Savannah Monitor Lizard basking on a large piece of drift wood.

Caring for Your Savannah Monitor Lizard

Caring for Your Savannah Monitor Lizard

Savannah monitors are intelligent affectionate pets for anyone willing to provide the effort of invested time. Savannahs are a smaller monitor growing up to four feet long. Their personalities and demeanor make them a popular companion pet choice.

Savannah Monitor basking on warm rocks under a basking light.
Found in the grasslands of central Africa, their natural habitat is dry, and they are known to forage open forests, as well as rocky woodlands. Their ability to travel within temperate regions makes them able to fit into a human temperature and humidity world. Terrain traveling reptiles, they are compact compared to tree and water monitors. A healthy monitor can live up to 15 years. 

What you need for a healthy Savannah Monitor.

Food and Feeding -- Savannah monitors are carnivores. They are prone to obesity. Limit high-fat foods while offering high-protein. Eighty percent of a Savannah Monitor’s diet should consist of a variety of insects and other invertebrates. The remaining twenty percent a variation in meat.
  • Insects: Mealworms, earthworms, silkworms, grasshoppers, roaches, canned insects
  • Meat: Ground turkey, crayfish, canned dog food, commercial monitor food, fish, eggs
  • Vitamins and supplements: Dust insects and meat with calcium powder. Gut-load your insects for 48 hours with fresh vegetables and fruits, and calcium powder before feeding then to your monitor.

In the wild, hatchling through juvenile savannah monitors eat insects. As adults, savannah monitors graduate to the larger insects and larvae. Growing Savannah monitors change their eating frequency as much as their diet choices. You can mimic the frequency as your monitor grows for optimum health and weight. Hatchlings and juveniles should eat every day. Adults eat as often as once a day to as little as two to three times a week, depending on the exercise available in their habitat, and basking light temperatures. Adults tend to forage rather than fill up.

Depending on your monitors habitat an active monitor will eat less or more. Healthy Savannah Monitors are lean, but their hip bones and ribs should not be visible.

Enclosures and Habitats

An enclosure should be twice as long as your monitor. The width should be one and a half the length of your monitor. Height should be equal to their length allowing for stacking logs, rocks, for climbing. They’re terrain travelers so floor space is the priority. These are the minimum requirements. Your savannah monitor will always use more space. The more space and habitat choices the healthier your monitor. Their habitat will require ventilation. Any wire or screen on the enclosure needs to be resistant to your pet’s claws.

Aquariums and terrariums are a bad choice from the beginning. No matter how small your monitor is the day you bring him home, he will be four feet long one day. Best to design for the adult now. All healthy babies grow fast. There are excellent examples of Build Your Own Savannah Monitor Enclosures online. Skip the aquariums. They don't work for snakes or monitors.

Savannah Monitor climbing up on a log in his habitat.

Temperatures and Lighting

Temperature fluctuations are normal in their natural Savannah habitat. However, your habitat needs to provide one basking area delivering high temperatures for digestion and thermoregulation.

  • A basking area delivering 125°F. A basking area is a spot on a branch or rock underneath a heat lamp – allowing your savannah monitor to climb up, stretch out, and bask without physically touching the heat source and burning himself. Set the basking area up with safety in mind.
  • Along with the basking area, monitor habitats should have varying temperatures throughout the enclosure. Allowing your lizard to regulate his body temperatures through choice of area. From 85°F to 75°F. Most home humidity levels are naturally well suited for these monitors.

Substrate and Burrowing Materials

Savannahs are diggers. An adult monitor will appreciate two feet of substrate. Hatchlings do well in six inches.

  • Cypress mulch
  • Organic potting soil (without the little white water retention beads or fertilizers)
  • Coconut fiber
  • Reptile sand
  • A mix and match to suit your lizards' preferences.
If you prefer no loose substrate, you can use:
  • Newspaper
  • Butcher paper
  • Outdoor carpeting
  • Reptile carpeting
  • Stone tile

Climbing objects of varying materials and sizes keep you Savannah busy and his nails groomed.

  • Rock and pebble
  • Tree branches and limbs
  • Large basking and climbing rocks/boulders

Cardboard boxes, cement tube forms and the like are also a favorite for hides. And large shallow bowl for water. Savannah Monitors make a mess of their water bowls. There's no getting around this fact of a happy, busy monitor. Be prepared to clean and fill their water bowl multiple times a day.


  • Obesity and associated fatty liver disease.
  • Metabolic Bone Disease

These two often seen problems in monitor lizards requires you take your monitor to an exotic veterinarian yearly to keep an eye on blood work. Your first line of defense if fresh water always, and healthy food low in fat, protein rich, and calcium dense. Always dust and feed calcium dust to your insect feeders.

Savannah Monitors are affectionate and interested in their humans. As with all great relationships you'll have to put in the time and attention to build this trust. Daily contact and interaction are a requirement. When picking up and holding your Savannah Monitor, support their chest and hind limbs. The need the feel of a surface underneath their feet to feel calm. Be patient with your hatchlings, being little, they are easily scared. I let Floridicus lay on my stomach under my shirt when he first came home. Eventually he came out on his own to investigate me, the couch, blanket, and pillows. Let the little ones lead the way.


Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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