Species group: Tegus
Other common names: Argentine Tegu; Black and White Tegu; Blue Tegu; Chacoan Tegu; Giant Tegu; Big Headed Tegu; Argentinian Black and White Tegu
Scientific name: Tupinambis merianae
The Argentine Black and White Tegu is among the most intelligent of all lizards – and who can resist the world’s first known partially warm blooded reptile! But while they can make interesting, responsive pets, Tegus are capable of inflicting serious injuries, and require much more space than the average owner can provide. It is a species best left to serious, experienced, adult keepers.
The Argentine Black and White Tegu ranges from southern Brazil through Paraguay and Bolivia to northern Uruguay and northern Argentina. Feral populations are established in Florida, USA.
Highly adaptable, it may be found in ocean-side scrub, open forests and savannas, and also colonizes roadsides, farms and ranches.
Appearance / health:
This thick-set lizard reaches 1 - 1.5 meters (3.5 - 5 ft) in length. The body is vividly patterned in black and white. Researchers were shocked to discover that Argentine Black and White Tegus are able to raise their body temperature 15-18 F above ambient during the breeding season, making this the first known partially warm blooded reptile.
Argentine Black and White Tegus are quite hardy when given proper care, and may reach 20 years of age. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure.
Behavior / temperament:
Hatchlings can be skittish, and adults vary greatly in personality. Many pets become quite responsive, learning to predict feeding times and seeming to distinguish between owners and strangers. However, they can inflict severe injuries, requiring stitches or other medical attention, with their teeth, tails, and nails. Handling instruction should be sought from an experienced owner. Argentine Black and White Tegus are not suitable pets for children.
Hatchlings may be started in a 55 gallon aquarium, but will need a homemade or commercial cage in time. An enclosure measuring at least 8 x 6 x 6 feet is essential for the proper housing of an adult. Outdoor cages or dedicated indoor rooms can be excellent options.
Tegus fare best when provided with 2-3 feet of a sand/soil substrate in which to burrow; hollow logs, one filled with moist substrate, should also be in place as hiding spots. A water bowl large enough for bathing must always be available.
Argentine Black and White Tegus require daily exposure to UVB, a temperature gradient of 78-88 F, and a basking temperature of 100 -120 F. Slate may be placed under the basking lamp to provide an extra-warm (to 130 F) area. Humidity should be kept at 60-75 %.
The natural diet is comprised of invertebrates, lizards, snakes, birds and their eggs, rodents, fish, frogs, fruit and carrion.
Young Argentine Black and White Tegus should be fed near-daily meals of roaches, locusts, silk worms, hornworms, earthworms and other commercially-available species and, as they gain size, small mice. Adults fare well on diets based around mice, rats, whole fresh-water fish, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.
Most meals provided to growing animals should be powdered with a Calcium source. Vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 2-3 times each week. Both can be reduced to once weekly for well-nourished adults.
Potential breeders may be chilled to 65-68 F for 1-3 months (following a 2 week fast), but reproduction may also occur without temperature manipulation. Females should be provided with at least 3 feet of a sand/soil mix in which to nest. Clutches may contain 6-40+ eggs. The eggs can be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 86-90 F for 45-75 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
wonderful eaters, amazing reptiles, good temperd, yellowish white dots, good size, nice color
sharp teeth, large enclosure, claws, young kids, powerful bite
hard leathery tail, proper handling, manageable size, chicken hearts, potty training
My FAVOURITE reptile out of my 30 odd collection!
Tegus have the most incredible personalities - something which really drew me to this species.
Over the years I had her we bonded quite well, their moods do change - sometimes you go to get her from her viv and their tails wave indicating they're not too happy and she would flick if I got too close... other times she would bolt out of the viv when I was there.
If you have the space available and have done the proper research into looking after this species then I think they are good for the intermediate keeper - however they do require a LOT of your time in terms of interaction and exercise - so it is important that you do not keep many pets at all as a lot of your time will be devoted to this tegu - something which I learned the hard way (I had to cut down on others I was keeping at the time).
I always made homemade 'meatballs' which had everything she needed nutritionally wise in - it also cleverly disguised things that she wouldn't have eaten on their own, i.e. shredded carrot etc - vitamins, calciums etc. This was great as a staple - however it's really important to give them VARIETY to keep them interested.
I also found having a bio-active substrate is GREAT for this species - it was amazing seeing her burrow and chase after worms and other little insects, she used to have a crazy time running around trying to catch them! - This is great stimulation for them when you are not around (they can get bored very easily).
In terms of handling she could at times be very calm, and would often sit in my lap and burrow down and remain there for an hour or two while I would pet her. Other times she would be quite anxious and wouldn't like you to get near her at all, but it all adds to personality. You just have to respect their wishes! ;).
From lauren_lou Aug 2 2015 4:30AM
A Mini Tank - The B&W Tegu
I’ll start off by saying that I love my tegu and would not trade her for the world, but she is not the lizard for everyone. I would not recommend her for beginners, as she is demanding and if not handled and feed with proper steps, can turn into an aggressive lizard. These guys, taken care of, are amazingly docile and I enjoy them far more than monitors. If you do not have room nor time, I would never suggest getting one. Males tend to need a 7+ foot enclosure that is made of wood with appropriate ventilation, but not screen lid as it lets too much humidity out. Females tend to need at least an enclosure 5-6 feet long. I personally keep mine in a 6 foot wood enclosure with a plexi glass front.
A lot of new people who get into the hobby and decide they want a large lizard tend to get these guys confused with the columbian tegu which I would never recommend to anyone without great experience and patience beforehand, as columbians are pretty aggressive. A lot of breeders now a days like to sell the columbians as argentine black and white tegus--which leave a bad name for the Argentine black and white, as new owners get them confused.
I’ve personally never had an issue with my girl. She is healthy and has never had any issues and she’s never tried to bite me. The first and foremost thing I would like to point out is to be sure to use cypress mulch and start feeding her outside of the cage. I generally used the tub when she was younger, now I just let her free roam the bathroom. Letting them eat in their cage causes impact issues and starts to get them food aggressive. I don’t think you want a lizard with sharp teeth to mistake your hand for food, right? Overall she is very hardy healthwise. Some tegus tend to hibernate during the winter months, which tends to bother new time owners. Mine did for the first three years, then I think she figured out she could get more food out of staying awake.
This lizard has a lot of good points but is not for a new owner. I would highly recommend joining a tegu specific forum (tegutalk is one) and chat with the other owners on there. My Tegu, Dragonfly, is rewarding but is most definitely not the starter lizard for those new to the hobby!.
From lucidremedy Jan 30 2015 9:04AM
Lini the Tegu
The tegu was a step outside my normal "ideal pet" zone, and even though I think they're very interesting animals, I probably wouldn't own another one. While this could be due to his personality, I'm not sure it's worth the attempt at keeping more [mostly for their sake].
Lini was at times quiet and at times busy, each requiring different treatment. Mostly he stayed in his cage, which was a large aquarium-like enclosure with about 8' of length and 3-4' in width. He liked having the reptile lights on, especially during the winter, to keep warm and bask in. Lini liked to hide a lot as well, and would do so either in/under the rocks in the cage, or piles of blankets in the living room... or *in* the couch [not under, in!]. When he wasn't doing that he liked to explore the apartment and loved to spend time propped up on a rock in the bathtub.
The care and keeping was wearing, unfortunately. The soil in the cage required regular cleaning, especially if he ate in there, and to eliminate he needed to be in water to help him let it out. He ate raw eggs and meat, mostly, with some treats like chicken hearts, and while those are fairly easy to find, cleaning up after them is a bit of a mess, especially during the summer when everything went rank super fast.
Like I said, he was a fun guy, but I wouldn't get one again myself. Playing with one, though... not off the table at all!.
From gloraelin Apr 3 2014 2:25AM