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What Is a Columbian Tegu?

A Columbian Tegu is a robust, intelligent lizard native to South America, known for its distinctive black and white banding and sociable nature. These reptiles can grow up to four feet long and have a varied diet, often kept as exotic pets. Their adaptability in diverse habitats is fascinating. How do they interact with their environment? Let's uncover their secrets together.
Angie Pollock
Angie Pollock

The Columbian tegu, or Tupinambis teguixin, is a species of reptile native to the Amazon Basin, whose name comes from its distribution, which is primarily the northern half of South America. The Columbian tegu’s body features black and white stripes, giving it the alternate name of the Columbian black and white tegu; other common names for this specific lizard include gold tegu and common tegu. Due to the black and white markings, the Columbian tegu is often mistaken for the larger Argentine black and white tegu, or Tupinambis merianae; the Columbian tegu averages 3 feet (91 cm) in length while the Argentine species can reach in excess of 4 feet (122 cm). The Columbian tegu’s body and tail is plump and features a pointed snout and strong limbs. Due to their size and conformation, Columbian tegus also resemble large monitors which are a different species of reptile than tegus.

In the wild, the Columbian tegu is an omnivorous reptile, feeding on small invertebrates and mammals, insects, other reptiles, and small amounts of fruit. It is primarily active during the day. When not sun basking or searching for food, the Columbian tegu can often be found hidden in underground burrows. It will avoid human contact by scurrying away quickly to its hidden retreat underground.


There are many considerations to take into account when taking on a Columbian tegu as a pet, such as housing, feeding, and overall care. Like many other species of tegus, Columbian tegus have been imported into many countries for the exotic pet trade; however, due to their aggressiveness, this species of tegu is not a preferred pet like its similar relative the Argentine tegu. The housing for a pet Columbian tegu will need to be larger than average; preferably 6 feet (183 cm) in length and 3 feet (91 cm) wide. Within the cage, the tegu should be provided an area to swim, a place to hide, lighting source, and heat. This tropical species requires a basking spot along with appropriate amounts of humidity, with lighting being generally provided from UVA or UVB and heat offered from heat bulbs, ceramic emitters, or heat pads.

Food provided to captive Columbian tegus comes from a variety of sources, including small rodents and insects, dog or cat food, and commercially-prepared foods. A small amount of their diet can come from fruits; however, the primary source of their food should come from meat sources. To help prevent diseases and common reptile disorders, a calcium supplement should be sprinkled on the tegu’s food along with providing a quality multi-vitamin.

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