ACANTHURUS MONITOR CARE SHEET
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This caresheet addresses Acanthurus Monitor (Ackie monitor) availability, morphs, seasonality, sexing, pricing, shipping, and most importantly, setup and care.
Red and Yellow Ackies breed and hatch year round, but at the same time, they are still fairly rare in the trade, and are in steady high demand. Babies often sell out before hatching, so it is best to pre-purchase babies that are due to hatch in the coming weeks. This period may be anywhere from one week to twelve weeks, and it is best to get your order in early, for quickest availability. At Pro Exotics, we only presell babies that we have eggs for, not for eggs we are expecting, so there is a solid date available for all purchases, and aside from that, we just don’t believe in selling what we do not yet have.
All of our monitors at Pro Exotics are approached with a similar strategy, varying here and there to account for feeding and humidity needs, but it basically breaks down to "keep ‘em hot and feed ‘em a lot!"
Acanthurus hatchlings are kept right out of the egg on a shallow soil substrate in 10 and 20 gallon tanks. It is important during this time to monitor the success of each hatchling. We want to be sure that each baby is getting a full share of food, and they have the easiest time learning to hunt and eat crickets. A simple setup helps accomplish this goal.
The soil also helps to insure complete sheds, and it is easier to keep visual track of each animal’s toes and tail with a simple setup and substrate. This is important because any poorly shed toes and tails can be easily lost to circulation and scabbing problems. Be sure to keep your soil at a good moisture level. You will learn to balance out the moisture content by adding water regularly. This varies from cage to cage, but you should get a good feel for it within a week or two.
Our substrate preferences for monitors in our collection have changed with time, and while we used to use cypress mulch almost exclusively, we have now largely switched over to soil. After trying a few different soil mixes (check out that FAQ), we not only found a "store bought" mix that works well, but a locally purchased decomposed granite that works extremely well. It holds moisture and burrows beautifully. This decomposed granite is now our preferred substrate, and while we have had success with cypress and paper towels for hatchlings in the past, consider a soil mix for your permanent setup, your monitors will be much happier for it.
The other features in the baby setup include a nice sized water bowl, and multiple hide spots are created using the Wood Stacks (see that FAQ here). These stacks also provide an elevated basking spot on one side.
The cages and water bowls are cleaned daily and we also have a weekly soaking program for all of our monitors (including breeders).
Soaking your monitors weekly is not only recommended, but an important aspect of PE husbandry. Soaking in room temp water for 1 to 2 hours allows the animal to hydrate completely, as well as helps with any stuck sheds on the delicate toes and tails. You should use water that comes up to the shoulder (or body thickness) of your monitor, so they can easily keep their heads above water. We have used this technique for a few years now, and have had tremendous success. Keep in mind that when soaking baby monitors (or snakes), they often float on the water, not having enough mass to sink to the bottom and walk around in water up to their tiny shoulders. If they literally have to swim in the water for the entire 2 hours, they may die of exhaustion.
This is remedied by "soaking" your tiny animals on wet paper towels. Line your container with three of four layers of paper towels, then wet these down liberally. Add the animals to the container, and use a secure lid. They will walk on the paper towels, drink from the small pools of water, and get all the positive benefits of a good soak, without the added worry of drowning.
Temperatures are another crucial factor (along with hydration and nutrition) to a healthy monitor. While it is generally true that Ackies are a hardy and "bulletproof" monitor, temperatures are still important to their success and well being.
We use basking spot temperatures of 120°-130° F for the Ackie babies, with ambient cage temperatures of 85° F. At night, it is important the temperatures do not drop below 80° F. If you insist on allowing the temps to drop below 80°, you may start to court respiratory infections, so it is important to use red bulbs, ceramic bulbs, heat panels, or whatever it takes to keep those temps up and your monitor healthy. Many large monitor breeders, including Pro Exotics, often run daylight cycles and temps 24 hours a day. This keeps temps up, metabolism high, and our monitors stay in the best of health. You don't have to run a 24/7 day cycle, but look at your night drop closely when brainstorming about your lethargic (or mouth bubbling, or non eating) monitor.
In order to monitor your temperatures accurately, we encourage our customers to use either a PE infrared Temp Gun (available here) or a digital thermometer with a probe. At Pro Exotics, we offer a great digital thermometer with a probe for $15, and it includes a Minimum/Maximum setting (for keeping tabs on those overnight temps). You can mount the base of the thermometer inside the cage, in an area away from the basking spot, to measure the ambient temperature of the cage itself. Move the probe around the cage, check the basking spot, check the hide spots, check the "favorite" spot, check the far end of the cage. Check it all, and know what is happening. Find the range of your cage, from hottest spot to coldest spot, use the Min/Max reading to check your night drop, and make sure these temps fall within the parameters you have set. If they don't match, do what you need to do to get them there. Changing a hot spot from 95° F to 130° F is often as simple as raising the basking spot a few inches toward the basking light.
Along with the proper temperatures, feeding plays a key factor in the well being of the baby Ackies. Pro Exotics' diet consists of crickets, rodents, and thawed raw ground turkey. We supplement the food items with Miner-All nearly every feeding. Crickets are offered 4 days a week, chopped crawler mice (thawed) are offered once a week, and turkey is offered on once weekly as well. The crawlers must be chopped for babies and juvies because the monitors are still too small to eat an entire crawler mouse in one quick bite. We strongly encourage folks to feed meat no more than twice a week. Crickets should make up the bulk of a baby monitor’s diet, and the animal will grow terrifically if fed on supplemented crickets alone.
Meats are offered for additional protein and calories, but you must keep in mind these are small babies, and as such have small digestive systems. Loading them down with too much meat will not only encourage compaction and digestion problems, but it will act like monitor steroids on these guys, and you will then have an aggressive terror on your hands. In the case of our baby Water monitors, another popular monitor at Pro Exotics, many customers have called to ask about the aggressiveness of their new baby Water, and more often than not, they simply enjoy watching their animal chase and eat mice, and they have been feeding nearly an all meat diet. When switched back to a cricket based diet, these same animals return to their predictable, tractable selves, within a few weeks. Ackies don’t seem to have the same potential for aggressiveness as other monitors, but we still strongly encourage you to follow our recommended diet.
Once the Ackies are of a healthy juvenile size (and able to chew up larger, tougher insects), you can start adding other insects to the diet. We round out the Ackies diet with mealworms (including superworms for adult Ackies) and feeder roaches.
The big husbandry change many folks insist on making is offering a "wide and varied diet". We consider the above mentioned diet to be plenty wide and plenty varied. The additional foods that keepers feed to their monitors often come with an additional price. Wild caught food items typically harbor nasty parasites your monitor is not going to be equipped to handle. "Feeder goldfish" are some of the nastiest things available, you are not feeding an Oscar, you are feeding a captive lizard. Exotic foods like crayfish and crabs are not only expensive, but seasonal, and what exactly are you going to do when your new baby monitor gets hooked on food that costs $8 per pound or more and refuses to eat anything else? Did i ever tell you about the guy who got baby rabbits to feed his ball python to "celebrate" Easter? Why??!! This stuff happens. Too frequently. Play it smart, feed a steady, proven, inexpensive diet, and have a terrifically healthy monitor.
For those of you wanting "a pair" of Ackies, or a "female" baby, you have to understand that monitors (of all types) are not visually sexable as babies, and there is absolutely no way to guarantee a particular sex when you are selling babies. Anyone who tells you different is trying to deceive you. Sexual characteristics start showing up as early as six months old, and as late as a year. You can look for head shapes, body shapes, hemipenal bulges, and other factors when trying to determine sex, but it is all still educated guess work. Unless a male monitor plainly everts a hemipene in your view, it is so very difficult to be sure of the sex of your animal (females will also evert a similar looking hemiclitoris, only confounding the situation). Some folks may have a "female" monitor for 3 years before it has suddenly everted a hemipene that wasn't thought to have existed in the first place.
However (and with dwarf monitors that’s a pretty BIG however), a pretty interesting and intriguing theory about the social sexing of hatchling dwarf monitors has emerged.
It is generally agreed (among the dwarf monitor breeders in the u.s.) that baby Ackies determine their gender according to social group after hatching. It is believed that one animal becomes a dominant male, and the other animals become female, basically. At this time, we have not had a customer report back to us with a male heavy group of Ackies purchased from Pro Exotics. Seeing as we group these animals immediately after hatching according to customer purchases and configurations, we have always had two Ackies be a pair, three Ackies be a trio (1.2), five Ackies be either 1.4 or 2.3, but not one instance of a heavy male group.
Of course, this is no guarantee that when you are purchasing older animals, one from this guy, two from that guy, that you can then group them and have them magically be a compatible trio, in fact, grouping unfamiliar adult animals often leads to trouble, as opposed to compatibility (read more about Monitor Breeding Strategies here). Once an animal has become either male or female, there is no indication that there is any turning back. The reality is there has been no scientific research (that I am aware of) lending any credibility to this theory at all. But it does seem to work for us, and for a number of other breeders as well.
As for the differences between the Red and Yellow Ackies (aside from the price), there are only a few. While both animals grow to the 2-3 foot range, and there is variance between both reds and yellows, generally the reds are a bit larger than the yellows. Both our red and yellow breeder animals hover around the 2 ft mark, but I have heard reports of animals of up to 3 ft, and we have personally hatched animals (Yellows) that seem to stay in the 14 inch range as adults.
The reds may also be a little feistier than the yellows, but keep that in perspective, as both are extremely cool, and easy to tame and interact with.
Many keepers and hobbyists buy their Ackies with hopes of breeding them. That is a fine goal, and certainly very attainable. It takes patience, time and commitment. Your best bet is to start with a hatchling group of animals (not with a group of unfamiliar adults), raise them to adult size, and work from there on your breeding strategy. We often breed Ackies at 9 and 10 months old, whereas it may take a new breeder 10 months to 2 years to get the kinks out, and the animals properly cycled. We will not cover breeding here, except to say the Ackie project is one of the very best to work with if captive breeding is your ultimate goal. (read more about Monitor Breeding Strategies here)
The pricing on the Ackies is as follows:
Red Acanthurus babies- $300 each $600 in pairs $900 in trios
Yellow Acanthurus babies- $200 each $400 in pairs $600 in trios
Shipping of the monitor babies is typically $35 for UPS Overnight to your door, and there is a $10 box charge for the insulated box and heat packs, and certainly we do pay close attention to extreme weather conditions when selecting a shipping date. (See our shipping info here.)
That's pretty much it for the Ackie babies, and you may have noticed the care is similar to our approach with other monitor babies. The truth is, we approach them all similarly, adjusting each setup to account for size differences and humidity needs. Temps don't vary much, and neither does the feeding. We work extremely hard here at Pro Exotics to provide you with the very best monitor babies in the country, and we take great pride in what we do. We offer complete customer support, and we are available by phone or email for your monitor questions. Thanks for taking the time to consider us, and we look forward to helping you select a great baby in the future.
Lots of folks ask about further information on keeping larger, adult monitors, so I will cover that briefly here.
Caring for a larger monitor is not much different from caring for a baby, in theory. It is harder to nail your temps in a larger cage, and you have to adjust a number of the details like diet and feeding, but most aspects of successful husbandry are based on the same line of thinking.
For an adult Acanthurus monitor, you should expect to provide at least a 3 ft. cage for a single adult, and a 4 ft. cage for a small group. You can certainly go larger, and I would encourage you to build the largest habitat that you can reasonably provide, as the Ackies will make use of every square inch.
We have used galvanized water troughs for our Ackie cages, and they have proven to be very successful. You will need to build your own lid for the trough, but the entire cage and setup is very affordable when compared to similar sized (but inappropriate) snake cages and other commercially available reptile setups.
We don’t have specific plans for the troughs, we simply took the base idea from other experienced keepers and applied our own ideas and theory that we have learned from years of keeping reptiles, and the cages have turned out very well. We do have pictures of these cages available at our site, in the monitor and facility photo albums, check them out for ideas for your own custom caging.
The internet does not have a lot of monitor caging information available, but try some of the caging and monitor forums at kingsnake.com, and you will be able to see what other folks have done, some successfully, some not. I would certainly encourage you to base your Ackie cage around a galvanized water trough base, and build from there, it is easily the most durable, long lasting, economical choice available at this time.
As your Ackie grows, you can start introducing more rodents into the diet, the balance is really up to you. We continue to feed a diet of insects and meats to our adults, on about a 50/50 basis, and we have had good success, with strong, healthy, breeding adults.
Your feeding may gradually go from 7 days a week to 3, 4, or 5 days a week, and that is one of the details that varies from animal to animal. With the proper basking spots, and full size adult animal can still digest a lot of food, so once a week feeding (an old husbandry technique) is not recommended.
We have a lot more applicable, usable, and valuable information at our site’s FAQ, but I will list some of the Acanthurus monitor related FAQ’s here for you:
What is a Monitor Pro Pack?
Strategies for Creating a Monitor Breeding Group
The Importance of a Temp Gun and Knowing Your Temperatures
I can’t afford a Temp Gun, is there a cheaper alternative?
Why don’t you sell Nile Monitors?
How do I feed the turkey diet?
How do you mix your soil?
What is a "Retes Stack"?
Why do you have a soaking program?
Keeping an ideal setup
Gee Robyn, do you have any feelings on hidespots?
Why do you suggest using a glove?
My monitor book/internet tells me such and such, you are telling me different
Be sure to check out our info packed FAQ that covers ALL KINDS of great reptile info!
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