Hello everyone. First time on here.
I have a 2 year old varanus niloticus that is just doing everything he can to avoid eating. This problem started last summer when I moved him from a 20 gallon long terrarium, kept indoors, to a brand new fully optimized outdoor cage that is 4’Wx8’Lx5’H. His new cage has a basking spot (bulb) of 115° surface temp, which he rarely utilizes, and a 50 gallon +/- water feature that he’s usually in most of the time. He climbs up to a basking perch in the sun in midday and will eventually retreat back to the water at night. This water feature makes up about 1/4 of the floor space. The rest is a 10" deep layer of sterile dirt (50% sand, 50% peat based topsoil) that he also never digs in… He has a hide that he also rarely uses. The upper portion of the cage is stainless steel mesh, that I just recently installed some wood fence slats as a visual barrier over the screen because everytime we approached the cage he just plops in the water. I also just planted some reptile safe live plants in there to have some cover. I am relating this mostly to stress because when he is put back into his 20 gallon, he will resume eating/pooping normally. This cycle has been repeated about 4 times over the last year. Outside cage(never eats), inside cage(always eats)… its extremely frustrating cuz i put a huge amount of effort into his outdoor enclosure, and I know this is best for him in our climate (southernmost U.S. ) the food he normally eats is Repashy Meat Pie (gel form cut in cubes) with a quail egg cracked on top. I’ve tried live hopper mice to get a feeding response, and they quickly became cage mates… so i removed the mouse after 8 hrs or so. Also have tried his favorite food of gut loaded live crickets to no avail… took him to the vet also. Nothing impacted in digestive tract (Xray), healthy fat reserves on tail, no illnesses, and blood work is normal.
I am just at a loss to why he refuses to eat in this new cage. Any opinions on whats going on?? Thanks for reading. Please see pics of the enclosure below.
Could it just be that he isn’t getting time enough in his new home to become adjusted and comfortable in such a spacious living space?
Thanks for the prompt reply. That could be one of the reasons but each time i put him in there, i leave him for about 2 months and then intervene. Also, i have a ring camera in there to monitor his daily activities. Some days he just goes from water to sunbathe and back to water. Other days hes actively searching high and low for what looks like a meal. Then when he finds the food he just kinda noses at it but then moves on.
I don’t really know anything on monitors but maybe try something different you haven’t tried to feed before or scent his normal food with something. You could try to add a few more hides and more foliage around the enclosure because in my experience, the more places to hide the more comfortable they are. I hope he gets used to his new enclosure and will eat out of his 20 gallon!
Thanks for the advice. I just recently planted those plants and installed some wood fence slats around the upper screen portion to provide some visual barriers. His cage was pretty sparse other than the branches but i didnt know that was going to be an issue for him. Normally he’s pretty bold and has the typical Nile temperament, even being handled since a hatchling. It may take more time after these new additions for him to adjust, but if he fails to start eating soon, I’ll move him back indoors and I’m 100% sure he’ll start eating again. Maybe the smaller cage makes him feel less exposed? Kinda like ball pythons. He’s also about 30" total length now and thats why i built him this big outdoor cage. I’ll post some pics of him tonight and more of his enclosure.
Is this also a switch from indoor to outdoor? Does his new cage have a mesh roof or a solid roofing? (I don’t know monitors specifically; I’m coming from an animal behavior hobby-background)
Yes, it has been a work in progress going from indoor to outdoor. His cage is mesh roof, but a portion (over the water feature) is clear corrugated polycarbonate. He has full access to natural sun, and a backup basking spot with a 100w bulb (In case it gets cloudy) the bulb is on a timer from 7am to 8pm and is off from 10am-2pm because thats the hottest part of the day. Thanks for your help
I will start by saying I know nothing about monitors.
But a few thoughts come to mind.
- could or is the temperature of the food be different when given out and in?
- are there other animals around outside?
- could birds be around and he is not secure about eating as he could be pray?
- are you using the same food dish or process in both locations?
And idea to try and fix the problem.
Could you make an extension about the same size of the 20gal that he can go into to eat, mostly covered to feel secured?
I appreciate all the feedback.
- Yes the food temp is the same and is prepared in the morning.
- There is no other animals around during the day. There is at night, raccoons and possums, but hes asleep by then.
- There is birds. By the usually stat near the tree line and his cage is in a open area.
- The same food dish is being used.
Your idea is a good one. I have a plan to make a box under the basking light that will replace the wood structure thats there now, but its still on the to do list.
Full access to the sun is great, and we give it to animals because we know the benefits.
I mention it though, because animals often don’t understand that the hOrriFyiNg yAwnIng vOid over their head is in fact natural sky, not going to kill them, and not full of hawks planning to eat them.
Likewise expansive views through chainlink or mesh in any horizontal direction- when your previous world was never more than a few feet wide, going right to horizons or broad views could be making him nervous.
(Heck, I’m a Californian from valleys, and going to Texas or Oklahoma makes me edgy and nervous- it’s SO FLAT. Horizons make me edgy when they’re not the ocean. It just feels WRONG!!)
Yes, I would have to 100% agree with you. Thats what I’ve come to learn and why I eventually give in and put him back in his old cage. I just wish it would have been a smoother transition. As a experienced reptile hobbyist, its extremely frustrating. Monitors are complex and very intelligent lizards and I have tons of respect for them. Where I live, wild Niles are captured and killed all the time, and this is one that I want to have a long, happy life. I gave in this afternoon and moved him back inside. I’m going to have him eat, and as soon as he does I’ll take him back outside. I’ll keep food offered 24/7 outside and just keep repeating this routine every few days and see what happens. Here are some additional pictures.
Welcome to the forum family! I know absolutely nothing about monitors but I didn’t see anyone mention this and it’s probably a ridiculous idea but do you think he could be thinking about breeding?
Thanks caron. Not out of the question but he resumes eating everytime he’s brought back inside. He may be of age though.
Ok. I know I was grabbing at straws so it must be the inside outside thing. I know it’s frustrating. Maybe he feels safer eating in smaller living quarters? Best of luck and wishes to you to overcome this situation!
Thanks! I’ll need all the luck i can get.
What are typical ambient temperatures outside, apart from the hotspot? Any heated shelter? I’m about to walk into a doctor’s appointment, sorry to be brief and can’t read whole thread.
Daytime in the high 80’s. Night-time lows in the high 60’s currently. Were coming out of the random winter lows and its getting warmer as the seasons progress. Normal summer temps are high 90’s during the day, and lows in the high 70’s. However, he’s been doing this for the past year since first introducing him outside. Heated shelter is getting added soon.
I know this might sound silly, and I have no experience with nile monitors, but have you tried starting with a tarp over the top of the enclosure? Going on what I know of animal behaviour, the openness at the top of that enclosure is what strikes me as a possible problem. Maybe start with it covered when you introduce him into the outdoor enclosure, then incrementally uncover as he starts feeding and feeling more secure in the space.
Good idea. No i have not tried that, but i did consider it recently. Thanks for the input, that may be something to try.
THat’s a good idea especially if the tarp is secured so it doesn’t flap.
Another thing you could try, maybe already plan on, is doing short sessions of outdoor enclosure time and then increasing them, then returning him to the familiar indoor space. Like start with twenty minutes per day for a while then increase it slowly once he seems to be okay and becoming visibly more relaxed with brief visits.
I mention it because I am soon moving my baby Ball to his new grown up enclosure, so I’ve started letting him explore it as I build it, so he can check out different features, learn what the space is like, and how it will not hurt him to be there for fifteen minutes and then return to his familiar burrow.
I realized maybe something similar would help get your lizard gradually used to the big outdoors.