What Is an Argentine Tegu?

Marjorie McAtee

The Argentine tegu is a rather large type of lizard native to South America. These exotic pets are popular because they are usually mild-mannered and docile creatures. Perhaps the largest obstacle to keeping an Argentine tegu as a pet is its size, as they can reach lengths of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) and weigh as much as 15 pounds (6.8 kilos). The typical Argentine tegu will eat quite a lot, but can be fed on a diet of small rodents, various fruits, eggs, and insects. Persons wishing to keep this exotic pet are usually advised to offer it as much dietary variety as possible, and to supplement the diet with calcium and vitamin D3 mineral supplements regularly.

An Argentine tegu.
An Argentine tegu.

Since these lizards can grow rapidly to a very large size, it is usually considered advisable to procure a roomy enclosure while the lizard is still quite young. The cage should normally be about 8 feet by 4 feet by 2.5 feet (2.4 x 1.2 x 0.8 meters). Daytime temperatures inside the enclosure should typically be kept at about 80° Fahrenheit (26.6° Celsius), and night time temperatures should generally kept at about 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius).

Argentine tegus can feed on crickets.
Argentine tegus can feed on crickets.

Like most reptiles, the average Argentine tegu will need a location in which to warm itself. This spot should be heated to about 100° Fahrenheit (37.7° Celsius), but should be constructed in such a way that the lizard can escape to a cooler location easily, should it become too warm. They will also usually need 12 hours of daily access to UVA/UVB light, either from a reptile lamp or from the sun.

Humidity levels inside the enclosure should typically be kept at about 60 percent. If keeping the entire enclosure humid is not feasible, it's considered acceptable to provide a humidity box for the lizard to crawl in and out of as it likes. It's generally recommended to allow these lizards to hibernate during the winter, in accordance with their natural metabolic patterns.

Meat and eggs with the shells left on can form the bulk of the typical Argentine tegu's diet. Ground turkey is a popular choice among enthusiasts, though beef liver, chicken liver, beef hearts, fish, rodents, and young birds can be fed. Meal worms, crickets, roaches, and other insects are considered good for these lizards.

Growing lizards will need daily calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation, but once the lizard reaches adulthood, supplementation can be cut back to twice weekly. Fruit, such as berries, apples, pears or mangoes, is typically considered an important part of the Argentine tegu's diet. Feeding should generally occur daily, and the lizard should normally be allowed to eat its fill over a period of about 60 minutes.

An Argentine tegu requires careful temperature regulation in captivity.
An Argentine tegu requires careful temperature regulation in captivity.

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