Now that we are done setting Varanus melinus habitat and addressing all the important factors, let’s switch to no less important aspects of monitor husbandry, starting with the diet. Two main characteristics of monitor lizard diet are Whole Prey and Varied. In the wild monitors are opportunistic predators, hunting and eating about everything they can get, including insects, amphibians, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, mammals, birds and other reptiles. Due to size, habitat and lifestyle restrictions some monitors are specializing mostly on insects, some mostly on crabs and so on. So our goal is to provide as close to natural diet as possible. Unfortunately little is known of actual Quince monitor diet in the wild as no stomach content of wild collected animals has been researched and no natural predation documented. So, to create a proper menu for aquatic-arboreal Varanus melinus we will have to resort to broader combined knowledge of the whole mangrove monitor complex and other Indo-Pacific species diet. Also it is important to observe Quince monitor food preferences, as captive well fed ones may be picky and refuse some food items.
Important. All food items should be appropriately sized and smaller than V. melinus skull opening. Monitor should be able to consume food items in mere seconds and shouldn’t struggle with them. It is better to feed smaller portions but more frequently, versus large portions once in awhile. Monitor should not be allowed to gorge itself on food and they should not be visibly full after eating. All food items have to be fed in moderation and no preference should be given to one food only. Variety and Whole Prey is crucial to prevent any nutritional and mineral disbalance or deficiency.
Insects. Very important food items, especially at young ages.
Should be a staple food item for a baby to juvenile Quince monitor. Should regularly be
dusted with calcium(no vitamin D3) and weekly with multivitamin/vitamin D3 supplement.
Important not to over supplement with D3 as it leads to over calcification of tissues.
Nutritionally good items: freeroaming crickets (also promote activity and hunting), Dubia roaches, nightcrawler worms, silkworms, locusts, grasshoppers.
If your V. melinus accepts Dubias you can start a Dubia roach colony - they are superior nutritionally to crickets and easier to manage. Cricket colony may be started to reduce food costs if monitor does not accept Dubias.
Crustaceans. Krill, shrimp, crabs, crayfish of adequate size.
Very good source of lean protein. Preferably fed whole. Good variety of whole raw
crustaceans can be picked up at Asian Grocery Stores. Baby V. melinus can be started on
SF Bay Sally’s Frozen Krill, available at frozen food section at Petsmart or online.
Mollusks. Clams, snails, squid, octopus. Asian grocery stores have many options.
Eggs. Should be fed in moderation. Quail eggs are nutritionally better than chicken eggs. Fertilized eggs are preferred to non-fertilized. Preferably fed softboiled, as raw egg white contains unwelcome enzyme avidin, which is a binding agent for very important vitamin biotin(B7).
Fish. A staple food item for an aquatic monitor. Should be fed whole.
Pieces of fillets of large fish should be fed only as a treat and supplement. It is important to
avoid fish species that contain high thiaminase and mercury levels.
Safe fish: wild caught salmon, rainbow trout, northern pike, tilapia, sprats, perch, cod, eel, true silversides(good starter item for baby monitor due to size). Salmon and trout are beneficial due to high B-group vitamin content, Omega-3s and other fatty acids. True silversides are sold under San Francisco Bay Sally’s Silversides brand. Large fish can be ground up whole and fed in form of links with collagen casing. In this case large and sharp bones should be avoided.
Meat. Another staple item gladly accepted by Quince monitor of all ages.
Should be fed whole and of appropriate size with non-whole items served as treats only.
Small rodents of acceptable sizes, preferably rats, as they are better nutritionally than mice. Hatchling baby melinus can be started on pinky mice, then switched to fuzzy mice/pinky rats, then fuzzy rats increasing rat size accordingly. No more than 1-2 appropriately sized rodents per week.
Quail chicks - good nutritionally and one of the most favorite food items for Quince monitor.
Larger rodents and birds. Rabbits, guinea pigs, quail, wild game and other items are popular in form of links - whole ground animals(including bones, skin, organs and connective tissue) in collagen casing of various sizes. Links can either be made at home from whole items or purchased from reptilinks.com (US only). When ordering reptilinks, quail and rabbit recipe seems to be the most nutritionally appropriate for V. melinus.
Organ meats as a treat. Hearts, gizzards, kidney, liver.
Ground turkey recipe was developed by zoos to feed their large monitors. It is not necessary to use it with midsized monitors like V. melinus. But if you do, please select the best and leanest ground turkey and supplement it properly and proportionately with organ meats, connecting tissues, ground bones/bone meal, skin and other items to recreate whole prey diet.
Reptiles, amphibians and their eggs. Feeder reptiles and amphibians are good item as long as they are properly sourced. Wild caught are not recommended as they may introduce non-native parasites to your Quince monitor. Measures like prolonged freezing should be taken in such cases. Frequent fecal exams to make sure monitor is not infested with parasites.
Feeding live prey. It is up to the keeper whether or not to feed live prey to their monitors. Some keepers avoid it, another prefer it for animal enrichment. Feeding live should be done humanely with feeding small prey items, that monitor can easily kill and consume fast. There should be no struggle on both ends of predator-prey food link. If monitor ignored prey item it should be removed from the enclosure.
When feeding remember: T. rex doesn't want to be fed. He wants to hunt. (Dr. Alan Grant, Jurassic Park). So don’t simply offer your Quince monitor food on a plate. Create various enrichment scenarios with following food trails, chasing, extracting hard to get items, hunting fish and insects and whatever else your imagination can come up with. More in “Interaction” chapter of this website.
Not acceptable food items: any type of canned dog and cat food. Any processed human food like bologna, salami or hot dogs. Any meat cuts served as staple items. Fish and crustaceans with high thiaminase content as staple items.