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Yellow-Headed Water Monitor Care Guide

By Martin, The Reptile Ranch

Yellow-headed water monitors (Varanus cumingi) are captivating reptiles native to Southeast Asia, known for their striking appearance and intriguing behaviors. This care guide aims to provide essential information for responsible husbandry and the well-being of these fascinating creatures.


Natural Range:

Yellow-headed water monitors are found in the rainforests and freshwater habitats of the Philippines. They have adapted to various environments, including dense forests and riverbanks.

Size and Description:

Yellow-headed water monitors are a medium-sized species, with adults reaching lengths of 3 to 4 feet. They have distinctive yellow markings on their heads, contrasting with dark, sleek bodies. Proper nutrition and care contribute to their overall health and vibrant coloration.


  • Hatchlings can start in a 40-gallon enclosure, while adults will need larger spaces.

  • Consider custom enclosures with dimensions of 4’x2’x2’ for yearlings and at least 6’x4’x4’ for adults.

  • Provide ample vertical space with branches and climbing structures for mental and physical stimulation.

Heating and Lighting:

  • Maintain a basking area temperature of 120-130ºF, ensuring a temperature gradient for thermoregulation.

  • Use floodlights for basking, positioned to create a suitable temperature range.

  • Ambient temperatures in the enclosure should be kept in the range of 80-85ºF.


  • Mimic their natural habitat with humidity levels around 60-70%.

  • Include a large water reservoir for soaking and maintaining proper humidity.

  • Regular monitoring with hygrometers is crucial to prevent health issues.


  • Offer a diverse diet, including insects, gut-loaded crickets, and roaches for hatchlings.

  • Gradually transition to whole prey items like appropriately sized fish, and poultry for adults.

  • Dust food items with a calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement.


  • Yellow-headed water monitors are intelligent; build trust with consistent, positive interactions.

  • Approach from underneath to avoid triggering fear responses.

  • Utilize shallow water during interactions to enhance comfort.


  • Breeding pairs require a spacious enclosure, at least 6’x6’x6’.

  • Monitoring female cycles and behavior is essential for successful breeding.

Incubating Eggs:

  • Provide a deep substrate at 86ºF for females to lay eggs.

  • Clutches can range from six to 18 eggs.

  • Incubate eggs at 86ºF for approximately six to seven months.


The care and dedication you invest in your yellow-headed water monitor will be rewarded with a captivating companion. Stay informed, observe their behavior, and continually adapt their environment to meet their evolving needs. With proper care, these reptiles can thrive and bring joy to their keepers.

Cumingi Baby
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