6308 Monona dr, Monona WI 53516
COLUMBIAN TEGU Caresheet
Common Name: Columbian tegu, Golden tegu
Scientific Name: Tupinambis teguixin
Origin: Columbia, South America
Size: 2' - 3'
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.
Do you have a Colombian or an Argentine? How do you tell? The best way is to look between the eye and the nostril (the loreal scale). If there is one scale, you have a Colombian. If it has two scales, you have an Argentine.
Tegus in the wild live in a variety of climates ranging from, the tropical rainforest to savannas. Tegus spend most of their time on or near the ground. So floor space is more important than height in your tegus enclosure. Colombian 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 3 feet for males and somewhat smaller for females. When your tegu outgrows his baby tank, a zilla 90 gal breeder critter cage would serve 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 that an enclosure should be at least 1 1/2 times the length of your tegu, including tail. Tegus are active and smart. Error on the side of more room not less, and then you and your tegu will be much happier.
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 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.
LIGHTING & TEMPERATURES
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 side will be the cooler side. Your lizard can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs. A basking area of 90-110 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.
Colombian tegus come from a warmer climate than their Argentine cousins. So it's not necessary to brumate your Colombian like some people do with their Argentine tegus.
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 will 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. Colombians also like to soak in their dish. 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 nice humidity meter can help you gauge the humidity level. Hand misters can also work,but if you don't care to remember to mist, an automatic mister like the Exo Terra monsoon is a nice option.
Tegus are meat eaters but 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 Colombian tegus are better fed every day. Adults every other day is good. 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 day you offer the multivitamin, you can skip the calcium.
You can feed in the cage or out of the cage. If feeding in the cage, do not hand feed your tegu. Rather, put the food on a plate or dish. You don't want your pet associating your hand with food.
Live bugs: crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, hornworms, etc
Canned insects, snails
Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
Chicken organ meats
Mice of appropriate size (live or frozen/thawed)
Fruits and Veggies:
Banana (in moderation)
Colombian tegus are known to be more aggressive than the Argentines. We don't recommend them for new reptile owners or children. However, with patience and time, it is possible for you to tame your Colombian. They will never be as tolerant of handling as the Argentines, but for those who are ready for the challenge of taming, Colombians can make nice pets.