Tegu Terra Care Sheet

 

Is an Argentine Tegu for you?

Tupinambis Merianae----Argentine Black and White Tegu

Tupinambis Rufescens---Argentine Red Tegu

Tupinambis Merianae --------Blue Tegu 

Tupinambis Merianae--------Chacoan Tegu

Tupinambis Duseni-------------Yellow Tegu

                                

So you are thinking about owning a Tegu.  You should be informed before  making a decision to own one of these Amazing Reptiles.  These are some facts to help you make this decision.

  1.) They become quite large, growing to 4 or 5 feet long.

  2.) Their lifespan can be 15 to 20 years.

  3.) They are primarily meat eaters, but also eat fruits and vegetables.

  4.) They are extremely good escape artists.

  5.) They are voracious eaters!

  6.) They can become aggressive if not handled regularly.

  7.)  In turn, they can become very tame, depending a lot on your care and handling.

  8.) They exhibit extreme intelligence, can learn easily, and depend on you for companionship. Tegus are said to be the most intelligent Reptile on the Planet!

  9.) They require quite large accommodations as they grow into adulthood.

10.) They need to be soaked in room temperature water at least twice a week.

11.) They seek and demand human attention!

I hope the above helps you make your decision on owning a Tegu.

 

If you have decided to own a Tegu, then keep reading! I will try to cover all the aspects of Tegu care and handling.

Tegu housing

I will describe the housing requirements beginning with the "hatchling" and ending with the "adult".

      If you purchase a Tegu in the "hatchling" stage, I would recommend the following:

a.) At least a 40 gallon aquarium or a custom enclosure with the same dimensions. Although aqariums are harder to keep the ambient temps correct.

b.) A good substrate for bedding, such as Coco Husk Coarse Chips,Pure Cypress Mulch,not a blend, Orchid Bark, Aspen Shavings, Eucalyptus Mulch, or a commercial bedding such as Repti-Bark.

c.) A water dish, providing fresh chlorine free water daily, that is large enough for the Tegu to soak in.

d.) A hide spot.

e.) A screen lid to provide fresh air.

f.)  A food bowl.

g.) A thermometer and hygrometer, for making sure the temperature and humidity stay consistent.

h.) Provide a hot side(95 to 110 degrees) and a cool side(75 to 85 degrees)

i.)  Humidity Gauge

      When your Tegu is a yearling, I recommend the following:

a.) Now is when I would build or acquire an enclosure measuring at least 6 feet long, 3 feet deep, and 3 feet high with a lid, or 3 to 4 feet high without a lid. This size enclosure could be used throughout the life of the Tegu. However, I would recommend an enclosure size of 8 feet by 4 feet, with a height of 3 to 4 feet depending on whether you use a lid or not.

b.) Follow the same guidelines as above for the rest of the housing information.

     Now you have an adult, so follow the same guidelines as above, naturally needing a large enclosure as previously stated.

 

Tegu Substrate

    I strongly recommend Coco Husk Coarse Chips as a primary bedding! However, there are other options such as the following:

a:) Orchid Bark

b.) Aspen Shavings

c.) Eucalyptus Mulch

d.) Repti-Bark

e.) Eco-Earth

f. ) Pure Cypress Mulch, not the "blend".

   Keep in mind that constant cleaning of any type of substrate is required to assure the health and well-being of your Tegu.

 

 Tegu Lighting

     UVB lighting, or natural sunlight is absolutely necessary.

     With the absence of unfiltered natural sunlight, I recommend the following:

a.) Repti-Sun 7.5 or 10.0

b.) Power-Suns 100 watt

      These are available at most Pet Supply Outlets, or online. The lighting cycle that I recommend is complicated, but is as observed in outdoor Tegus. Have a timer set to come on for 4 hours in the morning,then off for four hours,then on again for 4 hours in the afternoon. This mimics their outdoor activity in the wild.

c.) Incandescent light or ceramic heater for the cool side, if needed?

 

Tegu Humidity

     The necessary humidity levels should be at 75 to 90 percent to promote shedding and maintain proper health. All substrate should be lightly misted daily to aid in this process. Remember, just mist, do not soak!

     

 

Tegu Food

      Tegus are primarily meat eaters. However they have been known to, in the wild, ingest fruits and vegetables as well. 

      Also , as far as feeding in the enclosure or outside the enclosure, there has always been differing opinions . I feed all of my Tegus inside their enclosure.Feeding in the enclosure does not promote food aggression, Tegus are too smart for that. I have had better feeding responses and the Tegu knows when I take it out, it is for companionship, not feeding.  But I would not be against taking the Tegu out for feeding. It is what ever is best for you and your Tegu!

   Because of the various stages of a Tegus life, I will break the food requirements down below.

 Hatchling Feeding: Every day

a.) 1/2 inch to 3/4 size crickets)gut loaded and dusted with Calcium powder)

b.) Meal worms or (superworms, chop the head off)

c.) Raw ground turkey mixed with Calcium powder

d.) Eggs(cooked only, by boiling or scrambling).

e.) Blueberries(chopped in small bite sized pieces)

f.)  Fresh Fish( cut in bite size chunks)

g.) Grapes(chopped in small bite sized pieces)

h.) Strawberries( chopped in bite sized pieces)

i.)  Bananas, only in moderation.

 

   Yearling Feeding: Every other day

a.) Super Mealworms(cut the heads off)

b.) Pinkie Mice(once or twice a week max)

c.) Fuzzie Mice, frozen.(once a week and skip two days after feeding)

d.) Ground Turkey mixed as above.

e.) Eggs(cooked only, by boiling or scrambling).

f.) Fresh Fish( cut in bite size chunks)

g.) Grapes(cut in half)

h.) Strawberries

i.) Blueberries

j.) Tomatoes

k.) Melons, as described above.

l.) Bananas, only in moderation.

 NOTE: I like to ground Mazuri Tortoise diet in a blender and mix with the ground turkey.

  

   Sub-Adults, between 1 and 3 years Feeding: Every other Day

a.) Frozen-Thawed Mice such as Fuzzies, Hoppers, and judging the size of your Tegu, small, medium, and large mice can be fed.

b.) Ground Turkey, mixed as above.

c.)  Eggs, as described above.

d.) Fresh Fish

e.) Grapes

f.) Strawberries

g.) Blueberries

h.) Tomatoes

i.)  Melons, as described above.

j.) Bananas, only in moderation, as described above.

 NOTE: I like to ground Mazuri Tortoise diet in a blender and mix with the ground turkey.

 

Adults( The Big Boys and Girls)Feeding: Every two to three days.

a.) Frozen-Thawed Rodents such as the following:

     1.) Medium to large Mice

     2.) Rats, sized small to medium. Note:  I found that even my adults do not like large sized Rats. They are harder for your Tegu to swallow and digest.

b.) Ground Turkey, mixed as above.

c.) Eggs, as described as above.

d.) Fresh Fish

e.) Grapes

f.) Strawberries

g.) Blueberries

h.) Tomatoes

i.)  Melons, as described above.

j.) Bananas, only in moderation, as described above.                                        NOTE: Large Tegus will accept all sorts of foods, mostly what you eat. Obesity is also important in this species, so do not overfeed nor offer  food that you know would not be good for you. My Tegu was watching me eat pizza, so I offered some. She ate it like there was no tomorrow. Of course, I am not recommending this type of feeding on a daily basis, but I am stating only that you can experiment. Again, the Tegu will tell  you what it does or does not like. Train it, and it will stay with you and reward you for many years to come!!

NOTE: In the stomach of a Tegu caught in the wild, it contained the following; several large grasshoppers, a family of mice, two frogs, lots of small fruits and a hatchling turtle.

 NOTE: Make sure that your Tegu cannot ingest the substrate.  This would cause an impaction, thus causing death.         

 NOTE: Feeding amounts should be started with small portions and add more.The Tegu will tell you when it's had enough. 

 NOTE: I like to ground Mazuri Tortoise diet in a blender and mix with the ground turkey.

Hibernation

    My Tegus hibernate for approximately 6 months a year! This is to insure that breeding occurs in the following Spring. However, you can also choose not to hibernate your Tegu. If you have no breeding intentions, then you can keep your Tegu up year round. The temperature for hibernating should be around 55 to 65 degrees. Any lower temperatures could cause your Tegu to get pneumonia and die. It has not been proven that not hibernating your Tegu will result in it not breeding. But I personally believe that the hibernation(cool down) period is very important if you wish to breed with great success. The only requirements during the hibernation period are as follows:

a.) Provide a place, or substrate, for your Tegu to bury itself.

b.) Mist the substrate at least once a month to provide moisture.

c.) I would suggest a space about 3x3 feet per Tegu.

d.) Keep the temperature between 55 and 65 degrees.

e.) Periodically turn on the lights for a few hours just in case they wish to come out and bask. This happens in the wild, so I would recommend doing so.

     You can maybe do this every couple of weeks.

NOTE: An important part of the pre-hibernation, is not to feed your Tegu at  least 10-14 days prior to hibernation. This food can go undigested, causing the food to rot, therefore causing death! Also, Tegus do not grow during the hibernation period.

 

 

After Hibernation

 

When your Tegu awakes, he will be very disoriented. Handle him or her with care. You will need to slowly warm it, and it will soon be basking in the sunlight. You may want to wait a few days before offering it food. However, provide fresh water immediately after it comes out of hibernation. This period usually occurs in early Spring. It is said that Argentine Black and White Tegus become sexually mature at 3 years of age, Argentine Reds at 2 years of age.

Females start producing eggs before the hibernation period prior to their 2nd, 3rd year of age. After the hibernation period, the male mates with the female, thus fertilizing these eggs for reproduction.

 

 

Breeding Tegus

 This can be a complex procedure, but I will try to make it short and yet provide you with enough knowledge for you to be successful.

 

The Tegus will breed shortly after coming out of hibernation. They can breed for several weeks as you observe the male constantly pursuing the female. The female will then begin her nest building. the nest will usually consist of an upper and lower chamber. She uses the top chamber as a guarding chamber. The lower chamber is where she will lay the eggs. However, contrary to this, I have seen them lay the eggs on top of the substrate? This is the time that you should have provided hay and leaves to help her nest building. Her appetite will usually decrease somewhat after the nest building occurs. Also, her temperament will change during this time. She will become very aggressive towards other females, people, and sometimes male Tegus. I would recommend moving any other females out of the enclosure, and maybe the male just to play it safe. I have noticed that in Red Tegus, the female is more tolerant of the male than with the Black and Whites. The female will lay eggs 3 to 7 days after the nest building. Make sure you provide lots of fresh water, as she will bring water to the nest to keep it moist. I would say that the clutches can be anywhere between 10 to 70 eggs! Once she lays the eggs, they should be removed for incubation. Be careful not to rotate the eggs as they are removed. Place them in an incubator, with a temperature of 86 to 90 degrees. Now the waiting begins. Keep monitoring the temperature and humidity. also, check the eggs very gently by touch, to make sure they have a leathery feel, not too hard nor too soft. I would recommend spending extra money on a quality thermostat. The eggs will incubate between 45 and 60 days before hatching. Make sure you document all of the incubating information. Provide Vermiculite as a substrate for the eggs in the incubator.

 

Wow, they are hatching! Now its time to place them into an enclosure as described above for hatchlings. I strongly recommend, when offering food, to take them out and feed separately. This is to insure that all are eating, and prevents aggression and accidents involving injury. Inspect all Tegu hatchlings for birth defects, infections, unclear eyes, and any other health issues you can spot. You may offer food immediately after they are hatched.

 

 

NOTE: Document, document, document!!!  Keep good records on breeding dates, nesting dates, egg laying dates, incubation periods, etc. Also, I would recommend keeping records of the births, any physical defects, parent records, pictures, etc. Take plenty pictures!!!!  You won't regret it!

 

 

Handling Your Tegu

Handling a Hatchling the correct way is very important. Do not be too aggressive, but handle it secure . When you pick up a hatchling, do not come over the top of it. They will think you are a Predator and not like you trying to lift it. Place your right hand below it by the base of the tail. Slide your hand under the back of its body and gently lift up. Make sure the front legs are then secured by sliding your left hand along the underside until you reach under the front legs. I recommend handling it this way at least  once a day.

Handling your Tegu this way will work all the way into adulthood. The only difference is they get heavier! If your adult Tegu is not in a very good mood, and you need to lift it, do the following:

a.) Wear gloves, such as Welders gloves

b.) It would be wise to wear shoes or boots that are thick leather or steel-toed

c.) Grab the Tegu as close to the base of the tail as you can

d.) Lift up the tail

e.) Slide your other hand under the belly, beginning at the base of the tail, all the way up to under the front legs

f.) Lift the Tegu up, making sure you secure its front and back parts of the body

g.) I recommend tucking its tail under your right arm and secure it to your body

 

If the Tegu feels secure with the way you lift it, it will want you to!!

 

 

Tips on Purchasing a Tegu

a.) Check to see if the Tegu is active

b.) Check for signs of dehydration

      Pinch the skin lightly, and it should fold back into place

c.) Check for protruding bones, especially at the limbs and base of the tail

d.) Make sure the leg muscles appear firm, not droopy

e.) Check for Feces marks near the Cloaca

      This could mean that it has diarrhea and is sick

f.) Ask to see it eat, if possible

g.) Check for respiratory Problems

     Runny Eyes, nose, scabby lips, etc.

h. ) When you pick it up, notice if its body vibrates. This could be a sign of a calcium deficiency.

 

If you have any questions as to the above, please do not hesitate to call Tegu Terra at 770-646-0096 or email us at Teguman0301@aol.com

           

Arrows on map indicate the most heavily populated areas of argentine Tegus.

                                                                          

              Age related skull changes.

                                      

Tegu skeleton

             

                                    Yellow Tegu !!!                

 

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"TEGU TIME" in Argentina

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