Kasey's Corner Q&A: Tegus

Kasey’s Corner Q&A: Tegus and Their Care

Kasey, Zen Habitats Animal Care Manager and a certified veterinary technician, answers your questions about Tegus. Native to South America and Central America and growing as large as 4.5', Tegus are highly intelligent and inquisitive reptiles that are excellent pets that should be kept by experienced keepers. See Kasey answer these questions on YouTube!

Zen Habitats: We know you love Tegus, why?

Kasey: They are amazing! I love them because they are so smart and easy to train to be habitual to handling and hanging out. You can even train them to become house broken! One of my favorite facts about Tegus is that they can run fast and on their hind legs if they feel threatened.

Kasey loves Tegus, especially one-year-old Rosie that lives alongside the Zen Habitats team!

Zen Habitats: Are there any challenges being a Tegu owner?

Kasey: There are challenges. They can be expensive to feed and when they go through their adolescent-like phase they do become unpleasant to deal with. Even as an adult they can bite, scratch , or tail whip if they feel scared or threatened.

Zen Habitats: When are Tegus fully grown and how long do they live?

Kasey: There's a difference between their full adult size and their sexual maturity, at about 18 months or when they are around 2 feet long. They stop growing when they are about 3-years-old. Tegus typically live 15-20 years but it has been recorded that they can live much longer in captivity.

Zen Habitats: What size enclosure does an Argentine Tegu need?

Kasey: Adults should be housed in an enclosure with a minimum size of 8’x4’x4’. This is the minimum, bigger is better with tegus. Having something front opening will also help you and your Tegu when it is time to handle them and take care of the enclosure.

Zen Habitats: What square footage do they require?

Kasey: The minimum floor space square footage should be 32 sq. ft. Tegu enclosures should be more than double the length of your lizard and tall enough that the height of the enclosure is taller than them when they stand on their hind legs.

Zen Habitats: What heating and space requirements do they have?

Kasey: Like other reptiles they need heat to have their body function operate properly. For us to copy that natural healthy environment, we want to create a heat gradient within their enclosure - a cool side and a basking side. The ambient temperature should be around 75 degrees and their basking spot around 110 to 120 degrees for an adult and about 100 degrees for a juvenile. As for lighting, UVB is very important as it mimics the natural sunlight they would have in the wild. Also, they like about 60 to 80% humidity. I keep the enclosure humidity higher by providing an appropriate substrate. (To learn more about substrates, go to Reptifiles care sheets for Argentine Tegus and Columbian Tegus.)

Zen Habitats: What is a healthy Argentine Tegu Diet?

Kasey: Adult captive diets are slightly different than what Tegus would typically eat in the wild as they have more of a sedentary lifestyle. Argentine Tegus should be fed a more omnivorous diet consisting of 60% protein, 30% vegetables, and 10% fruit. On the other hand, Columbian Tegus are still omnivorous, but should be given a higher percentage of protein of around 90% and 10% vegetables. Rapidly growing young Tegus should consume about 90% protein and10% vegetables until their growth starts to slow down.

Zen Habitats: What is your favorite thing to feed Rosie, the Zen Habitats Tegu?

Kasey: I love to feed Rosie blueberries; I love to see her pop the individual berries down her gullet. It is so cute!!

One-year-old Rosie the Argentine Tegu is making her delightful presence known in the Zen Habitats – especially when eating her yummy berries.

Zen Habitats: What’s Rosie’s favorite food?

Kasey: All food, except for her veggies, is Rosie’s favorite!

As with most Tegus, Rosie is picky about her food and Kasey is trying to get her used to healthy vegetables – fortunately, for now, she gets her veggies with Reptilinks.

Zen Habitats: What are recommended staples for adult Tegu diets?

Kasey: I personally like to use Reptilinks whole prey links with added fruits and veggies. Some good choices for your adult Tegu include chicks, quail, eggs, fish that do not contain thiaminase, shrimp, rodents, bell peppers, carrot, greens, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, berries, grapes, mango, papaya, melon. Some people will also feed high quality, high protein wet dog or cat food, try to find one that has bone and organ meat included.