The Argentine Tegu (Tupinambis Merianae) is one of the four sub species of Tupinambis Lizards.
Though the Argentine Tegu resembles a Monitor Lizard, it is only found in South America, unlike the monitor. The Tegu is a terrestrial species that inhabits tropical rainforests of east and central South America.
Size and Longevity:
From nose to the tip of their tail, Argentine Tegus can get up to 3-5’ with males being the bigger of the two. Tegus have been known to live for 15 to 20 years in the wild. Well cared for Tegus could possibly live longer in captivity.
The Argentine Tegu has an unusually high level of intelligence for a reptile, and some consider it to be the most intelligent reptile on the planet! They will test you. If you like a more interactive pet and appreciate it’s intelligence, then an Argentine Tegu would be a good choice for you. Tegus can grow to love and crave human attention and have a tendency to become attached to their owners.
Argentine Tegus have sharp teeth, claws, and a powerful bite. As with most reptiles, if not handled regularly, they can become aggressive and may not be as comfortable with their handler. If threatened, they can bite. It is important that you pay close attention to your Tegu and handle it regularly if you want to have a friendly, happy pet!
Habitat and Cage:
Tegus learn quickly and are very intelligent. They also possess sharp teeth and strong jaws. You should consider all of these factors when constructing your habitat, as they are known to escape from their enclosures quite frequently.
When constructing your Argentine Tegu habitat, note that these lizards are burrowers, not climbers. The square footage is more important than the height in this case. If you have a Tegu hatchling, you can start with a 20-30 gallon aquarium, but as they grow, you will need to move them to a 4’ x 6’ or larger enclosure depending on the size and age of the animal.
A good amount of substrate is needed for your Argentine Tegu so it can burrow and hide. Tegus may stay in their burrows all night and a good portion of the day, so make sure you have enough to keep your pet happy! A little dirt and mulch make a good substrate for your Tegu. You want a substrate that can hold moisture. You should also mist the substrate daily to ensure it stays moist for your pet. Tegus ideally need 60 – 80% humidity in their environment to promote shedding and maintain proper health.
Temperatures for your Argentine Tegu should be kept around 90-95 degrees under a UVB basking light and have an ambient temperature of 80-85 degrees . Most of this can be achieved with your basking light, but depending on your enclosure and location, you may also require a ceramic heating lamp.
A thermometer and hydrometer are great tools to measure the heat and humidity in your Tegu habitat.
Argentine Tegus need to be soaked in water at least every other day. It is recommended that your habitat includes a water dish large enough for your Tegu to sit in to keep it cool and happy.
Tegus can hibernate 6 months a year! You do not have to hibernate your captive Tegu, but if you are attempting to breed Tegus, 6 months out of the year, temperatures should be lowered to 55-65 degrees (any lower may result in death). Prior to hibernation, DO NOT feed your Tegus for about 2 weeks. The food could rot in their stomach and cause death. During hibernation, you can turn the light on for a few hours each day or each week, in case your Tegu wants to come out and bask. Also spray your substrate every few days to ensure proper humidity.
Feeding and Handling:
Tegus are voracious eaters and can bite if you get in the way, so use caution during feeding time.
Argentine Tegus are Omnivores and can be sustained on a diet of meats, eggs and fruit dusted with calcium and vitamins to promote health. Young Tegus can be feed crickets, mealworms, raw ground turkey, eggs (boiled or scrambled), and most any fruit or berry. Tegus can develop a taste for certain foods, so you may need to try different options until you find something your Tegu enjoys. As your Tegu grows you can try feeding them fresh fish and pinky mice, but do so sparingly as mice tend to be high in fat and captive Tegus are prone to obesity.
Tegus can associate their handlers with feeding. Since they can be food aggressive, it is recommended that you do not feed them within their enclosure, and they do not see you feeding them directly.
Argentine Tegus can be very territorial, and my not like you reaching into their enclosure to remove them. Until your pet is comfortable and tolerant of you, you may want to wear gloves when handling. Do watch their claws, and their tail can also be used as a whip like with an iguana or monitor. Most Tegus are pretty docile once removed from their enclosure, and may be found burrowing under piles of laundry or other items if left to roam your house.
Be sure to pay lots of attention to your Tegu and handle it frequently so it will always be a friendly people loving pet!