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What Is an Argentine Tegu?

Marjorie McAtee
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.

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).

An Argentine tegu.
An Argentine tegu.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Argentine Tegu?

An Argentine Tegu is a large species of lizard native to South America, particularly found in Argentina, as its name suggests. These reptiles are known for their robust build, with adults reaching up to 4.5 feet in length. They have distinctive black and white coloration, powerful limbs, and a reputation for intelligence within the reptile community.

What do Argentine Tegus eat?

Argentine Tegus are omnivores with a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, eggs, insects, and small animals. In the wild, they are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat almost anything they can catch. Pet tegus require a balanced diet to maintain health, often supplemented with vitamins and calcium.

How long do Argentine Tegus live?

Argentine Tegus have a lifespan that can reach 15 to 20 years in captivity when provided with proper care. This includes a suitable habitat, correct diet, and regular veterinary check-ups. Their longevity is a significant commitment for any potential pet owner to consider.

Are Argentine Tegus good pets?

Argentine Tegus can be good pets for experienced reptile owners who understand their complex needs. They are known for being intelligent and can become quite tame with regular handling. However, they require large enclosures, specific temperature and humidity levels, and a varied diet, which can be a challenge for some pet owners.

What kind of habitat do Argentine Tegus need?

In captivity, Argentine Tegus require a spacious enclosure that mimics their natural environment, with areas for basking, hiding, and exploring. The enclosure should have a temperature gradient of 75-85°F with a basking spot of around 100°F, and humidity levels should be maintained at 60-80% to ensure their health and comfort.

Are Argentine Tegus an invasive species?

Yes, Argentine Tegus are considered an invasive species in some regions, such as Florida. They have established breeding populations outside their native range, which can disrupt local ecosystems. Efforts are being made to control their spread, as they pose a threat to native wildlife through competition and predation.

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    • An Argentine tegu.
      By: R_R
      An Argentine tegu.
    • Argentine tegus can feed on crickets.
      By: viter
      Argentine tegus can feed on crickets.
    • An Argentine tegu requires careful temperature regulation in captivity.
      By: Silkstock
      An Argentine tegu requires careful temperature regulation in captivity.