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Captive Born Argentine Black and White Tegu Large

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@ Patrick Starr

Beautiful and tame Tegus Perfect in every way.


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Argentinian Black and White Tegu Care

Have you ever thought about owning a large lizard but weren’t convinced that it would be a good fit for you? Granted, large lizards can also be a bit intimidating to some hobbyists. But if so, I have great news! Tegus have experienced a rise in popularity because they become puppy-dog tame, form strong bonds with their keepers, and they adapt easily to life in captivity. Some have even been taught to come when called by name! Males may have a more menacing appearance due to the development of their large jowls, but they also may feature more intense coloration than females, which have a more “streamlined” appearance.

As regular REPTILES readers know, it’s crucial to educate yourself about the captive needs of any animal prior to acquiring one as a pet. With this article I hope to help you decide if a tegu is a good match for you by providing some specifics regarding the care of these awesome lizards, as well as some brief descriptions of the different types that are (and are not) available.

Housing a Tegu

Hatchling tegus average about 7 to 10 inches in length, so a 40-gallon breeder tank or reptile enclosure measuring 36 by 18 by 17 inches would be OK for one for a little while. Keep in mind that with the proper care described in this article, a young tegus will grow fast, up to an inch a month. For this reason, plan to eventually provide an enclosure that’s at least 6 by 3 by 3 feet. An enclosure of this size would be suitable for an adult tegu for its entire life, but that said, an even larger one measuring 8 by 4 by 3 feet would be preferred.



Proper handling is recommended in order to tame tegus, and starting when they’re hatchlings will make the taming process much easier.



For substrate, I recommend cypress mulch, coconut coir, or a sand and soil mixture. Tegus require about 75 to 90-percent humidity, and these substrates are the best at retaining moisture in order to provide humidity. Mist the substrate as needed to maintain the recommended humidity level in their enclosure, but also be careful that you aren’t keeping your tegu on an overly saturated substrate. A secure screen top and/or vents should be provided to help with airflow, but be sure you’re not providing too much of this, either, to the point that it becomes impossible to maintain the proper humidity. You may have to experiment a little to get things just right. A substrate depth of about 4 inches is fine for a hatchling tegu; 10 inches or deeper would be needed for an adult, which has a tendency to burrow into the substrate to rest. As with most pet reptiles, do not use any substrates, such as pine or cedar, that are overly dusty or resinous. These are toxic to tegus!

If your tegu’s enclosure is located indoors, then UVB lighting is mandatory; this is vital to a tegu’s health. There are many great bulbs on the market — look for them in stores that sell reptile supplies — so there is no reason to not equip your tegu’s enclosure with this important feature. Some keepers utilize a 12-hours-on, 12-hours-off light cycle with their tegus, but I use a split cycle that has the lights on for four hours in the morning, then they’re off for four hours before coming back on for four hours in the evening. Then it’s bedtime!

Proper enclosure temperatures for tegus should feature a heat gradient, with a heat lamp positioned over a basking area at the warmer end and a cooler end opposite. The temp at the basking spot should be 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit; the warmer end closest to the basking spot should stay around 90 to 95 degrees, and the cooler end of the enclosure should be 75 to 80 degrees.

Handling Your Tegu

I believe it is best, when trying to tame your tegu, that you do not stare directly into its eyes or make sudden moves with your hands. Always be gentle, calm, and talk softly so as not to frighten your pet.

One good method of taming is to take your tegu into a small room, such as the bathroom, and just sit with your pet while letting it roam. It won’t be long before your tegu starts crawling onto you as it gets calmer and perceives no threat from you. Do this regular to promote bonding. Eventually, as your tegu get older and larger, you will likely be able to place a leash on your pet to take it for a walks!

Food and Water for Tegus

Tegus are omnivores in the wild, so there are many foods you can offer pets. Hatchlings will devour insects, but these must be dusted with calcium powder. Calcium is a must for healthy tegus, both young and adult! Adults can be offered whole frozen/thawed rodents, lean meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetation. It is best to vary a tegu’s diet, even if it means having to mix some things together in order to hide vegetation, which some may refuse to eat at first. I do not recommend feeding a whole-prey diet exclusively. I am partial to offering mine ground turkey, because it’s a lean meat, with added calcium. I feed hatchlings once a day, yearlings every other day, and adults every three days. On in-between days you can offer a treat, such as fresh fruit. Just remember, though, that an overweight tegu will not be a healthy one! Fresh, de-chlorinated drinking water should be provided daily in a water dish. A larger water container big enough for your tegu to soak in if desired can be provided, and I recommend soaking tegus in lukewarm water twice a week to aid in shedding.

Be sure your tegu can easily enter and exit the larger, possibly deeper soaking container, and I don’t recommend you leave your tegu alone during “bath time.” Although tegus can hold their breath for long periods, I have heard of some that drowned while their keepers were not present to keep an eye on them.

Specification: Captive Born Argentine Black and White Tegu Large

Weight 4 lbs
Dimensions 32 × 15 × 12 in

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