Varanus gilleni

Image Credit : Crystal Palace Reptiles

Varanus gilleni is a tree climbing monitor from the subgenera Odatria. The color on the back is brownish, at the sides tending to gray. A number of narrow horizontal dark reddish brown stripes are seen over the back. Pale gray scales are frequently scattered within these stripes.

The tail of Varanus gilleni is gray with some deep brown scales which can form narrow bands. The coloration of the lower side is white with numerous gray spots quite particularly on the throat. As with most monitor species patterns are more conspicuous in juveniles and will gradually fade as the animal ages.

  • Scientific name : Varanus gilleni
  • Distribution : Australia (North Territory, Queensland, South Australia, West Australia)
  • Average Size : 0.35 m (1.15 ft)
  • Life Span : 8 years or more
  • Difficulty : Intermediate


The captive husbandry of Varanus gilleni is simple as it is one of the easiest of the monitors to keep. Our enclosures are around 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.9 meters (1.6 x 1.6 x 3 feet)high this gives extra height to climb and has adequate room for a pair/trio of adult animals. Provide artificial hiding refuges such as lengths of plastic agricultural (ag pipes are good as the corrugations allow the lizards to climb in and out naturally). This helps stimulate their natural arboreal behavior, adults and juveniles are housed in similar conditions.

Hide box

Provide plenty of climbing opportunities with many branches and include some hollow tree branches with loose bark (if possible) for the lizards to hide in.


A thin layer 0.02 meters (0.06 feet) of sand we find to be the most suitable substrate. A few rocks for looks are all that is needed, as they don’t spend much time on the ground.

Lighting – Heating

It is an absolute imperative requirement to have a hot basking spot of least 45 °C (115 °F) and preferably 50-60°C (120-140 °F), provide a horizontal branch or two beneath the globe as a basking spot this helps to stimulate natural behaviour/breeding as it mimics their natural environment where they bask in extremely high temperatures. The rest of the enclosure should be 25-30 °C (77-86 °F) during the day, at night all lighting is turned off and no extra heat is provided allowing to drop to 18-20 °C (65-68 °F) at night. Temperatures can be lowered a further 8-10 °C (46-50 °F) over winter.
We use 100watt spotlight with a reflector dome placed in top of enclosure 0.3 meters (1 foot) from basking branches. We do not provide any UV lighting for any of our monitors, they do not seem to benefit from it. We have produced many generations of healthy animals have without any form of UV light.


A dish with fresh water but not essential, cleaned daily provides their hydration and humidity needs.


Varanus gilleni are desert animals and have adapted to life in the dry outback. It is our practice to keep enclosures dry with minimal humidity we only offer water one day a week then remove it for the rest of the week.


In their natural habitat they hunt for insects, spiders, small geckos. They are fairly active, especially when hungry, they are not fussy eaters and will readily take any commercially available insect types but be careful not to overfeed adults as they are prone to obesity. We offer our animals a variety of feed items, woodies, crickets, mealworms, spiders, pink mice, meat (including kangaroo, beef and chicken) with the insects being dusted every third feed with calcium and multivitamin powder.


Varanus gilleni are very timid and never bite, some are a bit flighty but will calm down quickly, they adapt well to handling. As with all reptiles it is essential to wash your hands after handling and before handling another animal.


We clean our enclosures weekly with vinegar and warm water which is natural and non-toxic so it will not harm your animals. For monthly cleans we replace substrate and clean with a mix of 3 cups hot water, 3 tablespoons baking soda and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. The enzymes in lemon juice will break down the food and droppings and act as a natural disinfectant.


Shedding of the Stratum corneum (heavily keratinized outer layer) is a natural occurrence as a result of growth and environmental damage. After shedding there may be patches of leftover shed, but it will usually fall off on its own. Sometimes shed skin will remain stuck on the toes and tail, remove it gently with tweezers, you may also mist with water or give him a warm bath.

Potential Health Problems

Monitors are tough reptiles and under normal conditions are rarely susceptible to infection. A stressed monitor or one living in an unsanitary habitat is much more likely to become ill. Symptoms of an infection can be swelling, loss of appetite, basically cleaning and right temps will keep your monitor healthy.

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The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.