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argentine tegu
Reptile Rapture,
6308 Monona dr., Monona WI 53516

608-221-0094, www.reptilerapture.net


Common Name: Argentine black & white tegu (also applies to: Argentine red tegus & blue tegus)
Scientific Name: Salvator merianae (red: Salvator rufescens)
Origin: Argentina, South America Size: 3' - 4.5'
Lifespan: 15 - 20 years

You will find many ways on the internet, on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of caring for this species.

Tegus in the wild live in a variety of climates ranging from, the tropical rainforest to savannas. They spend most of their time on or near the ground. So floor space is more important than height in your enclosure. Argentine tegus grow fast and get pretty big. We recommend starting out a baby tegu in at least a 36" x 18" tank. Exo Terra's Large or Zilla's 40 breeder critter cage both work well. In just 3 years, they can reach an adult size of a hefty 4 feet for males and somewhat smaller for females. When your tegu outgrows his baby tank, a zilla 90 gal breeder critter cage would serve him nicely for an intermediate enclosure. As a full adult, we suggest nothing smaller than an enclosure of 6' x 3'. This would be a custom made enclosure or DIY project. Make sure your homemade project is secure. Tegus are strong and they like to dig. If you have the room, always go bigger. A good rule of thumb is to have an enclosure at least 1 1/2 times the length of your tegu, including tail. They are active and smart. Error on the side of more room not less, and you and your tegu will be much happier. As your pet gets bigger, you can start letting him out of the enclosure for some "roaming" time.

All tegus like to dig, so provide a deep loose substrate such as Zillas Jungle Mix. Also, provide a hiding place for them to feel safe in when sleeping. This can be as simple as a piece of driftwood that is raised enough for them to go under or a reptile hide like Flukers half log.


Tegus are quite hardy creatures. However, like all reptiles, they are dependent on thermoregulation to control their body temperature. This essentially means you need to provide a hot and a cool side to your enclosure. All the lighting and heat elements should be on one side and the other will be the cool side. This way your lizard can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs. A basking area of 95 -110 degrees should be provided. The rest of the enclosure can be in the 75-82 range. At night, temps can drop to as low as 70 degrees. Use a good quality temperature gauge, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer. Don't guess. The easiest way to increase the heat in your enclosure is with a Reptile basking bulb and/or an Exo terra or Zoo Med heat pad.

In Argentina, it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Tegus in the wild will brumate (hibernate) in the winter. You can let yours have a period of brumation if you want. A lot of tegus kept in northern climates will choose to do so starting around mid September, unless you increase your wintertime heating in the enclosure.

There is some controversy on whether tegus need UVB lighting. We suggest using UVB lighting to help them absorb calcium and to synthesize vitamin D3. Since they are not out in natural sunlight in our homes, we must provide UVB light in the form of a special fluorescent bulb designed to produce UVB rays. The best bulbs are the mercury vapors such as Exo Terra's Solar Glo bulbs, ZooMed's Powersun, or Solar bright bulbs. These provide heat and UVB all in one bulb. You can also use separate basking (heat) bulb and UVB bulbs. If you use these, you'll want the Zoo Med 10.0 or Exo Terra UVB 10.0 variety.

Always provide a nice sized water dish with fresh water. Your tegu will drink every day. Exo Terra bowls or Flukers rock dish are nice naturalistic non-porous water bowls. You might have to change the water everyday if your lizard defecates or kick bedding into it. Scrub the bowl at least once a week to keep bacteria slime from building up. Tegus like a humidity level between 60-80%. This can be hard to maintain with just misting alone. We suggest also providing a humid hide for your lizard. This is a hide with some wet moss or jungle mix inside. Misting the enclosure a couple times a day will usually provide enough moisture, but a humidity gauge can help you in this area. Hand misters can work but if you don't care to remember to mist, an automatic mister like the Exo Terra monsoon is a nice option. Exo terras reptile fountain provides bubbling water and will also help raise humidity levels.

Tegus are meat eaters but they will need some fruits and veggies in their diet as well. Variety is important. Don't always feed them the same things. Adults can be fed every other day. Young tegus are better fed every day. As far as to how much to feed, make sure your tegu has a rounded belly after it has eaten. Also make sure, at least every other feeding, to supplement your tegus food with calcium such as Zoo Med calcium with D3. Do a multivitamin like Zoo Med Reptivite with D3 twice a week. On the days you offer the multivitamin, you can skip the calcium.

You can feed in the cage or out. If inside the cage, do not hand feed your tegu. Rather, put the food on a plate or dish. You don't want your tegu associating your hand with food.

Live bugs: crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, hornworms, etc
Canned insects, snails
Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
Boiled organ meats
Mice or rats of appropriate size (live or frozen/thawed)

Fruits and Veggies:
Banana (in moderation)

Tegus are quite intelligent and can become very friendly and even seek out human affection. Baby tegus, being small, are naturally a bit flighty. To them, you are large and scary. Be patient and consistent with your handling. Start slow and get them used to your presence. With patience, they can be very friendly and some will even become quite attached to you.