GENERAL INFORMATION ON TEGUS
The information here will be on Black & White, Red and Blue Tegus. These Tegus naturally occur from Argentina to Brazil. They can reach sizes of over 4 feet and over 15lbs. Males of either species obtain the largest size. Tegus mainly feed on insect and rodents when young but will take occasional fruit as they mature. They are quite inquisitive and with a little work make great pets. Below is some information on how to properly care for your Tegu.
HOUSING FOR TEGUS
Tegus require a very simple set up. Most important is the size of the enclosure compared to the size of the Tegu. They can be housed in aquariums, Tupperware tubs and custom-made cages. Substrate we recommend being used in the enclosure would be cypress mulch, bark substrate, coco fiber or any other dark brown substrate marketed for reptile use. They can hold humidity without molding, so they last longer than other light-colored wood shavings.
Tegus are cold blooded animals, so they need heating for cellular activity and biological process like digestion. They prefer an ambient temperature around 78-85f. A heat lamp providing a basking temperature of 90-105f is recommended for 6-10 hours daily. A UVB bulb is also needed so they can synthesize vitamin D3. In return the vitamin D3 is used to metabolize nutrients and regulate the levels of calcium in the bloodstream. The UVB bulb should be placed no higher than 12-15” from the bottom of the cage for proper UVB radiation. The higher the bulb is placed the less UVB the Tegu will be receiving.
Lastly two basic items like a water bowl which should have clean water at all times and a hiding place for the tegu to retreat and feel secure. Decorative objects like plants, branches, logs and ornaments are optional.
Here at Dynasty Reptiles we keep our baby Tegus in groups of 4-5 in a 52qt tub with a heat lamp and a Reptisun T5 10.0 UVB bulb. The heat lamp is on daily for 6 hours and UVB bulb for 12 hours. As they get larger we reduce the numbers in each tub and eventually move them to outdoor caging where we keep them in individual cages. We don’t use any lighting outdoors since we are in sunny Miami.
Tegus feed on a large variety of items. They will eat insects (crickets, roaches, superworms and other insects bred for reptile consumption), rodents, fish, meat and fruit. Each Tegu has their own preferences, so you can offer a wide variety of items and figure what you Tegu prefers.
Hatchlings: We recommend feeding tegus under 6 months every day. This is the most crucial time to feed as Tegus can grow very fast at this age. Here at Dynasty Reptiles we feed mainly frozen thawed crickets and ground turkey. The reason we feed frozen thawed crickets is, so we don’t have to house live crickets and maximize each box of crickets by not having crickets die before feeding. We get a fresh box of crickets and place in our freezer. After 2-3 hours we take out the box and put all crickets in a zip lock bag. Each time we offer we take out what we need and thaw out on a feeding dish. Once thawed out within 10-15 min we sprinkle calcium with D3 and offer to our Tegus. We do this for all of our Tegus and Monitors since they have a Jacobs organ to smell food, so movement is not the only trigger to get them to find food.
All food offer to Tegus under 1 year needs to be dusted with calcium with D3 3-4 days a week. If not, your Tegu can get MBD (metabolic bone disease) since they are growing so fast and not receiving the proper amount of calcium for the growth of their bones.
Sub adult to Adult: At this size feedings can slow down to 4-6 times a week. They will be too large for insects, so we start on a diet consisting of rodents, turkey breast and fruit. Calcium with D3 would not have to be offered if rodents is the main diet but if ground turkey or food items lacking bone is offered then food should be dusted with calcium 1-2 times a week.
COMMON ISSUES WITH TEGUS
Tegus are simple to care for and if provided with the caging and feeding recommendations above, your Tegus should grow and live a long life. One of the issues that come up with Tegus is MBD (metabolic bone disease). Most of the time it is fatal and other times Tegus grow up looking deformed with short stunted bodies or misaligned jaws. This is all caused by the lack of calcium in their diet and lack of vitamin D3 which can be provided in supplements and through UVB bulbs. We strongly advise to dust food items with calcium with vitamin D3 several times a week and to have UVB bulb on for 8-14 hours daily. Also make sure the UVB bulb is placed no higher than 12-15”. The closer the bulb is to the Tegu, the more UVB radiation the Tegu can receive. Bulbs do wear out on the output of UVB even when the light is still on, so we recommend changing bulbs every 8-12 months.
You can check for MBD by watching your Tegu while it is basking. A Tegu starting to have MBD will have their toes and limbs shaking. This is mostly common while basking. If you notice the whole body shaking anytime while not basking, then the Tegu has had MBD for some time. All of this can be reverse if you are dusting food with calcium with D3 and using a UVB bulb.