Have you ever wanted to get a large lizard as a pet? Then you’re in luck because there’s a large variety of large lizards to choose from, each with its unique characteristics. Some giant lizards make fantastic pets when raised and cared for properly.
We’ll introduce you to the 9 best large lizards to keep as pets, explain a few aspects of caring for them, as well as things to avoid. But first I simply want to state something you should consider before purchasing a large lizard as a pet.
You should understand that even though these are the best large lizards to keep as a pet, they are still large lizards that are capable of harming humans. I typically would not suggest any of these lizards if this is your first time owning a pet reptile.
Is A Large Lizard The Right Pet For You
Truly I love large lizards. I’ve loved and wanted to keep large pet lizards even as a small child. In fact, large lizards are probably my favorite reptiles.
But these giant lizards are not the best choice as a pet for most of the population. Most people are not prepared to care for and house a lizard that can grow to be 5 feet long or longer.
This requires dedication to raising and housing a giant reptile. It is best reserved for those who experience keeping reptiles and have the time are space to house a giant lizard.
Large lizards are also capable of inflicting serious harm if they so choose to bite you, claw your up, or even whip you with their tails. So don’t think that I am recommending these large lizards to just anyone.
These are my top large lizards to keep as pets if you must get a giant lizard and are ready for the tasks. But again do not underestimate the care it takes to house one of these lizards.
The last thing we need is another neglected lizard sent to an animal rescue or one that causes human harm.
That said, with proper care and handling these giant lizards can make great pets for the right owner. So with that warning out of the way let’s check out my top 9 best large lizards to keep as pets!
#1 Argentine Black and White Tegu: The Best Large Pet Lizard
The Argentine Black and White Tegu is named for its patterns of black and white scales and is a native of South America. It’s known for its usually docile ( For a large lizard ), easygoing temperament.
If a Black And White Tegu is socialized properly, it can make a good friend, with a lifespan from 15 to 20 years.
This lizard can grow up to 5 feet in length as an adult, so you’ll need to keep it in a big enclosure that is most likely custom-built.
Of course, this goes for all of the giant lizards on this list as well. Enclosures for Black and White Tegus should be:
- at least 8 feet long, 4 feet tall, and 4 feet wide
- nice and hot (75-95 degrees Fahrenheit)
- humid (70-85% humidity), to prevent respiratory infections
- filled with 8-12 inches of cypress mulch since they love to burrow
- lit with UVB lighting to help the lizards manufacture Vitamin D3 and prevent metabolic bone disease
Black and White Tegus have a varied diet. When younger, they thrive on a diet of crickets and mealworms. When fully grown, they also enjoy fruits, vegetables, and even dead mice, as long as they’ve been skinned (they cannot digest mouse fur).
One warning about Black And White Tegus: don’t ever release them into the wild. They have been known to wreak havoc on North American ecosystems and the State of Georgia has declared them an invasive species as a result.
#2 Red Tegu: Boldly Colored and Beautiful Large Lizard
Another member of a lizard family which includes black and white, blue and gold varieties, Red Tegus have many similarities with their Black and White cousins. They have the same docile temperament, the same love of digging and burrowing, the same taste in food.
There are a few differences between the two, however. Red Tegus, as their name implies, are a striking vermillion color. They also have noticeably larger jowls than Black and White Tegus, giving their head a spade-like shape. They might grow a bit larger than the Black and White Tegus.
Also, some herpetologists, like Mike Valverde, have noticed that Red Tegus seem particularly fond of fruit. If you choose the Red Tegu, you might want to try feeding them a larger percentage of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Of course, you should still see fruit as more of a treat because the majority of the diet should come from live prey.
#3 Caiman Lizard: Aquatic Loving Large Lizard
You might be doing a very noble act by choosing this green-and-red lizard for a pet. Recent times have been perilous for the Caiman Lizard.
They were hunted in the past for their skin, and they’re still occasionally hunted today for their meat. Additionally, they’re threatened by the loss of their natural habitat in South America’s rainforests.
Caiman Lizards grow to about 5 feet long and can live 10 years or longer. They are intelligent, sociable, and mild-mannered, only using aggression if they feel threatened. Like a dog or cat, they can also be taught a variety of behaviors.
Much like the tegus, the terrarium requirements for a caiman lizard are:
- 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 feet tall
- Hot and humid
- Ample UVB lighting
The most important element though is water. Caiman lizards are semi-aquatic, spending much of their lives in the water.
Their terrarium should include a large pool, one deep enough to allow your lizard to fully submerge and go for a swim whenever it wants to.
True to their semi-aquatic nature, the caiman lizard’s diet is marine-oriented. They can subsist on a diet consisting solely of:
- Aquatic snails
- Freshwater clams
Though they will also eat fruit when offered, so you might want to give them a mango or a kiwi once in a while for some variety.
Unlike many lizard species, caiman lizards don’t hibernate, so you’ll be taking care of them all year. But if you become good buddies with them, that’s just more quality time!
#4 Dumeril’s Monitor: Best Pet Large Monitor Lizard
A bit larger than Savannah Monitors, the Dumeril’s Monitor will grow to a full size of 3 to 5 feet long. Young Dumeril’s Monitors have an almost neon orange color to their heads.
As they age, this fades into black skin with light yellow spots. They live for about 11 years.
Turn up the heat for this lizard. The Dumeril’s Monitor hails from the swampy jungles of Thailand and Malaysia, and much of the caretaking challenge here involves keeping its home hot enough.
You’ll want to purchase some heat lights that can produce a basking area from 80 -120 degrees Fahrenheit, coupled with a cooldown area of around 75 degrees.
To replicate the incredible humidity of Southeast Asia, purchase some humidifiers or foggers that can keep its home at 80% humidity throughout the day. Their home should include many things to climb on.
Dumeril’s Monitors have an affinity for crabmeat. When feeding one, in addition to providing dead mice and various insects, be sure to give it crabs now and then.
Also, they’re messy eaters, so don’t be alarmed if it ruthlessly picks its prey apart before eating it.
#5 Black Throat Monitor: A Giant Pet Lizard
There’s no getting around it: Black Throat Monitors are massive. When fully grown, they can range from 5 to 7 feet long and weigh over 60 pounds!
Additionally, their life expectancy reaches over 20 years on average, making them a truly impressive beast.
As you might imagine, caring for one of these creatures is reserved for the most advanced reptile experts, even more so than other large lizards. To fully accommodate a Black Throat Monitor, it’s usually necessary to build your housing for them out of materials like wood or plexiglass.
How big is big enough? Probably you will need to dedicate a small room or custom-build an enclosure that is at least 100 square feet.
A proper living environment for a Black Throat Monitor should include:
- Trees. Black Throat Monitors are fond of climbing trees, especially in their younger years.
- Plenty of other objects to climb on and explore
- Earthen material that they can dig in, such as dirt or sand.
- A temperature that ranges into the 90s during the day and about 75 at night.
- Ultraviolet light. This can easily be provided by the sun. Many owners house these lizards outside because of their sheer size.
- A pool to wade in, even though they’re not strong swimmers, an unusual trait in monitor lizards
Black-Throated Monitors are true carnivores because they don’t even have the capacity to digest plant matter. Don’t worry, feeding them is simple ( but not cheap ) because they’ll eat a tremendous variety of animal life:
- Smaller Reptiles
- Insects of all type
- Other aquatic animals
It almost seems more difficult to find a type of meat they won’t eat.
Black Throat Monitors often have a playful and gentle temperament, though they seem to require a lot of social engagement with their owners.
If they don’t receive enough of this engagement, they often become bored, restless, and hostile, so play with them often.
It’s well worth it; you can put a leash on a correctly socialized monitor lizard and take it for a walk, just as you would a dog!
#6 Asian Water Monitor: The Second Largest Monitor on Earth
The Black Throat Monitor may be huge, but the Asian Water Monitor is even larger. The only monitor lizard that eclipses the Asian Water Monitor in size is the Komodo Dragon, which is illegal to keep as a pet.
So, if you’ve come for the biggest option possible, here you are. A full-size male Asian Water Monitor can reach 8 feet in length, and the females can be 6 feet.
Their average weight is between 44 to 54 pounds. Their coloring is avocado or grey, with a light-yellow underside. These giant lizards’ body style is streamlined with a long, elegant tail that helps them navigate the waters.
As is suggested by their name, the Asian Water Monitor lives a semi-aquatic life, just like the Caiman Lizard. This is a great contrast to the Black Throat Monitor, which doesn’t naturally like water. Asian Water Monitors are also agile and love to climb trees.
Asian Water Monitors Need Complex and Large Enclosures
To make a home for this goliath, it’s necessary to equal or surpass the size and durability requirements for the Black-Throated Monitor’s home.
An entire room of a home can be devoted to an Asian Water Monitor. You could also custom build a cage that is, at the very least, 10’ x 10’ x 4’.
The home also has to have the home’s heating requirements for the Dumeril’s Monitor, a species that inhabits the same geographic area and the same climate.
Their basking spots might need to be as hot as 135 degrees, using multiple heat lamps, with cooler areas of 72 to 74 degrees. This can get quite expensive.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a third requirement: the Asian Water Monitor must have a wonderful pool to soak and swim in. They need to swim to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Just like other lizards, spots to climb and dig are also a must.
This lizard has the same carnivore diet as the Black Throat Monitor. Juvenile lizards should be given crickets, worms, and small fish.
As the lizard grows, it can be fed chicken, rodents, eggs, and organ meat. It takes a large amount of food to satisfy them; they are prone to gluttony.
Asian Water Monitors are giant and intelligent reptiles that take time to bond with. These large lizards need to be handled regularly from a young age.
#7 Argus Monitor: Large But Not A Giant
If the Black Throat Monitor or Asian Water Monitor sounds a bit too intimidating or challenging for you, consider the Argus Monitor. These lizards, whose skin is a brilliant, complex mosaic of blacks, yellows and greens, don’t get longer than 5 feet and are easier to take care of.
They’ve still got the undeniable “edge” that large lizards generally have, with a bold, self-confident, energetic personality to match.
The Argus Monitor is not a tree-climber like the Black Throat, nor is it made for water like the Asian Water Monitor. Instead, the Argus Monitor’s advantage comes from its superb ability to dig.
Argus Monitors, especially male ones, are endowed with bulging, muscular front legs, allowing them to easily create tunnels and burrows. These arms also make them very swift lizards, faster than any human.
Argus Monitors Are Diggers
The Argus Monitor needs a home that caters to its passion for digging. They will need an enclosure that is 8’ x 6’ x 6’, with 2 feet of dirt to dig through. That said, you might want to select an even larger cage, considering this lizard “would utilize an entire football field if offered”!
Argus Monitors will probe a cage for weaknesses and easily escape an insufficiently durable cage. You might want to enlist a professional tradesman to build its home.
Like the Black Throat and the Asian Water Monitor, the Argus needs an entirely carnivorous diet. They can become very enthusiastic about being fed and might unintentionally harm you if you’re not careful. It’s wise to use long forceps to feed them.
The Argus Monitor is not especially affectionate, but it’s still fascinating and exciting to observe, with its drive and energy. Choose it as a pet, and your life, if nothing else, won’t be dull.
#8 Rhinoceros Iguana: Best Giant Lizard That Does Not Require Live Prey
The Rhinoceros Iguana, native to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, may be endangered, but you can still buy one! They measure 2 feet to 4.5 feet in length and are named for the conspicuous horn that grows atop its nose.
The Rhinoceros Iguana easily has the most extended lifespan of any lizard mentioned here. A specimen in captivity can live for 30 years, making them a great choice if you want a friend for life. If you choose them while they’re still babies, they’ll become tame and trust you.
This lizard is predominately vegetarian, though it will also eat insects. Great options for the Rhinoceros iguana include:
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
- Pumpkin squash
- Prickly pear cactus fruit
When creating a habitat for these creatures, particular care should be focused on getting the humidity right: Rhinoceros Iguanas need 65-80% humid air. One big reason for this is how much they shed their skin while growing.
For the first two years of their lives, they shed their skins pervasively, and the air in their homes needs to be humid enough, so it doesn’t stick to their new skin.
Thankfully they shed far less often as they age, leaving you less cleaning to do. Another thing to consider with this giant lizard is that some Rhinoceros iguanas have lived up to 40 years in captivity!
#9 Savannah Monitor
The Savannah Monitor is native to Sub-Saharan Africa’s tropical savannahs. Despite this, veterinarian Niklos Weber has mentioned that they can adapt to many different environments, including woodlands and deserts.
Smaller than some of the other large lizards, a fully-grown Savannah Monitor will measure 2.5-to-4 feet long. They are grey and brown with white spots and, like all monitor lizards, have forked tongues.
Although Savannah monitors can be tamed, they still tend to be on the reserved side. They’ve been known to display aggression towards other Savannah monitors who intrude on their territory, so make sure you only get one of them.
Savannah Monitors love to burrow and climb on top of things. A deep substrate is a must for their environment, as well as rocks and logs of varying sizes.
Their space should include a “warm end” that’s 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a “cool end” that’s 75-80 degrees. 60% humidity works well, and like all lizards, it will need ultraviolet light.
This species of lizard is a carnivore. A large portion of their diet will likely include a large number of rodents when they reach the appropriate size.
They will also eat a variety of insects, like crickets and roaches, as well as earthworms.
Best Giant Lizards To Own As Pets
While it is not for beginners, owning a large lizard can be well worth it for those willing to rise to the challenge. It’s an exotic type of pet with some fascinating behavioral traits.
Many experienced reptile owners report that when cared for properly they build a good relationship with some of these giant lizards. Maybe they’re not so cold-blooded after all.
That said, these large pet lizards are only for those with experience. Large lizards are strong and powerful animals that can inflict serious harm.
Bonus: Most Overrated Large Pet Lizard
Honestly, there are a handful of large lizards that are not the best to have as pets. But one that is often suggested and is one of the most popular pet large lizards is the Green Iguana.
Personally, I think these are beautiful and amazing large lizards. But they do not make great pets and they are way too common as pets.
Green iguanas are often aggressive and there are simply much better options. Even in the iguana family.