Species group: Tegus
Other common names: Colombian Tegu; Golden Tegu; Common Tegu; Black and Gold Tegu; Gold Tegu
Scientific name: Tupinambis teguixin
Gold Tegus are native to northern South America, throughout the Amazon Basin, especially Colombia, giving them the name “Colombian Tegu.” They inhabit tropical rainforests, savannahs, and humid areas near bodies of water. Tegus fill the same ecological niche as Monitor lizards, and are an example of convergent evolution.
Appearance / health:
Gold Tegus average 3 feet in length, with the tail almost as long as the body. The scales are smooth. Comparing it with other Tegus, the Golden Tegu has only one loreal scale (the scale between the eye and the nostril). The body color is black, with yellow to gold irregular lateral bands over the back and tail. Males have small spurs on the sides of the tail.
Behavior / temperament:
Gold Tegus are terrestrial but they love to dig and explore the environment (so they also climb and swim). They are naturally aggressive, but can be tamed through regular interaction and handling, especially if started at a young age. Some Tegus are known to never get accustomed to handling.
Ground-dwelling Gold Tegus require a large rainforest enclosure that will allow them to roam. It should have a large and stable water dish that will allow the Tegus to soak or swim. The substrate should be slightly damp sand or loam, about 10 inches deep for burrowing and digging caves. Hiding places like boxes, cork tubes, and other decorations are also essential. Day temp: 77-86F; night temp: 71-75F; basking temp: 95F; humidity: 60-80%; lighting: 12-14 hours, UV radiation required.
Gold Tegus are best kept singly because they can become aggressive, especially the males. Humidity is a major factor in the Tegu’s health, and should be monitored closely. The water container should be refreshed daily and the cage cleaned regularly to prevent disease. Under proper care and optimum conditions, Golden Tegus have a lifespan of 5-8 years.
Gold Tegus are omnivorous, preying on insects, rodents, fish, crayfish, birds, and eggs. In captivity, they can also be fed fruits, canned dog food, and commercially prepared Tegu diets. Gut-loaded crickets and mineral-dusted food are recommended for better nutrition.
Gold Tegus are egg-layers. The female prepares a nesting burrow from gathered leaves, and then lays her clutch and stays with the eggs until they hatch in about 5-6 months.
sweet girl, Awesome lizard, Great hearty lizard, Interesting Display Animal
size enclosure, lil temper, bit skiddish, caging requirements, extensive lighting, captivity
pinky mice, ground turkey
My husband bought Vlad from a breeder/broker. The little lizard couldn't have been more than 6 inches long, had a broken tail, and was drastically underweight already.
The person selling him did not want to give him proper food, for fear that he would grow out of the tank before being sold. Typical, right? We brought him home, put him in a 40 gallon breeder with massive, shallow water dish for swimming/soaking and a mercury vapor bulb.
This lizard refused to eat for days. Finally, fed up with it, I sat a plat of scrambled egg in his tank and stormed off. I was so frustrated, I was willing to let him eat anything at that point. Half an hour later, the egg was gone. Success! He must have just been too shy to eat in front of us, right?
The next day, I did the same thing, but I threw in superworms and frozen/thawed pinky mice in with the egg. Half an hour later, the plate once again was clean. Woo!
I continued this for a week, until I decided I would once again try feeding him from tongs. I couldn't even get him to come out of his hide! Took the hide out, and he freaked. He tried to bolt up the sides of the tank, hissing and puffing, running back and forth. My husband said Vlad needed handling. Maybe that was his problem. Maybe he needed to learn to not be afraid of us through forced socialization.
Socializing him gave us nothing more than bloody fingers and ripped up gloves. We went back to the plate feeding routine.
Vlad got bigger. Much bigger. At fourteen inches and still growing, and just as flighty as ever, it was time for him to move on. If we're not happy, and he's not happy, it's not fair for anyone. We learned our lesson with Colobian tegus!!.
From Kimberly Webb Dec 23 2012 6:04PM
Lizard Tough-Guys - Not for Everyone!
In both appearance and behavior, these stout beasts put one in mind of monitor lizards. Although intelligent and responsive, gold tegus require huge enclosures and can inflict serious injuries with their sharp teeth and powerful jaws. This is not a lizard to be taken lightly - while doing field research in Venezuela, I’ve had adults charge me when I ventured to close – even though the entire llanos was available for retreat! They are suitable only for well-experienced adults with ample space and time, and are not a good choice if you are seeking a handle-able pet. Even after years of captivity, most will resist being picked up.
Wild tegus take carrion, rats, opossums, birds, caiman eggs, frogs, snakes, barnyard fowl, fish, large insects and some fruit with equal relish. Florida’s introduced Tegus threaten endangered species by consuming the young of the Key Largo woodrat and the eggs of American crocodiles. Pets are easy to satisfy, at least as to diet. Tegus charge food with abandon, and will happily grab a hand that gets in their way – always employ a long-handled tong!
Gold tegus grow far too large for typical terrariums. Custom made cages measuring at least 6’ x 6’, and ample exposure to UVB light, are essential. In smaller enclosures, hygiene and a proper thermal gradient (78-92 F, with a basking site of 120 F) will be impossible to maintain, and your pet’s stress and aggression levels will soar..
From findiviglio Nov 18 2015 12:05PM
Beautiful big lizard, but not sociable
I have worked with these tegus (at least 10+) and almost invariably, it has not worked out well. Despite many years of attempting to tame them, we have found that they still have a tendency towards being fast, aggressive, extremely food orientated and will death-roll when picked up, and whip with their tails as a warning. These are almost never bred in captivity, and this only adds to the problem - but it's simply not a sociable species. Of course there are always exceptions, and if you're willing to put in years of patient work you may end up with a docile adult.
Considering the size enclosure you will need, the amount of feeding, time and patience, I can't help but think there is zero reason to own this species over an Argentine Tegu - which is the complete opposite in temperament. Colombians tend to be significantly cheaper, and I think this is the primary reason people choose them - but if you're going to have a pet for 10 years, make it the right one, not the cheapest one. If you do go for this species, buy one captive bred from a breeder and not wild caught..
From Athravan Jun 18 2015 4:17AM