The largest lizards in the world belong to the monitor family, but not all monitors make good pets. The world’s largest monitor is the Komodo dragon. According to National Geographic, Komodo dragons often reach 10 feet long and weigh up to 330 pounds. Their saliva contains 50 strains of bacteria, and bites often lead to blood poisoning. The crocodile monitor is even longer, often attaining a length of 13 feet, but most of its length is in its tail. Crocodile monitors are not poisonous, but their immense size and stubborn attitude make them less than ideal for most pet owners.
The Savannah monitor is arguably the most docile of the large lizards. When raised in captivity and handled every day, Savannah monitors are generally tame. Savannah monitors are intelligent and prefer daily schedules and routines. The Savannah monitor can be considered an entry-level monitor, but not an entry-level lizard. Savannah monitors grow to lengths of around 4 feet and require a cage at least double the size of their bodies. They have strict requirements for heat and humidity levels. They are carnivores, and their diet in captivity generally includes mice or rats. Savannah monitors make excellent pets for those who are experienced with smaller lizards and have room for a large enclosure.
Nile monitors are best for very experienced large lizard keepers. They have a reputation for aggressiveness, but proper daily handling can turn these intelligent and curious creatures into excellent pets. They generally grow to around 5 feet, but lengths of up to 8 feet are not uncommon. Like all large lizards, they require an enclosure at least twice as long as their bodies, but as they enjoy climbing and swimming, they also need at least 8 feet in height and a water dish big enough for their bodies. Many Nile monitor owners eventually dedicate a small bedroom to their lizards. They are carnivores and require a variety of small animals in their daily diet.
Second only to the Komodo dragon in size, water monitors can reach lengths of 10 feet and weights close to 100 pounds. They are generally less aggressive than Nile monitors, but their sheer size and space requirements make them most appropriate for experienced keepers. Plan ahead for an enclosure the size of a bedroom, and a daily diet that includes both rodents and fish. With frequent handling, water monitors can become tame, friendly pets.
According to the San Diego Zoo, iguanas are the largest lizards in the Americas. The green iguana is the most common pet in the iguana family. Green iguanas are vegetarians, often docile and highly intelligent, making them a good entry-level choice for new large lizard keepers. However, their care is still very complex when compared to that of a mammal. Iguanas generally reach lengths of up to 6 feet. They are arboreal, so an iguana enclosure must include space for climbing as well as crawling. They cannot live on lettuce alone, but must be fed a varied diet of fruits, vegetables and grains.
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.