Argentine White and Black Tegu Care Sheet

Native to the subtropical and temperate regions of Argentina and parts of Brazil, Argentine Black and White Tegus are adapted to a wide range of environments. They can thrive in both forested areas and savannas, displaying a degree of adaptability that’s truly admirable. This adaptability is reflected in their behavior and care needs as captive pets.

In the wild, these tegus are usually found in burrows, which offer them protection from predators and help regulate their body temperature. They’re most active during daylight hours and are known to be quite agile and swift movers. This behavior translates to their captive environment as well, with tegus often enjoying a good amount of space to roam and explore.

Argentine Black and White Tegus are known for their intelligence and inquisitive nature. They show a high degree of interaction with their environment, often exploring their surroundings with keen interest. This curious and active behavior makes them fun to observe and engage with.

Key Notes

  • Origin: Argentina and parts of Paraguay, South America
  • Size: 36-55 inches
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Basking Temperature: 100-110 degrees F
  • Cool End Temperature: 70-75 degrees F
  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Substrate: Coco fiber-peat-soil mix appropriate for burrowing
  • Baby enclosure size: No less than 40 gallons (36” L x 18” D x 16” H)
  • Adult enclosure size: 8’ L x 4’ D x 3’ H
  • Difficulty: Intermediate


Argentine Black and White Tegus are among the largest of all tegus. Mature males can grow up to 4.5 feet long and weigh around 15 pounds, although there are some who have been known to grow larger. The females, on the other hand, tend to be a bit smaller, usually reaching lengths of up to 3 feet. Their impressive size is indeed one of the traits that sets them apart from many other pet reptiles.


In captivity, tegus can live 15 years or more so it really is a long commitment and a large financial commitment as well. You should really do your research on tegus before considering buying one.

The Tegu in Captivity: Benefits and Challenges

Have you ever watched a tegu interact with their environment? It’s a sight to behold! These creatures are incredibly curious, intelligent, and their docile temperament makes them even more endearing. What’s truly fascinating is the bond you can develop with your tegu. Just like how a dog wags its tail, my tegu, Tito, has a special way of showing his recognition and affection – a slow, appreciative blink when I approach. There’s an unspeakable joy in that tiny gesture, trust me!

The Challenges

But let’s be real, friends. As rewarding as it is, keeping a tegu isn’t always a walk in the park. Their dietary needs can be demanding – they require a varied diet, from insects and fruits to an occasional mouse treat!

Plus, creating a habitat that mimics their natural environment requires regular maintenance and can sometimes feel like a part-time job! And, let’s not forget the inevitable health issues that may arise, requiring prompt veterinary care. Remember, they’re social creatures and crave your attention – neglecting this need can lead to behavioral issues.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

I won’t sugarcoat it; I’ve had my fair share of challenges. Tito once managed to escape his enclosure – it was a stressful hide-and-seek experience that I don’t want to relive! But, we learned from it, upgraded his enclosure, and it brought us even closer.

The challenges are real, but the fulfillment of overcoming them and knowing you’re providing a loving, suitable home for your tegu is a feeling that’s hard to match.

Legal Considerations

It’s also crucial to note that owning a tegu is subject to legal considerations. Certain regions have laws restricting or outright prohibiting their ownership. Make sure you check local regulations before deciding to bring one home.

At the end of the day, owning a tegu is a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. These creatures rely on us for their wellbeing. So, make sure you’re ready to provide everything they need, from proper nutrition to mental stimulation. I promise, it’s worth every second!


When it comes to housing your Argentine Black and White Tegu, size matters. These reptiles are known for their substantial size, growing up to 4.5 feet in length. Can you imagine having that big a buddy at home? It’s quite the adventure! Therefore, the enclosure must be large enough to allow them to move around comfortably.

As a rule of thumb, an enclosure for an adult Tegu should be at least 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet high. This size ensures that your Tegu has enough space to roam and exhibit natural behaviors.

Hatchling should be kept in a 40-gallon aquarium or something similar with a screen lid for ventilation. The 40 gallons will last them around six months before you will need to upgrade.

We recommend building the finale enclosure in its first year because they grow very quickly.

Remember, an enclosure can be as simple or as intricate as you’d like, as long as it provides the essentials – safety, comfort, and space. Have you tried designing your own Tegu enclosure? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Tegus are considered one of the most intelligent reptile species and they really enjoy human companionship. if you handle them from a young age they become very dependent on you and they really seek out your attention. It is important when they’re young that you handle them a lot so they get used to you and get used to handling.


There are several substrates you can consider for your tegu’s enclosure. Let’s explore some of them together:

  1. Cypress Mulch: This is one of my personal favorites. Cypress mulch is excellent at retaining moisture, which helps maintain the humidity level in the enclosure. It’s also relatively easy to clean. However, remember to source it from a reputable vendor to ensure it’s pesticide-free.
  2. Orchid Bark: This is another good option. It also retains moisture well, and its chunky texture makes it less likely to cause impaction if accidentally ingested. Just like with cypress mulch, ensure it’s free from any chemicals.
  3. Coconut Coir: Coconut coir is a fantastic substrate due to its ability to retain moisture and its natural, earthy look. However, it tends to get a bit messy and may require more frequent cleaning.
  4. Mix of Soil and Sand: A mix of organic topsoil and play sand (about a 70:30 ratio) can mimic the natural environment of the Argentine tegu. This mix allows for natural digging behavior. Make sure the soil is free from fertilizers and pesticides.

Remember, the use of unsuitable substrates such as cedar or pine shavings should be avoided. They contain oils that can be harmful to your tegu.

Now you might wonder, why does the type of bedding matter so much? Well, the answer is multi-layered, just like the substrate in your tegu’s enclosure!

Argentine tegus originate from South America’s tropical rainforests, so they love to burrow and dig. A substrate that allows for these natural behaviors can make your pet feel right at home. More importantly, substrates like the ones we discussed help maintain the enclosure’s humidity level, which is critical to your tegu’s health.

Choosing the right substrate also helps keep your tegu clean and reduces the risk of skin and respiratory issues. Plus, it aids in the overall hygiene of the enclosure, making your job as a caregiver a bit easier!

Heating and Lighting

First off, let’s chat about heating. To keep your Tegu comfortable and thriving, you’ll want to set up a thermal gradient in their enclosure. This essentially means that one end of the habitat will be warmer (the “basking end”) while the other end will be cooler. A temperature gradient allows your Tegu to self-regulate its body temperature—think of it like offering your pet their very own thermostat!

How do you achieve this? I’ve found that using a combination of ceramic heaters and under-tank heating pads work wonders. Aim for a basking spot temperature of about 110-120°F, while the cooler end should stay around 75-85°F. Remember, always monitor the temperature with reliable digital thermometers, and adjust as necessary. And yes, even if you’re an experienced keeper like me, regular monitoring is still a must. After all, our Tegus can’t tell us if they’re feeling too toasty or chilly!

Next, let’s switch our focus to lighting. I can’t stress enough the importance of providing your Tegu with adequate UVB lighting. Why UVB, you might ask? These rays play a crucial role in Vitamin D3 synthesis, which helps your Tegu absorb calcium—a critical nutrient for bone health. Without it, our reptile pals can suffer from metabolic bone disease, which we, of course, want to avoid at all costs.

When setting up UVB lighting, I recommend using a high-quality UVB fluorescent bulb that spans at least two-thirds of your Tegu’s enclosure. This setup ensures they have ample exposure, even when they are not in the basking spot. Turn on the UVB light for around 10-12 hours a day to mimic the natural light cycle. And here’s a pro tip: replace the bulb every six months, even if it still lights up, as the UVB emission decreases over time.

And let’s not forget about safety. Heat lamps should always be installed with a protective guard to prevent your Tegu from getting burned. Also, make sure any electrical cords are out of your Tegu’s reach—they are curious creatures and might just decide to give those cords a nibble!


Our beloved tegus originate from the warm, humid regions of South America. Here, their bodies have evolved to thrive in an environment where the humidity levels can often hover around a tropical 60-80%. This translates into a need for similar conditions in their home away from home – your reptile enclosure.

Now, why is humidity so important, you ask? Well, incorrect humidity levels can lead to several health issues, such as skin problems and respiratory infections. It’s a bit like us humans feeling uncomfortable in dry, chapped skin in a harsh winter, but for our tegu pals, the implications can be more severe. If you ever notice your tegu having difficulty shedding or showing signs of labored breathing, incorrect humidity could be a culprit.

So, how can we ensure the right humidity levels? Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years:

  1. Humidifiers and Misting Systems: There’s a variety of reptile-friendly humidifiers available in the market today. Depending on the size of your enclosure, you might find ultrasonic humidifiers or automated misting systems particularly handy. Remember, consistency is key!
  2. Monitoring Humidity Levels: Investing in a reliable digital hygrometer can help keep track of your humidity levels. Regular checks throughout the day are a must, just as you would with temperature.
  3. Routine adjustments: If you find the humidity levels dipping, a quick spray down with a water bottle can help. But, be sure not to overdo it. Excess moisture can lead to mold and bacterial growth.

While we’re on the topic, it’s vital to remember safety and prevention. Always ensure your equipment is safe for reptile use and regularly cleaned to prevent bacterial buildup. Avoid placing your tegu’s basking spot too close to the humidifier, as it could lead to sudden temperature changes.

Managing humidity goes hand in hand with overall tegu care and contributes significantly to their comfort and longevity. And, isn’t that what we all want as proud tegu parents? A happy, healthy, and comfortable tegu!

Water Requirements

Just like with any other creature tegus should be provided with fresh water. The water dish should be big enough for their entire body to go inside of it to soak. Sometimes they do tend to pop inside their water dishes or when they’re being soaked so make sure you keep a close eye on their water container so it doesn’t get spoiled.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, Argentine White and Black Tegus are opportunistic omnivores. This means they eat a wide variety of foods, from fruits and vegetables to insects, small mammals, and eggs. Now, you might be wondering, “Does this varied diet translate to my pet tegu’s dietary needs?” The answer is a big YES!

Recommended Diet for Pet Tegus

Feeding your tegu a balanced diet that closely mimics their natural food intake is the key to their health and happiness. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what your pet tegu will love to munch on:

  1. Protein: Items like mealworms, crickets, dubia roaches, and pinkie mice make excellent protein sources. And remember, variety is the spice of life – and diet!
  2. Fruits and Veggies: Just like us, tegus love their fruits and veggies! Offer them a colorful medley of shredded vegetables and fruits. Blueberries, strawberries, and melons are tegu favorites!
  3. Feeding Schedule: Younger tegus should be fed daily, while adults do well with meals every other day. Keep portions sizes appropriate to their size, usually around the same volume as their head.

A word of caution, though! Tegus are prone to obesity, so be mindful of overfeeding them. Monitoring portion sizes and maintaining a regular feeding schedule is super important!

Getting the balance right is crucial for your tegu’s well-being. Too much protein can lead to health problems like gout, while an excess of certain veggies can cause nutrient imbalances. If you’re ever unsure, consult with a reptile vet or a fellow experienced tegu owner – we’re a helpful bunch!

Common Health Issues

Argentine White and Black Tegus are generally hardy creatures, but they aren’t exempt from certain health issues. For starters, respiratory infections are a common occurrence, particularly if the tegu’s living conditions aren’t optimal. These infections often present with symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, and nasal discharge.

Another concern for tegus is metabolic bone disease (MBD), often resulting from insufficient UVB lighting or inadequate calcium in their diet. A tegu suffering from MBD may display lethargy, loss of appetite, and in severe cases, deformed or broken bones.

Then, there’s the issue of parasites – both internal and external. These uninvited guests can cause a variety of problems, including weight loss, diarrhea, and skin issues.

Preventive Measures

With my tegu, I’ve found that prevention truly is the best medicine. Most tegu health problems can be prevented with proper husbandry.

A well-balanced diet, for example, goes a long way in keeping your tegu healthy. I make sure to provide my tegu with a varied diet rich in protein and supplement with calcium and vitamin D3 to prevent MBD.

Good hygiene is crucial, too. Regular cleaning of the tegu’s enclosure can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause respiratory infections. Also, I ensure the habitat has proper ventilation, as stagnant, damp air can quickly breed respiratory issues.

Early Warning Signs

It’s essential to observe your tegu closely for any changes in behavior, eating habits, or physical appearance. Any deviations from the norm might be an early warning sign of health issues.

For instance, if your tegu becomes less active, refuses to eat, or has a runny nose, they might be developing a respiratory infection. If they have difficulty walking or seem to have deformed limbs, that could be a sign of MBD. And if you notice any unusual skin conditions or weight loss, they might be infested with parasites.

Finally, nothing replaces regular veterinary check-ups. I’ve learned over time that having a vet experienced with reptiles is a true asset. Regular visits help ensure that any potential health issues are detected early, and the necessary treatments are administered.

Social and Behavioral Aspects

Tegus are intelligent and curious reptiles, always eager to explore their surroundings. They have a fairly high activity level, especially when they’re young. They love digging and climbing, and you’ll often find them busily exploring every nook and cranny of their enclosure. As they mature, their activity level may decrease a bit, but they still enjoy a good romp around their territory.

However, like any pet, Tegus can experience stress. It’s essential to recognize the signs of a stressed Tegu, such as lack of appetite, decreased activity, or frequent hiding. My first Tegu, Rambo, taught me the importance of observing these signs early on. Noticing these changes in time can help mitigate any issues before they become severe.

Interacting with Your Tegu

When it comes to interacting with your Tegu, patience and understanding are key. I learned this the hard way with my second Tegu, Bella. She was shy at first, and I had to take the time to gain her trust. Slow, gentle handling and consistent interaction are crucial in building a relationship with your Tegu.

Speak softly to them, and move slowly around them to keep them comfortable. When handling your Tegu, support their body and legs. They appreciate feeling secure. Treat time can also be bonding time. Offering a favorite treat from your hand will make your Tegu associate your presence with positive experiences.

Tegu’s Social Needs

While Tegus aren’t as socially demanding as dogs or cats, they do require some level of interaction. They are solitary by nature, meaning they don’t crave the company of other Tegus, but they do appreciate human interaction.

Having a Tegu means committing to regular, gentle interaction to keep them socialized and comfortable with human contact. It’s not quite like having a fur baby who constantly craves your attention, but owning a Tegu isn’t a hands-off experience either.


Tegu do bromate or hibernate. During the brumation period, their temperature should be between 55 to 65 degrees and no lower than that. You will need to keep the lights off while they’re hibernating. Every so often you can turn the lights on and give them the opportunity to come up and bask because that’s what they would do in the wild. While tegus are hibernating you can mist their substrate once every couple of weeks just to keep it damp enough.

During the brumation period, It’s important that you don’t feed your tegu for two weeks before they go down for brumation. During this time their metabolisms are slower and they don’t digest food so all the food they just ate sits inside their stomach and rots which can kill them.

Hibernation periods can last for six months or longer. I’ve heard of tegu who’s going down for nine months out of the year. Tegu do not grow during the hibernation period.

You also don’t want to bother your tegu very much during the brumation period because they will be extremely grumpy.

When your tegu is waking up from hibernation you can offer them food several days after you notice them coming up consistently.


In wrapping up our comprehensive guide to Argentine Black and White Tegu care, it’s crucial to revisit some fundamental points we’ve covered. Caring for these wonderful creatures is a rewarding experience, but it’s also a significant responsibility, filled with unique challenges and joys alike.

Creating the right environment is key, from the right size and type of enclosure to appropriate heating, lighting, and humidity levels. The substrate you use can make a big difference in your Tegu’s comfort and health, and these elements together make up the home your Tegu will grow and thrive in.

Nutrition is another critical aspect of Tegu care. A balanced diet that replicates their natural food sources as closely as possible will ensure that your Tegu has the nutrients it needs to live a long, healthy life. Regular vet visits and keeping an eye out for common health issues will further enhance your pet’s well-being.

We can’t stress enough the importance of understanding your Tegu’s social and behavioral traits. These creatures are intelligent and require mental stimulation and physical activity. Socialization is vital for your pet to be comfortable around you and other family members.

At this point, let me reiterate that owning a Tegu is not a casual commitment; it’s a legal obligation in many jurisdictions and a long-term responsibility. These creatures can live up to 20 years under optimal care, so they’re truly a part of your family!

The challenges may be there, but the rewards are immense. As a fellow reptile enthusiast and Tegu pet owner, I can personally testify to the joy these animals bring. Their intelligence, unique personalities, and the bond you can build with them are truly special.

Throughout your Tegu care journey, you’re never alone. There are numerous resources, including our blog, forums, and pet owner communities, where you can ask questions, share experiences, and continue learning. Remember, we’re all in this together, navigating the fascinating world of Tegus.

As a final piece of advice from a seasoned Tegu owner, patience is your best friend. Allow your Tegu to settle in, gradually get accustomed to you, and build trust in its own time. Keep learning, stay engaged, and always strive to provide the best possible care for your Argentine Black and White Tegu.

Thank you for trusting us as your guide in this journey. Together, we can ensure a high-quality life for these magnificent creatures. Happy Tegu keeping!

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