A myth, that is extraordinarily common considering its stupidity, is that an animal "will grow to the size of its surroundings, and then stop"! This, of course, is utter nonsense. A healthy reptile never stops growing, from the day it is laid to the day it dies. Many monitor lizards spend most of the day fast asleep, and may not initially appear to very active animals. However when they do move they tend to cover a lot of distance. Typical daily forays for even dwarf monitors may be in excess of 200m per day and many monitors typically walk several kilometres in an afternoon. Obviously it is not possible to provide this amount of space for captives and it has been demonstrated that many species will do well in remarkably small enclosures. The term "small" is relative however. Captive lizards become lethargic in cramped surroundings for several reasons:
A general rule for the larger species (i.e. those not belonging to the subgenus Odatria) is that the enclosure should be at least three times as long and twice as wide as the total length of the lizard at maximum size, measured from the tip of the tail to the tip of the snout. This allows them at least moderate space in which to move. An adult trio can be housed in enclosures of these sizes so long as ample basking and hiding places are provided. Arboreal species also need to be provided with a tall enclosure that allows them to climb at least their own body length above the ground. Monitor lizards grow so quickly that it is usually not sensible to have to build successively bigger enclosures as they increase in size. Dwarf monitors appear to need much less space than their larger counterparts. Many will live long lives in areas of less than 1m2 if adequate furnishings are provided.
If space really is a problem, and the unfonunate creature is already in your possession, then it is better to try to tame the animal and give it the run of the house rather than keep it in a cramped terrarium. As long as they are provided with a suitable source of heat they should regulate their behaviour around keeping warm. Some monitors continually seek out the coldest pans of a room and lie there immobile for days or weeks. I presume that this is related to the need for an annual period of inactivity. Often they will conceal themselves somewhere that makes them very difficult to retrieve. It would be very foolish to allow a large untamed monitor lizard to wander about the house. Even tame ones will destroy your furniture.
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