t skimp out on husbandry and please do lots of reading from multiple sources. This is care sheet is a good place to start, but it’s purpose is to help guide you, not hold your hand.

Final Checklist:

Essential

  • Enclosure (Recommended minimum 90cm x 45cm x 45cm)
  • Heat globe capable of getting to 35c air temp and 45c+ surface temp
  • UVB source (10%+ T5 tube or a Mercury Vapour bulb)
  • Calcium/multivitamin powder
  • Substrate – Play sand or red sand are both fine, sand soil mix preferable
  • Basking Perch/object
  • Hides (can be caves, logs, burrows)
  • Timer for day-night cycle
  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • Cage disinfectant (F10, 1:10 bleach to water mix)
  • Live food (crickets, roaches, black soldier fly larvae)
  • Misting bottle


Optional Extras

  • Decorative Plants, branches, rocks, etc.
  • Thermostat – not essential if set up right, however can be useful and I would recommend
  • Tank background
Attached photos are of a male Varanus storri basking in an enclosure, hatchling Varanus storri and hatchling

274544450_1094389781342961_3058352983709236101_n.jpg
274652543_345449250789423_2866939986077676145_n.jpg
274321531_437793811455946_939293217540290572_n.jpg
 

Friller2009

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agreed, I'm already on the edge of my seat wanting kingorum, and this caresheet makes me want them more :p just have to move a snake on
Mate I am trying so hard to resist having a collection of 100% monitors. Looking to get an ackie in a couple months, so that will be fun! Did you manage to find some gilleni?
 

Herpetology

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my son had a gilleni a few years ago and for some reason sold it, now he can't find another without robbing a bank.
But I will be getting a pair of storri soon, that's why I was looking at the care sheet
I was told 1800 for a “suspected” pair
 

murrindindi

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U.K but from Nunawading, Melbourne, Oz...
Mitchell Hodgson

V1 10/02/2021
V2 19/02/2022

Introduction:

The Storrs monitor (Varanus storri storri and Varanus storri ocreatus) and Kings Rock Monitor (Varanus kingorum) are two of best pet varanids you can get! These lizards inhabit the rock outcrops across tropical Australia. These two species are widespread in captive collections within Australia, though unfortunately on advanced licenses in some states. At the time of writing, Varanus kingorum cannnot be owned legally in Victoria on standard licenses. In my opinion Varanus kingorum is potentially the best pet dwarf varanid that I've kept. Their diminutive size and big personality makes them wonderful pets!

Choosing a lizard:

When selecting an individual for purchase a good sign is a nice fat belly and alert or attentive posture. These animals are active and inquisitive, without such a display of behaviours it could indicate that they are sick or malnourished. Another big tell of sick animals is that the tail shape changes from a nice round plump look to a caved in start shape. Several localities of Storr's monitors are widley avaible in the captive trade including representatives of Varanus storri storri and Varanus storri ocreatus.

Enclosure:

As hatchlings these animals can be housed in enclosures around 60cm x 45cm x 45cm, commonly the typical 2ft tank dimensions seen in the hobby. With that said, most species as adults should be housed in 90cm x 45cm x 45cm as they are very active. Extra depth to 60cms is good as it greatly increases the available space, similarly extra height to 60cm can be offered and this allows for the better inclusion of perching objects. These animals inhabit rocky ranges, and as such it is important to factor that into their setup. If housing a pair a minimum enclosure of 90cm x 60cm x 45cm should be provided.

These species should be supplied with tight crevices and rock features to get a sense of security. This is easily provided using natural or mock rocks, or tile. When providing any rocks or stacks make sure to secure the objects so there is no potential for the animals to become stuck or pinned. Use of a standard Retes stack or an offset Retes stack work well with these species. Many substrate types can be used for these species including play sand, soil, commercial red sand, decomposed granite, or mixes of the above. For my personal setups I do a mix of primarily decomposed granite, a bit of topsoil and then commercial red sand for colour. It is recommended to provide a humid hide in the cool end of the enclosure in which they can burrow. This not only allows animals to perform natural burrowing behaviour, but also allows them to better osmoregulate. Both species can suffer kidney damage in captivity from chronic dehydration, even when standing water is provided.

All species appreciate and use additional surface area provided by backgrounds – whether they be home-made or commercial. Care should be taken with cheap soft foam backgrounds as feeder insects will consume them and they suffer wear from climbing quite rapidly. These species can also easily destroy cheap background with their claws or burrow into them!

Cohabitation

Both species can display aggression to cagemates and care must be taken to manage and adverse events. I recommend only running these species in compatiable pairs, usually trying to run trios can end badly. Due to the somewhat secretative and nervous nature of storrs monitors in particualr, they can hide injury easily. Always have a secondary tank prepared and ready if splitting animals is required. Male/female pairs are the safest to keep in the same tank, like most dwarf monitors females of this species can be quite aggressive towards other females and males can combat. Especially if those additonal animals are introduced after a pair has been housed together for a long period of time!

Heating and Lighting:

These Varanus likely have a preferred body temperature range of around 33-38c, and as such heating opportunities reflecting this should be offered. I generally supply my animals with a surface hotspot temperature of 45c-50c, with a warm end air temp of around 35 and a cool end air temp (or hide sites) of 25c-30c. Heat can be offered easily through halogen spotlights, incandescent bulbs and Mercury Vapour bulbs (MVB; which also supply uvb). Take note of manufacturers instructions when using MVB globes as to the optimal height for correct UVB (it varies with distance!). Some brands of MVB will not be appropriate as all-in-one globes due to differences in heat

Items like ceramic heat emitters and carbon filament lamps should not be used as the primary source of heating with these animals. The heat produced by both elements is a longer wavelength (Infrared-C) and not well absorbed by diurnal basking animals. The heat produced by the previously mentioned types of lamps is more in line with what these animals experience in the wild (Infrared A an B light), and from my experience gives them much more energy in captivity meaning that they thrive much better. Similarly, underbelly heating should never be used as a main source of heating this group of lizards as they are heliothermic, meaning that they bask under radiant heat from the sun. These animals very much appreciate a hide directly under the basking source that way they and quickly escape into a warm hide if something spooks them.

These animals need a quality UVB source, without it they can get sickly, and die. This is especially important during the early life stages as these species undergo rapid growth within the first 6-12months and without proper UVB access they can suffer diseases of captivity (specifically a group of disorders grouped into what hobbyists call Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD – Have a google). No formal published information on the UVB needs of either species has been published, however it is safe to guess that they are likely Ferguson zone 3 species (maybe 4). Therefore, it is appropriate to offer them a UVI of approximately 2.9-7.4. Have a google of Ferguson zones and UV if you are unfamiliar with the topic as it will greatly increase your knowledge of correct reptile lighting.

To meet these needs, a UVB source of 10.0/10% or stronger should be offered. Good options for supplying UV for varanids include quality UVB emitting T5 tubes or mercury vapour globes. Depending on brand, a distance of 20-25cm should be appropriate in making sure the correct amount of UVB is provided. Be careful to not allow animals to get too close as excessive UV exposure is likely harmful to animals over long periods. After all, UV is still radiation that damages cells and tissue! Both T8 and compact spiral UVB globes do not emit enough levels of UVB for these species unless being used to raise hatchlings in small enclosures. With that said, adequate shelter should be given to allow them to escape the UV if they so desire. No direct obstruction such as glass or perspex should be present between the UV source and the lizards as both above-mentioned filter UV light effectively (Have a look at the tank diagrams provided). Check manufacture specifications, to ensure that the bulbs are placed at the correct distance for your animal. As final note avoid cheap UVB as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that between brands there is a significant difference in quality. Generally, more expensive brands will last longer (up to 12 months) as well as having a better-quality light emitted. Please check manufacturer specifications on how long the UV output of our globe is! A nifty trick is to write the install date on the base of the globe so you know when to change it.

I offer heat and UVB for 10 hours a day for all juveniles and subadults. For adults, during summer it is acceptable to offer heat for up to 14 hours a day, while during winter it is acceptable to cut down to 8 hours or less. DO not provide UV lighting for excessive periods as there is likely little benefit, and greater harm caused by over doing it with modern UV. These species are tropical which means the temperature of their seasons is not as pronounced as places further from the equator. They have not evolved to deal with a complete absence of heat over the ‘cooler’ seasons. This thermal cycling process is important for breeding and accepted by most keepers to increase longevity. There are risks with cycling animals incorrectly and I recommend having a look online or having a chat to me if you wish to undertake the process. Always provide fresh water while cycling.

Make sure to give these animals access to natural sunlight. Unfiltered sunlight has major benefits for varanids as they can heat, metabolise calcium and see significantly better in natural sunlight. Cheap ($20-35) pop-up dog pens from Kmart work a treat as temporary sunning enclosures.

For more on lighting have a good read of http://www.uvguide.co.uk/


Feeding and Hydration:

Dwarf Varanus sp. are primarily insectivores, meaning that their diet is mostly insects. They are visual hunters and will actively predate fast moving prey such as crickets or woodies. These two feeders make excellent staples for most species. Some species will consume black soldier larvae (marketed as BSF, lizard grubs, oz grubs, calci worms, etc.), however they aren’t widely taken by all species or individuals. What I recommend is trying your lizard on them and seeing if they will eat them, the reason being that BSF are nutritionally some of the best feeders. Dietary enrichment can occur with the inclusion of appropriately sized mealworms or superworms, however these should NEVER be a staple and fed sparingly as a treat – think of them as junk food.

As hatchlings these animals should be fed every day due to their high metabolic rates. Most will reach maturity with 12-18months of hatching and need the energy to grow healthily. As they approach the 6-8month mark feeding should be dialled back to 4-5 times a week, then feeding should be offered 3-4 times a week for adults. If animals thin due to changes in feeding regime, adjust accordingly. I generally feed my adults ad lib, however a good rule for most is 10 appropriately sized crickets. These lizards eat weanies/smalls when they hatch and will be capable of eating medium to large crickets as adults. Discuss with the breeder or seller at the time of purchase about what they are feeding on and how to upgrade food sizes. Feeds should be dusted with appropriate calcium powders. Powers with added D3 added should be used sparingly as with the provision of UV light animals can be overdosed.

Water should be offered through daily sprays for hatchlings and sprays every second day for adults. Water bowls should be offered. Make sure to provide both species with humid hides as animals can develop shedding issues and loose digits without proper hydration and humid hides.

Decoration:

Varanus are awesome captives to really deck out a tank for! They are relatively non-destructive, active and small bodied – qualities that make them excellent display lizards. Decorating enclosures can easily be done with rocks, branches and bark as well as commercially produced decorations available online or through pet shops. When using natural materials sourced form outside, be responsible. Don’t go pillaging natural habitats for the perfect decorations, try check places like gumtree for people re-landscaping and giving away bush rock or arborists trying to move on already lopped trees. I generally don’t treat branches or logs from outside, other than giving them a nice wash down to remove and debris. Please make sure all objects are placed on the base of the tank so that id dragons dig (which these guys will do!) they can’t accidentally pin themselves.

Health:

I’ll only briefly touch on the concept of health as I’m not a trained reptile vet, but what I think anyone with a reptile needs to know is that prevention, not reaction is key! Reptiles can suffer awfully in captivity if adequate steps aren’t taken initially. Don’t skimp out on husbandry and please do lots of reading from multiple sources. This is care sheet is a good place to start, but it’s purpose is to help guide you, not hold your hand.

Final Checklist:

Essential

  • Enclosure (Recommended minimum 90cm x 45cm x 45cm)
  • Heat globe capable of getting to 35c air temp and 45c+ surface temp
  • UVB source (10%+ T5 tube or a Mercury Vapour bulb)
  • Calcium/multivitamin powder
  • Substrate – Play sand or red sand are both fine, sand soil mix preferable
  • Basking Perch/object
  • Hides (can be caves, logs, burrows)
  • Timer for day-night cycle
  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • Cage disinfectant (F10, 1:10 bleach to water mix)
  • Live food (crickets, roaches, black soldier fly larvae)
  • Misting bottle


Optional Extras

  • Decorative Plants, branches, rocks, etc.
  • Thermostat – not essential if set up right, however can be useful and I would recommend
  • Tank background
Attached photos are of a male Varanus storri basking in an enclosure, hatchling Varanus storri and hatchling

View attachment 332962
View attachment 332963
View attachment 332964

Hi, I agree with much of what you advise, but I have a few questions; you say a pair can be housed in a minimum size of 90 x 45 x 45 cm, that being the case, how much substrate depth are you allowing for considering the species is a competent climber when offered the means and if one is female (I assume "pair" indicates they are?) that includes nesting options in terms of substrate depth?
You say they reach maturity (sexual?) in 12 to 18 months, surely it doesn`t take them that long to reach sexual maturity size when fully supported in captivity?
A MVB cannot be used in an enclosure only 18 inches high because the minimum distance between bulb face and closest surface of the animal when basking beneath it is 30cm, meaning it would be quite likely the monitor could get too close (it will only leave 12cm "air space" between bulb face and enclosure floor at that height)?
You mention supplementary D3 should be added sparingly if decent UVB tubes/bulbs are used, in fact supplementary D3 has zero effect on blood serum levels in varanids (the same may apply also to agamids) including Bearded dragons, I only mentioned the latter for clarification as it is often offered to those animals. Although they can absorb the substance, it can be overdosed (you did mention that). I totally agree about offering them unfiltered sunlight if possible, otherwise the closest thing to natural sunlight at this time are the reptile specific metal halide bulbs (again, they are best used in larger enclosures).
Obviously the keeper can provide humid hides, but having a relatively deep substrate level is also important in helping the monitor/s remain hydrated even without spraying them, or do you mean spray ((moisten?) the whole enclosure (I would agree with that)?
I think your basking surface temps are o.k but it`s perfectly acceptable have a surface temp range up to 60c, easy to provide a larger basking site to get that range)...
The enclosure measures 180L x 75H x 60W (cm) he uses every cm of space...
I hope my response is taken the way it was meant, that is to clarify certain points, it`s great that your animals are healthy and breeding successfully!
 

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