The Argentine Tegu is a large reptile popular among reptile owners in North America. They are quite exotic, but their size makes them more inconvenient to own and care for than other smaller reptiles.
The Argentine Black and White Tegu is also known as the Argentine Giant. These not-so-little lizards can be up to 4.5 feet long and weigh 20 pounds. As their name indicates, they are primarily black and white.
Due to the size of these lizards, there are plenty of people that consider them to be dangerous. However, these reptiles are surprisingly docile and can even become companion pets over time.
Quick Facts About the Argentine Black and White Tegu
|Species Name:||Salvator merianae|
|Common Name:||Argentine Black and White Tegu|
|Care Level:||Moderate to high|
|Adult Size:||3-5 feet long and 20 pounds|
|Diet:||Insects, fruit, and lean meat|
|Minimum Tank Size:||8x4x4 feet|
|Temperature & Humidity||75-85 degrees Fahrenheit and between 75-90% humidity|
Do Argentine Black and White Tegus Make Good Pets?
Argentine Black and White Tegus are exotic animals that can run quickly with their powerful legs and stocky tails. They are from eastern and central South America. Although they are most associated with Argentina, they span throughout Uruguay, Paraguay, and several other surrounding countries.
These reptiles are surprisingly relatable and easy to handle. In addition, they have a reputation for developing close relationships with their owners. This and their ease of husbandry make them quite popular.
The Black and White Tegu is just that: black and white. These animals hatch at about 7 to 10 inches long. However, they tend to grow quickly from there, reaching about 75% of their adult length within 1 year. The males tend to be longer by about 1-1½ feet.
Tegus have forked tongues that they use to help them “smell” the air and determine if there are any predators or prey around them.
The skin pattern of the Black and White Tegu is what sets them apart more than anything else. They are covered in bands and strips of black and white coloring.
When they first hatch, they can have green on their heads that extends down to their necks. As they age, the color fades and joins in with the rest of their body’s black-and-white pattern.
Tegus like this can also come in red. However, these are called Red Tegus and are slightly smaller than the Argentine Black and White.
How to Take Care of the Argentine Black and White Tegu
Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup
Argentine Tegus are large, so they need a tank that will fit them by size and enable them to move around freely. The best enclosures for these large lizards are often made with melamine and a glass window that allows you to see inside.
You can use smaller terrariums for the lizard when they are a hatchling. Since they grow so fast, though, you will need to be ready within the 1st year to rehouse them in their large, adult-sized enclosure.
You can house a hatchling in a 20-gallon terrarium and juveniles in an 80-gallon terrarium. However, since these lizards are active, they will decline in health quite quickly without enough space.
These lizards come from warm, tropical areas and won’t survive if they are kept in cold or even cool enclosures for too long. You should use a UVB light to help them get the nutrients and glow that they would get from the sun. Often, terrarium hoods support this kind of lighting because it is so commonly needed.
Heating (Temperature & Humidity)
Not only do these lizards need plenty of space and a specialized light to stay happy and healthy, but you also need to provide them with a hot basking spot.
The spot should be between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit and should always be available to them. This is because they will spend large swaths of time there. You can achieve this kind of spot by using red heat bulbs.
In the rest of their enclosure, keep the temperature at around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The substrate is another essential part of a Tegu’s enclosure. Tegus love to burrow and need to live in a tank with plenty of substrate. You can use things like coconut coir, cypress mulch, soil, and sand. These also help maintain the high humidity that these animals need.
Adults need about 8 inches of the substrate to burrow into effectively. Avoid anything dusty or resinous. Many of these will be toxic to your Tegu and cause them lasting and even fatal harm.
|Tank Type||8x4x4 foot minimum enclosure, melamine and glass|
|Heating||Red heat bulbs, heat pads, ceramic heat emitters|
|Best Substrate||Soil, coconut coir, cypress mulch, sand|
Feeding Your Argentine Black and White Tegu
As with any pet, feeding them a balanced diet will help them stay healthy and happy for a long time. Tegus are called “opportunistic omnivores.” That means they will eat whatever is around them and available. That includes things like meat, fruits, insects, and plant matter.
Your Tegu’s diet should be a healthy mix of all these things, although heavier on the protein side. Feed adult tegus plenty of lean meat sources, like egg, fish, or frozen rodents. You can feed baby Tegus insects dusted in calcium.
You can also feed Tegus certain kinds of fruits and vegetables. Always check their calcium ratio, though, because they need plenty of it to function properly.
You should also ensure that your Tegu always has fresh and clean water. They will often look for somewhere to soak when they get hot or when they need to shed. Having a larger water container will help with this.
|Fruits||30% of diet|
|Insects||10% of diet|
|Meat||60% of diet|
Keeping Your Argentine Black and White Tegu Healthy
Even though Tegus can be docile and can even come to enjoy spending time with you outside of their enclosure, you still need to take precautions to keep both you and them healthy.