Ackie Monitor – Description, Diet, Care, And Facts

By Kevin Myers | 2023 Update

Hey there, reptile enthusiasts! 🦎 Get ready to meet one of the coolest lizard species out there – the Ackie Monitor! These spiky, inquisitive, and super smart creatures, also known as Varanus Acanthurus or “spiny-tailed monitors,” are native to the hot regions of Australia.

With their striking colors and patterns, Ackies are a real visual treat, and they’re also known for their intelligence and curiosity. They’ll keep you on your toes as they explore their surroundings and figure out new ways to play and interact with you.

Ready to learn more about these captivating critters? Stay tuned as we dive into the wonderful world of Ackie Monitors! 🌵🌞

CharacteristicAckie Monitor
Scientific NameVaranus acanthurus
Common NameAckie Monitor, Spiny-tailed Monitor
Native HabitatArid regions of Australia
Size24-28 inches (61-71 cm)
Lifespan10-15 years (potentially up to 20 in captivity)
DietInsectivorous (mainly insects and invertebrates)
Activity LevelDiurnal (active during the day)
BehaviorInquisitive, intelligent, and relatively docile
Coloration and PatternsRed, yellow, and brown with unique patterns
Sexual DimorphismMales are slightly larger and bulkier
Maturity Age18-24 months
Breeding SeasonEarly spring to late summer
Clutch Size6-20 eggs
Incubation Period55-80 days
Temperature (Basking Area)120-140°F (49-60°C)
Temperature (Cool Area)70-85°F (21-29°C)
Humidity40-60% (higher during shedding)

Ackie Monitor Pictures & Videos

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What is an Ackie Monitor?

Origin and Evolution

The Ackie Monitor (Varanus Acanthurus) is a member of the Varanidae family, which includes more than 70 monitor lizard species. These fascinating reptiles have ancient origins dating back to the Late Cretaceous period, around 90 million years ago. Their lineage is believed to have originated in Asia and later dispersed to Africa, Australia, and the Indo-Pacific islands.

Although the exact evolutionary history of Ackie Monitors is not well understood, it is believed that they are closely related to other monitor lizards found in Australia, such as the sand goanna (Varanus gouldii) and the lace monitor (Varanus varius). As the Australian continent became more arid, the ancestors of today’s Ackie Monitors likely adapted to the harsh conditions by evolving their small size, distinct spiny tail, and specialized diet.

Ackie Monitor Types

There are two recognized subspecies of the Ackie Monitor (Varanus Acanthurus):

1. Varanus Acanthurus Acanthurus

Also known as the Red Ackie or the Common Spiny-tailed Monitor, this subspecies is characterized by a reddish-brown coloration with distinct bands and patterns. They are found in the northern regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

2. Varanus Acanthurus Brachyurus

Commonly referred to as the Yellow Ackie or the Short-tailed Spiny-tailed Monitor, this subspecies features a more yellowish-brown coloration and a slightly shorter tail compared to the Red Ackie. They inhabit the western and northwestern parts of Queensland.

Both subspecies share similar physical features, such as the spiny tail and powerful limbs, as well as behavioral traits and ecological adaptations. However, their differences in coloration and tail length set them apart. 

When considering an Ackie Monitor as a pet, it is essential to research the specific care requirements and characteristics of the subspecies you are interested in, as there may be slight differences in their needs.

Physical Features and Adaptations

Ackie Monitors are known for their unique physical features and adaptations that help them thrive in their arid Australian habitats.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these characteristics:

Size: Ackie Monitors are relatively small for monitor lizards, with adults typically measuring 24-28 inches (61-71 cm) in length, including their tails. This compact size enables them to navigate the complex terrain of their habitats, such as rocky outcrops and crevices.

Spiny Tail: One of the most distinctive features of Ackie Monitors is their spiny tail, which serves as a defense mechanism against predators. The spines make it difficult for predators to grab onto the tail, providing the lizard with a better chance of escape.

Coloration and patterns: Ackie Monitors exhibit striking coloration and patterns, with shades of red, yellow, and brown. These colors help them blend into their surroundings, providing camouflage from both predators and prey. Their unique patterns vary among individuals, making each lizard visually distinct.

Strong limbs and claws: Ackie Monitors have powerful limbs with sharp claws, allowing them to be excellent climbers and diggers. They use these adaptations to navigate their rocky habitats, build burrows for shelter and thermoregulation, and capture prey.

Keen senses: Like other monitor lizards, Ackie Monitors have exceptional eyesight, a keen sense of smell, and a long, forked tongue. These adaptations enable them to detect and locate prey, even in the harsh and resource-scarce environments they inhabit.

Heat tolerance: Ackie Monitors are well adapted to handle the extreme temperatures of their native habitats. They can tolerate high temperatures in their basking areas (120-140°F or 49-60°C) and have the ability to conserve water by excreting waste in the form of uric acid instead of liquid urine.

Diurnal activity: Ackie Monitors are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. This allows them to take advantage of the abundant sunlight for thermoregulation and basking, as well as to hunt for their insectivorous diet.

Distribution and Habitat


Ackie Monitors (Varanus Acanthurus) are native to the arid regions of Australia, specifically the northern and western parts of the continent. Their distribution spans across the states of Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland.


In these areas, Ackie Monitors inhabit a variety of habitats characterized by harsh and dry conditions, such as semi-deserts, scrublands, and rocky outcrops. They prefer environments that offer plenty of cover and retreat options, like rock crevices, caves, or burrows, which they use for shelter and thermoregulation.

These lizards are well adapted to their habitats, utilizing their small size, powerful limbs, and sharp claws to navigate complex terrain and to construct burrows.

They are also able to bear extreme temperatures and efficiently conserve water, which is essential for survival in the arid regions they call home.

Although their natural habitats are primarily arid regions, Ackie Monitors are known to be adaptable and can also be found in areas with higher vegetation, such as grasslands or savannas, as long as there is access to suitable cover and food sources.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Ackie Monitors (Varanus Acanthurus) are known for their interesting behaviors and unique lifestyle, which are well-adapted to their native arid environments in Australia.

Here are some key aspects of their behavior and lifestyle:

1. Diurnal: Ackie Monitors are active during the day, taking advantage of daylight hours to bask, hunt, and explore their surroundings. They rely on the warmth of the sun for thermoregulation, ensuring that their body temperature is within an optimal range for activity.

2. Inquisitive and intelligent: Ackie Monitors are curious creatures, displaying a high level of intelligence and problem-solving skills. They actively explore their environment, using their keen senses to locate prey and investigate new objects or areas.

3. Territorial: Like many other monitor lizards, Ackie Monitors can be territorial, especially during the breeding season. Males may establish and defend territories from rival males, engaging in displays of dominance and submission using their spiny tails.

4. Burrowing: Ackie Monitors are skilled diggers, using their strong limbs and sharp claws to create burrows for shelter and thermoregulation. These burrows can be quite extensive and help the lizards escape the extreme heat of their environment, maintain a stable body temperature, and hide from predators.

5. Hunting and diet: Ackie Monitors are primarily insectivorous, meaning that they mainly eat insects and other invertebrates. They use their excellent eyesight, sense of smell, and long, forked tongue to locate and capture prey, such as beetles, crickets, spiders, and even small mammals or reptiles when available.

6. Social behavior: Ackie Monitors are generally solitary creatures, but they may interact with other individuals during the breeding season or when defending territories. They communicate using body language, such as tail-waving, posturing, and head-bobbing, to convey dominance or submission.

7. Reproduction: The breeding season for Ackie Monitors occurs from early spring to late summer. After mating, females lay a clutch of 6-20 eggs, which they bury in a moist, protected location. The eggs incubate for approximately 55-80 days before hatching, depending on temperature and humidity conditions.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Ackie Monitors (Varanus acanthurus) have a fascinating reproductive process and a relatively long lifespan, especially when compared to other lizards of similar size.


The breeding season for Ackie Monitors typically occurs from early spring to late summer. During this time, males and females engage in courtship behavior, which may include head-bobbing, tail-waving, and body posturing.

After successful mating, the female Ackie Monitor will lay a clutch of 6-20 eggs. She will then seek out a suitable location to deposit her eggs, such as a moist, protected area within a burrow or a nest box in captivity. The eggs are buried to ensure they remain safe from predators and maintain the appropriate temperature and humidity levels.

The incubation period for Ackie Monitor eggs ranges from 55 to 80 days, depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment. Once hatched, the baby Ackie Monitors are independent and start hunting for insects and invertebrates shortly after emerging from the eggs.


In the wild, Ackie Monitors have a lifespan of approximately 10-15 years, although this can vary depending on factors such as predation, habitat, and availability of food resources.

In captivity, with proper care and nutrition, Ackie Monitors can potentially live up to 20 years or more. This makes them a long-term commitment for reptile keepers, who need to ensure they provide a suitable environment, diet, and care for their scaly companion throughout their life.

To help ensure a long, healthy life for an Ackie Monitor in captivity, it is essential to research and consult with experts to provide the best possible care.

How to Care for An Ackie Monitor

Caring for an Ackie Monitor (Varanus acanthurus) requires dedication, research, and attention to detail, as they have specific needs to maintain their health and well-being in captivity. Here are some essential aspects of Ackie Monitor care to consider:

1. Enclosure

Ackie Monitors need a spacious enclosure to allow for natural behaviors like climbing, digging, and basking. A minimum enclosure size for a single adult Ackie Monitor is 4 feet long x 2 feet wide x 2 feet high (120 x 60 x 60 cm), but larger is always better. Ensure the enclosure has a secure lid to prevent escape.

2. Substrate

Provide a substrate that allows for digging and burrowing, such as a mixture of coconut coir, play sand, and organic topsoil. The substrate should be at least 6 inches (15 cm) deep to enable natural burrowing behavior.

3. Temperature and Humidity

Ackie Monitors require a thermal gradient in their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. Provide a basking area with a temperature of around 120-140°F (49-60°C) and a cooler area with temperatures between 75-85°F (24-29°C). The enclosure should preferably have a humidity level of around 50-60%, with higher humidity (up to 80%) near the nesting areas.

4. Lighting

Ackie Monitors need access to full-spectrum UVB lighting to synthesize vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption and overall health. Ensure that the UVB light source is replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

5. Hiding Spots and Climbing Opportunities

Provide multiple hiding spots, such as cork bark, caves, or PVC pipes, to allow your Ackie Monitor to feel secure in its environment. Include branches, logs, or rock structures for climbing and basking.

6. Diet

Feed your Ackie Monitor a varied diet of appropriately sized insects and invertebrates, such as crickets, mealworms, roaches, and locusts. Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults every other day or every two days. Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements are crucial to ensure proper nutrition.

7. Water

Provide a shallow water dish for your Ackie Monitor to drink from and occasionally soak in. Make sure to change the water daily to maintain cleanliness.

8. Regular Cleaning

Clean the enclosure regularly, removing feces and uneaten food promptly. Perform a thorough cleaning and substrate change periodically to maintain a healthy environment.

9. Veterinary Care

Schedule regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian to monitor your Ackie Monitor’s health and address any concerns or potential issues.

10. Enrichment

Offer your Ackie Monitor mental and physical stimulation through environmental enrichment. This may include rearranging the enclosure, introducing new climbing or hiding elements, or offering different types of insects for feeding.

Remember that proper Ackie Monitor care requires consistent effort, and it’s crucial to research and consult with experts to provide the best possible environment for your reptile companion.

Eating Habits

Ackie Monitors (Varanus Acanthurus) are primarily insectivorous, meaning that their diet consists mainly of insects and invertebrates. They have well-adapted hunting skills, utilizing their keen eyesight, acute sense of smell, and long, forked tongue to locate and capture prey in their native arid habitats.

In the Wild

In the wild, Ackie Monitors feed on a variety of insects and invertebrates, such as:

  • Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Spiders
  • Scorpions
  • Small lizards
  • Other small invertebrates

Occasionally, they may also consume small vertebrates, such as rodents or other reptiles, when available. Their diet primarily depends on the prey items present in their environment.

In Captivity

In captivity, it is essential to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible. A varied diet of appropriately sized insects and invertebrates should be provided, including:

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Roaches
  • Earthworms
  • Waxworms
  • Locusts

It’s crucial to gut-load and dust the insects with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D3, to ensure the proper nutrition of the captive Ackie Monitor.

Juvenile Ackie Monitors require more frequent feeding, usually once or twice daily, to support their rapid growth. Adult Ackie Monitors can be fed less frequently, typically every other day or every two days, depending on their size and activity level.

Always ensure that the prey items provided are the appropriate size for the Ackie Monitor to avoid potential choking hazards or digestive issues. It’s also important to monitor the lizard’s weight and overall health to make adjustments to the diet as needed.

Predators and Threats

In their native habitats, Ackie Monitors (Varanus acanthurus) face several predators and threats.

1. Natural Predators

1. Birds of prey

Larger birds, such as hawks and eagles, are known to prey on Ackie Monitors, especially juveniles. These birds have sharp talons and keen eyesight, which enable them to locate and capture small reptiles.

2. Snakes

Various snake species, including larger Australian pythons and venomous snakes, may prey on Ackie Monitors. Snakes are skilled hunters that can navigate complex terrains, making them a significant threat to these lizards.

3. Mammals

Some mammalian predators, like dingoes and feral cats, may also hunt Ackie Monitors. These predators are opportunistic and may feed on small reptiles if the opportunity arises.

4. Cannibalism

In certain situations, adult Ackie Monitors may prey on juveniles of their own species. This behavior is more commonly observed in areas where resources are scarce or competition for food is high.

2. Human-Related Threats

1. Habitat Destruction

Deforestation, mining, agriculture, and urbanization are all factors that contribute to the destruction of the natural habitats of Ackie Monitors. Loss of habitat can lead to decreased availability of food, shelter, and suitable nesting sites, negatively impacting their populations.

2. Climate Change

As global temperatures rise, the arid regions that Ackie Monitors inhabit may experience more extreme weather events, such as droughts or intense heatwaves. These conditions can negatively affect the lizard’s ability to find food and water, reproduce successfully, and maintain their overall health.

3. Collection for the Pet Trade

Although Ackie Monitors are popular in the reptile pet trade due to their size, intelligence, and unique appearance, the collection of wild individuals for this purpose can threaten their wild populations. To minimize the impact on wild populations, captive breeding programs are essential.

Conservation efforts and responsible pet ownership practices can help mitigate some of these threats and ensure the long-term survival of Ackie Monitors in their native habitats.

Conservation Status and Life Today

The Ackie Monitor (Varanus acanthurus) has not been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is a widely recognized authority on the conservation status of species. However, Ackie Monitors are not currently considered to be under significant threat.

In general, Ackie Monitors seem to be relatively stable in their natural habitats, as they are adaptable creatures that can thrive in a variety of arid environments. Their ability to tolerate extreme temperatures, conserve water, and hunt a diverse array of prey items allows them to persist in their native regions of Australia.

However, this does not mean that Ackie Monitors are exempt from potential threats. As mentioned earlier, they face challenges such as habitat destruction, climate change, and collection for the pet trade. To ensure the long-term survival of Ackie Monitors in the wild, it is essential to monitor their populations and implement conservation measures when needed.

Responsible pet ownership and supporting captive breeding programs for Ackie Monitors can help reduce the pressure on wild populations. Additionally, supporting habitat conservation efforts and raising awareness about the unique ecology and behavior of these fascinating reptiles can contribute to their continued success in the wild.

5 Incredible Facts About Ackie Monitor

1. Spiny Tail

Ackie Monitors have a distinct, spiny tail, which is an adaptation for defense against predators. When threatened, they can curl their tail up, displaying the spines to deter potential attackers. The tail can also be used as a tool for wedging themselves into tight crevices and rock formations.

2. Skilled Diggers

Ackie Monitors are excellent diggers, using their powerful legs and sharp claws to excavate burrows in the ground. These burrows provide shelter, a place to lay eggs, and protection from extreme temperatures in their arid habitats. In captivity, they display this natural behavior by burrowing into the substrate in their enclosure.

3. Thermoregulation

Like other reptiles, Ackie Monitors are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. They bask in the sun to warm up and retreat to cooler areas or burrows when they need to cool down. This ability to thermoregulate is essential for their survival in the extreme environments they inhabit.

4. Carnivorous Diet

Ackie Monitors are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects and invertebrates in the wild, including beetles, crickets, spiders, and small lizards. They are opportunistic hunters, using their keen eyesight, strong sense of smell, and forked tongue to locate and capture prey.

5. Intelligent and Curious

Ackie Monitors are known for their intelligence and curious nature, making them popular pets among reptile enthusiasts. They can recognize their caretakers and may even exhibit problem-solving skills when exploring their environment or hunting for food. Proper enrichment and mental stimulation are crucial for their well-being in captivity.

Ackie Monitor FAQs

Q: How big do Ackie Monitors get?

A: Ackie Monitors are relatively small compared to other monitor species. They typically reach a length of 24-28 inches (61-71 cm) when fully grown, with males being slightly larger than females.

Q: How long do Ackie Monitors live?

A: The average lifespan of an Ackie Monitor in captivity ranges from 10-15 years when properly cared for. Their lifespan can be influenced by factors such as diet, enclosure conditions, and overall health.

Q: Are Ackie Monitors good pets?

A: Ackie Monitors are considered good pets for those with experience in reptile care. They are intelligent, curious, and more manageable in size compared to other monitor species. However, they require a spacious enclosure, specific environmental conditions, and a specialized diet to thrive in captivity. They are not recommended for first-time reptile owners.

Q: How do I set up an enclosure for an Ackie Monitor?

A: A suitable enclosure for an adult Ackie Monitor should be at least 4 feet long x 2 feet wide x 2 feet high (120 x 60 x 60 cm) with a secure lid. The enclosure should have a substrate that allows for digging and burrowing, such as a mixture of coconut coir, play sand, and organic topsoil. Provide a thermal gradient with a basking area reaching temperatures of 120-140°F (49-60°C) and cooler areas ranging from 75-85°F (24-29°C). Ensure access to full-spectrum UVB lighting, hiding spots, climbing opportunities, and a shallow water dish.

Q: What should I feed my Ackie Monitor?

A: Ackie Monitors are primarily insectivorous, so their diet should consist of a variety of appropriately sized insects and invertebrates, such as crickets, mealworms, roaches, and locusts. Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults every other day or every two days. Insects should be gut-loaded and dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to ensure proper nutrition.