Baby savannah monitor food


Erica Mede, CVT


Savannah monitors, also called Bosc monitors, are large carnivorous lizards that resemble tegus more than typical monitors.  When handled regularly, these large bodied, stocky lizards can become quite docile and even enjoy the physical interaction in some cases.  The necks of Savys are slightly longer than those of tegus and much thicker than those of other monitor species. Savannah monitors have a broader rounder snout with forked tongues that are deeply grooved. Generally, they are a light tawny to light brown coloration.

Monitors are incapable of autonomy (“tail drop”).  Most Savannahs reach a size of 3-4 feet from snout to tail tip and live around 8-12 years although some have lived longer.

Natural History

Savys are found throughout northern Africa .  These large, terrestrial lizards inhabit the dry, grasslands (savannahs) but frequently burrow to escape the heat of the day and for security.  Savannah monitors enjoy swimming and lounging in water.

Feeding and Diet

In the wild, Savannah monitors are carnivores consuming small mammals, eggs, insects, carrion, small birds, small reptiles, and fish.  Although these lizards are carnivores, they have a penchant for roaches, earthworms, super worms, and other insects.  These aggressive eaters will consume nearly anything placed in front of them.  However, variety and balance are key to a healthy monitor.  Hatchlings and juveniles are primarily insectivores in the wild but in captivity can be taught to eat other foods as well such as Mazuri carnivore mixed with insectivore chow.

Hatchlings should be fed every day with a strong focus on gut loaded insects.  Crickets, dubia roaches, giant meal worms, and earth worms should make up the bulk of the diet.  Pinkie and fuzzy mice can be offered but it is recommended to wait until the hatchlings are a bit larger and older.   Small amounts of boiled or cooked eggs and small amounts of fish can be offered as well to round out the meal and offer variety. 

Savannahs under 2 years old should still be fed 3-4 times a week until they reach sexual maturity and roughly adult size.  Whole prey such as mice, make excellent feeders for smaller Savannahs whereas the larger ones can be fed various adult mice sizes.  Cooked or boiled eggs, fish pieces, earth worms, roaches, giant or super meal worms, and other insects should be added to the diet.

Adults should be fed 1-2 times a week depending on their body condition (obese monitors should eat less often than under weight monitors).  The bulk of an adult Savannah monitors diet should consist of rodents (mice to small rats), the occasional baby chick, insects, eggs, and fish should all be offered as well.  Pieces of cooked chicken can be offered as a treat for enrichment as well as training in some individuals.  Obesity is a common problem in Savannah monitors and food should be fed as meals when adulthood is reached rather than constant supply.

There are various methods and recipes for feeding monitors and commercial diets are an easy option for most keepers.  A primary diet of Mazuri Carnivore for adults is recommended with the addition of Mazuri Insectivore diet when feeding young monitors.   Lean ground turkey is a welcome addition to any savy diet as long as it is not the bulk of the diet.  All Savys should have their meals dusted with a calcium supplement and a multi-vitamin supplement used once to twice a week. 


​These lizards are terrestrial although they can climb low level branches.  Savannahmonitors are diggers by nature and are decent swimmers as well.  A soak in a large bin or tub twice a week will give monitors plenty of exercise and naturalistic enrichment.  Hatchlings can be easily housed in a 20 gallon aquarium or enclosure of a similar size although they will quickly require larger accommodations.  As monitors grow they will need a 55 gallon tank or larger (keeping in mind floor space is important) or a custom enclosure.   Once your Savannah hits 1-2 years old it is recommended to create a custom enclosure that or at the very least, a 75 gallon aquarium.  It is highly recommended to offer an enclosure that is roughly 6-8 feet long, 3-4 feet wide, and 2-3 feet tall for adults.  Savannah monitors require space to roam and sprawl out.  Make sure that all enclosures are sturdy and escape proof.  A locking door is recommended especially for wild caught or aggressive adults.


There are numerous substrates to offer monitors in their enclosure ranging from complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper.  Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily cleaned out and savannahs genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the layers of paper.  Butcher paper can be used as a uniform color alternative.  Since Savannahs enjoy burrowing and will spend most of their time hidden under the substrate if allowed, they seem to benefit from the addition of dig boxes.   Dig boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can go as much as 2 feet deep!  These boxes allow the savanah to fulfill natural desires to dig as well as offer another form of enrichment.  Entire enclosures can be covered in top soil but it is hard to clean out effectively and tends to accumulate missed feces as well as offer feeder insects escapes from hungry monitors.  

​If particulate substrate is desired, aspen and orchid bark are safe alternatives with some owners finding a happy medium with a mixture of orchid bark and topsoil.  In this author’s humble opinion, the most enrichment can be achieved by covering the bottom of an enclosure with indoor/outdoor carpet and offering a top soil covered section of the cage (preferably with a lip to keep the soil from covering the rest of the cage).  This not only offers multiple substrates to walk on but also offers the keeper ease of cleaning especially if a cement mixing tub or similar is used for the dig spot.   All substrates should be changed at least every 2 weeks completely and spot cleaned daily.  Savannah monitors housed on particulate bedding or soil should be fed in a dish or a separate bin especially if live feeder insects are used.


UVB lighting is typically not required for the care of monitors especially those fed whole prey diets.  However, improper diet can lead to calcium deficiencies and the addition of an ultraviolet B radiation bulb such as a ReptiSun 5.0 is recommended.  Although not necessary, it is recommended to offer exposure to ReptiSun 2.0 or 5.0 during day light hours.


Savannah monitors can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 80°F on the cooler end of the enclosure and 85°F on the warmer end of the enclosure.  Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure), heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting panels.   The basking site should be maintained between 95°F and 100°F ideally.  At night, the enclosure should never fall below 75°F.

All heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well.  A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure.  Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last thermometer at the basking site.


Coming from the savannahs of Northern Africa , these lizards should be maintained at 50-60% relative humidity.  This can easily be monitored using a hygrometer.  Humidity can be maintained with large water bowls or bins, misting systems, foggers, humidifiers in large enclosures, and spraying the enclosure 2-3 times a day.  Moist topsoil, if offered, will also help preserve the humidity.


Finding ways to keep monitors entertained and active is as simple as wrapping earthworms or a piece of fish in a lettuce leaf or as complicated as modifying wiffle balls to hold roaches or meat chunks to move around.   Creativity is essential for excellent monitor keeping.  Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent obstacles, hides, and climbing surfaces.  Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally angled as they are not necessarily agile climbers especially as they get older.  Dig boxes are essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural behaviors.  Large soaking basins or twice weekly soaks in a kid pool or large rubber maid offers enrichment and another way to exercise Savannahs.  Hide boxes are also a requirement, especially those that do not have anything to burrow into or hide under.  Although a hide box is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of enrichment as well.  The addition of straw and hay in the enclosure allows the Savannah monitor to experience new smells and sensations as they walk and dig through it.

Sources and Recommended Readings

Lizards Volume 2, Manfred Rogner
General Care and Maintenance of Popular Monitors, Michael Balsai
Reptile Medicine and Surgery 2nd Edition, Doug Mader
Monitors, Tegus, and Related Lizards, Patricia Bartlett

​If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 847-329-8709.

What Can My Savannah Monitor Eat?

Savannah monitors are 4’ long lizards native to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. They have an insectivorous diet, which means that most of their nutrition naturally comes from insects, despite their size. In the wild, they are known to eat snails, millipedes, beetles, crickets, locusts, scorpions, and various insect larvae.

Can savannah monitors eat small animals?

 A common misperception about savannah monitors is that they need bird and mammal prey as a regular part of their diet. However, birds and particularly mammals are very high in fat and/or calories compared to insects, which is a common contributor to severe obesity among captive savannah monitors.

However, wild savannah monitors are known to occasionally eat carrion and lizard eggs, so occasionally offering a lean young adult rodent, bird, or chicken egg for diversity is fine.

How often should I feed my savannah monitor?

According to field research conducted by Daniel Bennett, savannah monitors will eat up to 150 insects/day for 5-6 months out of the year, up to 10% of their own body weight.

How does this translate to keeping them healthy in captivity? According to experienced keepers, both juveniles and adults should be fed as many insects as they will eat daily. However, adults should be allowed to fast for half of the year (4-6 months), as this is their natural cycle in the wild, and their bodies are built for it.

All feeder insects should be lightly dusted with calcium powder.

What are the best insects for savannah monitors?

  • Dubias 
  • Hornworms 
  • Silkworms 
  • Black soldier fly larvae (Nutrigrubs)
  • Superworms
  • Mealworms 
  • Crickets
  • Discoids
  • Ivory head roaches
  • Locusts/Grasshoppers
  • Scorpions
  • Centipedes
  • Snails

Waxworms, butterworms, eggs, and vertebrate prey items are fine to offer as treats, but should not be a routine part of a savannah monitor’s diet in order to help prevent obesity.

Can I feed wild-caught insects to my savannah monitor?

You should never feed your savannah monitor wild-caught bugs that you found outside. As tempting as it may be, keep in mind that they may be contaminated with pesticides, parasites, and/or diseases that will seriously harm your pet. It’s best to play it safe and stick with captive-bred insects from high-quality sources.

Which insects are toxic to eat?

On the subject of bugs that shouldn't be fed to your savannah monitor, there are certain insects/arthropods that you should avoid feeding to any reptile because they are toxic and can make your pet sick. In extreme cases, eating just one toxic insect can kill a reptile.

  • Bees
  • Fire ants
  • Fireflies (lightning bugs)
  • Hornworms (wild)
  • Ladybugs
  • Monarch butterflies and caterpillars
  • Queen butterflies
  • Spiders 
  • Wasps

If your monitor does end up ingesting one of these, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Can my savannah monitor eat fruits and vegetables?

Given that savannah monitors are strictly insectivorous, plant matter is not a natural part of their diet and should not be offered in captivity.

Supplementation for Savannah Monitors

Supplements are an essential part of any pet reptile’s diet, but this is especially the case for insectivores, since calcium supplementation is needed to balance the calcium:phosphorus ratio in captive-bred insects. However, multivitamin powder is also necessary to help prevent vitamin deficiency.

All feeder insects should be dusted lightly with calcium, which can be done by putting the insects into a plastic bag with some calcium powder and shaking lightly. It’s okay to skip dusting occasionally. Multivitamin supplement should be added to the calcium powder weekly. Alternatively, you can use an all-in-one supplement.

Recommended calcium and multivitamin powders include:

  • Repashy Supercal
  • Zoo Med Repti Calcium without D3
  • Exo Terra Calcium Powder
  • Repashy Supervite
  • Zoo Med ReptiVite with D3
  • Exo Terra Multi Vitamin
  • Repashy Calcium Plus LoD

Gut-Loading Your Feeder Insects

It’s not enough just to dust supplement powder on feeder insects. To really make sure that your savannah monitor is getting the best nutrition possible, feeders need to be gutloaded.

What is gutloading? Gutloading is the practice of making sure that feeder insects are well nourished and hydrated before feeding them to your pet. This maximizes their nutritional value and vastly reduces the likelihood of nutritional deficiency in your pet. 

The easiest way to do this is by using water crystals and a commercial insect gutload formula. For best results, feed insects for at least 48 hours before offering, and use a rotation of gutloads to create a varied diet. Here are some options:

  • Dubia Dew
  • Dubia Diet
  • Repashy Bug Burger
  • Zoo Med Natural Cricket Care


Savannah monitors may be from a relatively arid climate, but that’s not a reason to dehydrate them. You will need a large water bowl in the monitor’s enclosure at all times. Change the water at least twice a week and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.


For more information on savannah monitor care, see our care sheet: How to Care for Your Savannah Monitor



"CHOMP" by kyhLiang is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

keeping at home, specific features of care, recommendations

In recent years, our compatriots have begun to show an increased interest in exotic animals. Instead of the usual dogs and cats, terrariums inhabited by amphibians and reptiles began to appear in houses. The Cape monitor lizard is especially popular. After reading this article, you will learn about the features of the content of representatives of this species.

Short description

The short and relatively heavy body of the Cape monitor lizard is covered with small scales of a brownish-brown hue with yellowish spots and stripes. The lower part of the body is lighter in color. The length of these lizards, together with the tail, covered with yellow and brown rings, is 1.5-2 meters. On the small paws of the reptile there are rather long fingers and claws.

The Cape monitor lizard has a short head with obliquely set nostrils that look more like slits. There is a double crest on the upper edge of the laterally compressed tail.

Behavioral features

Let's make a reservation right away that the smuggled Cape monitor lizard at home very poorly adapts to coexistence next to people. The so-called divorced individuals quickly become tame. However, do not forget that by their nature they are predators that require extremely careful handling. An angry monitor lizard is able to strongly bite a person. Moreover, in this case it will be quite difficult to open his powerful jaws. The bites of this reptile do not pose a serious threat. The only thing to be afraid of is the possibility of introducing any infection.

Natural habitat

These reptiles are widely distributed on the African continent. They can be seen in Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. Foothills, rocky savannahs, dry forests and semi-desert biotopes are considered the natural habitat of these lizards. They lead a terrestrial lifestyle and are active during the day. The shelter of Cape monitor lizards is often self-dug or ready-made burrows that previously belonged to rodents. Often these reptiles settle in crevices, among stones and at the roots of bushes or trees. Locals often see them near rivers or lakes.

In hot weather, the Cape monitor hides in its shelter, leaving it only after the onset of coolness. This lizard is very attached to its territory and always adheres to the boundaries of its own possessions. The basis of the diet of reptiles living in the wild is carrion. In addition, crayfish, frogs, insects and even small mammals can become their prey. Monitor lizards often climb low trees and lie in wait for their prey there. Having sated, they lay down to digest the swallowed pieces of food in half-asleep. During this period, the activity of lizards decreases to almost zero.

How to choose a Cape monitor lizard?

For better and faster adaptation, it is better to acquire a young specimen. The best time for such a purchase is at the end of summer and autumn.

When choosing a future pet, it is necessary to pay special attention to the appearance and behavior of the individual you like. The reptile should be active and curious. Once in its native terrarium, the lizard must be interested in the food lying there. In human hands, a healthy lizard will make active attempts to free itself.

Before buying, it is advisable to inspect the mouth, nostrils and eyes of the reptile. A well-developed healthy Cape monitor has a clean mouth cavity of a light lilac-pink hue. Red or gray color indicates the possible presence of diseases. It is perfectly normal if the lizard starts hissing. This is considered a sign of discontent. Among other things, it is recommended to carefully examine the claws and fingers of the reptile. They should not have any visible damage or defects.

Cape monitor: keeping in a terrarium

It should be understood that this reptile will require considerable material and time costs for the future owner. Where this reptile will live, it is imperative to maintain a certain temperature regime. First of all, it is necessary to acquire a horizontal type terrarium, in which the Cape monitor lizard will live.

Maintenance at home is a rather troublesome task. The size of the terrarium should be one and a half to two lengths of a lizard. In addition, it must be additionally equipped with a thermal mat or an incandescent lamp. The daytime temperature in the terrarium should be 28 degrees, the night temperature should be at least 20. It is advisable to equip some kind of shelter for the reptile, like a solid stone grotto or house. This will make her feel more secure. The bottom of the terrarium can be covered with artificial grass with a two-millimeter pile or covered with coarse gravel or sand. Immediately you need to place a small reservoir, the dimensions of which must correspond to the dimensions of the reptile. For those who are interested in how to toilet train a Cape monitor lizard, do not worry. Babies instinctively defecate into the water. Therefore, a daily fifteen-minute morning bath will save you the hassle of cleaning the terrarium and washing the trays.

What to feed a reptile?

Many inexperienced owners make gross mistakes when preparing their pet's diet. This often results in the death of the lizard. Those who care about their monitor lizard (Cape) should approach issues related to its nutrition with the utmost responsibility. The basis of the diet of a tamed reptile should be slugs, snails, cockroaches, earthworms, locusts and crickets. Occasionally, you can pamper your pet with chicken, lean fish, mice, or frogs.

In addition, it is desirable to add fortified top dressings, in which calcium is present, to the main menu. Growing reptiles need to be fed small meals several times a day. Adults need to be fed two to three times a week. Otherwise, they may become obese.


Cape monitor lizard has a fairly high intelligence, so it is very easy and quick to socialize. It will not be difficult for the owner to control the predictable behavior of his pet. Aggressive stances and tail strikes should be as philosophical as possible, not allowing the reptile to assume a dominant position. At first, the baby may hiss around your hand with outstretched food. It is very important to show maximum patience and over time he will get used to taking food. If he managed to bite you, then you need to not hurt, but noticeably click on his nose. The kid will quickly remember this lesson and next time he will think carefully about whether to show aggression.

A few words about walking

Some owners regularly walk their monitor lizards. To do this, you need to purchase a correctly sized harness for kittens. Lizards are masters at backing up, so they shouldn't be left unattended outside. Walking with a reptile is desirable in warm weather.

In the summer, the monitor lizard is shown sunbathing. But to accustom a lizard, accustomed to artificial ultraviolet, to the real sun should be gradual, so as not to cause burns. At first, you can limit yourself to fifteen-minute walks, gradually increasing the time spent in the fresh air.

Battle in the savanna: young leopard against monitor lizard

Varvara Lyutova


Varvara Lyutova

June 21, 2018 07:50

Tags: Africa  Zambia  animal battle  animals  leopards  safari park  unique video  lizards  




A Greek tourist, Kosta Frangeskides, who visited Keingu Safari Park in Zambia, witnessed a rare spectacle - a battle between a young leopard and a monitor lizard. It was difficult to predict the outcome of the battle: monitor lizard is a powerful lizard, breaking the bones of predators with a blow of its tail, and it was not going to surrender to the enemy. Frangeskides managed to capture the rare spectacle on video, which amassed almost 2 million views in a matter of days.

A Greek tourist was able to capture on video a unique moment of a fight between a young leopard and a large monitor lizard while visiting Keynese Saari Park in Zambia. The monitor lizard was not going to surrender to the enemy, but, in the end, the power of the predator won.


According to Costa Frangeskides, who made the video, they saw such a rare sight while on safari in Keynese Park. "At first, two leopards were sitting next to the monitor lizard," the tourist says. "They watched him carefully and obviously were not averse to eating them." But in the end, only one of the leopards decided to attack.


“The lizard clearly realized that he was in trouble and began to violently swing his tail from side to side,” says Frangeskides. “The lizard’s tail is a powerful weapon, and the lizard defended itself for quite some time, until finally making the mistake of allowing the leopard to come up from behind "He did not wait long: immediately, rushing at the lizard, grabbed her by the neck and, together with the prey, fled into the bushes. I'm sure that the monitor lizard did not survive this attack. And anyway, the video turned out to be gorgeous!"


The tail of the monitor lizard is its powerful weapon. With its help, the lizard can break the bones of the predator, cut the skin to the bone, or break through the protective shields of another large reptile with one blow. But in this case, luck was on the side of the leopard.

Source: — translated specially for

Related links:

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  • Very rare black leopard photographed in Africa for the first time in 100 years
  • Poachers kill nearly 100 elephants in Botswana wildlife sanctuary
  • Why in Africa leopards are searched with antennas
  • Senior comrades helped the baby elephant to get out of the mud bath

Tags: Africa Zambia animal battle animals leopards safari park unique video lizards

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