Animals / Reptiles

The Argentine Black and White Tegu

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Argentine giant tegu

Schwarzweiße Teju (German)


Order: squamata

Family: teiidae

Genus: tupinambis

Species: Tupinambis merianae.


The Argentine black and white tegu can be found in South America, mostly in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. They inhabit the tropical rainforests near the water and forest-edge savannahs.

They are mostly terrestrial and spend most of their time in scrubs, where the ground is loose and they can easily dig a hole.

The tegus are good jumpers and climbers, which enables them to hunt and to hide from predators.

Внешний вид

The Argentine black and white tegu is a large lizard. Males grow around 1,4 metres or even longer, females are usually in 1,2 metres range. Males are larger and more powerful than females.

Tegus are strong lizards; they have typical appearance for terrestrial reptiles: their bodies are applanate and they have disruptive coloration: transversal bands. During the day you cannot notice lizards with such color in the bushes. Their powerful legs are perfect for digging. Males have gular sac for attracting females and for temperature regulation.


The tegus are active during the daytime.

With careful taming they can get used to people and even look forward to interacting with them.

Upon acquiring a tegu it is best to give it about a couple of weeks of peace in order to get used to his new home. Then you can try to hand-feed it. But it is even better to teach the lizard to come to your hands – then you will establish a closer connection.

You should be careful and try not to scare your tegu: it can bite when frightened.


Содержание и уход

An Argentine black and white tegu needs a large enclosure: 200х90х90 cm for one lizard, and  250х120х120 cm for two of them. Males are usually aggressive to each other, so it is best to keep together a male and a female.

You have to put on the bottom of the enclosure a thick (up to 70 cm) layer of substrate which a tegu can dig. Mulch, bark, sand are good choices. The substrate should always be a little damp.  The air inlets should be located not lower than 5 cm above the substrate, otherwise your lizards will throw out the substrate through the holes.  You can put into the enclosure several large stones or branches. You don’t need to make special hiding places: the tegu will dig a hole itself. You can also have some plastic plants (tegus will destroy real plants). It’s best to warm up the enclosure with the help of a heat mat. The Argentine black and white tegu loves water, so there should be a large water bowl in the enclosure which will fit their entire body. The water has to be changed frequently.

Ambient temperature in the enclosure should be within the range of 24-30°C, and up to 45°C at the basking spot. At night the temperature should be about 22°C. It is best to install several heat lamps in order to warm the tegu’s body more evenly.

The level of humidity in the enclosure should be about 60-70 %, so you will have to mist daily and to keep the substrate damp.

Tegus need exposure to UV light. The amount of daylight hours should be between 12 and 14 hours.


Tegus eat a lot, and they are omnivorous lizards. They are prone to overeating and obesity, so it is best not to feed them one day per week. Their menu should include a combination of insects – big crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, minced poultry and finely cut fruit and vegetables. Don’t feed your tegu with citrus fruit and iceberg lettuce.

Calcium and vitamin supplements are a must.

Suggested menus for tegu:

Hatchlings: their menu should primarily consist of insects and worms in the proportion of 75% of worms or insects and  25% of vegetables and fruit.

Young lizards: like hatchlings, should be fed daily. Their menu consists of 50% of insects, 30% of vegetables and fruit, 10% meat and 10% rats or mice.

Adults: fasting day is a must. Their menu consists of 33% of insects and worms, 33% of vegetables and fruit and 33% meat and rats.

Fruit is necessary for tegu and if it refuses to eat fruit, you can try to wrap up small pieces in minced poultry.

Tegu are prone to obesity so you shouldn’t overfeed them.


Large and coulorful lizards that are fun to watch.

Low-maintenance pets that can interact well with people if tamed correctly.

Nevertheless tegus can be aggressive to people and occasionally can bite.

They require live food in their menu.

Tegus need a large enclosure. It is best to have a customized enclosure. Tegus feel most comfortable when back wall and side walls are solid and only the front wall is made of glass. It is very important that the enclosure has a high threshold so that you can have a thick layer of substrate in it.

Tegus are large lizards that are not suitable for beginners.


Under the right maintenance tegus rarely get ill. Although young lizards can get rachitis if they lack calcium or UV light. Rachitis is treated with calcium injections that have to be made by a professional vet. Correct maintenance is the best prevention of rachitis.


In captivity tegus are rarely bred, so most often you can buy a lizard caught in the wild. A female digs a deep hole and lays up to 30 eggs there. Mating follows a short hibernation period. Hibernation starts in September and doesn’t depend much on the temperature.

In the enclosure it is impossible to provide such a deep substrate that a female would lay eggs there.

Average life span of tegu in captivity is about 15 years or more.

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