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Home » Chacoan White Headed Tegu: Information & Care

Chacoan White Headed Tegu: Information & Care

The Chacoan White Headed tegu, also known as Paraguayan Tegu or simply Chacoan Tegu, is a morph of tegu lizard characterized by a higher degree of white coloration as adults, especially around their head. It is originally from Paraguay, but which can also be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay. It is very similar in appearance to the Argentine black an white tegu of the same species, although they tend to be even bigger in size.

Paraguayan Chacoan White Headed Tegu.

Enclosure requirements

Size

When setting up an enclosure for your chacoan tegu you will need a lot of space to allow it to burrow and roam freely. While juvenile tegus can be kept in 10- or 20- gallon aquariums, fully grown lizards will need anything between 8 and 16 square feet of space, depending on their size. Remember that Chacoan tegus are amongst the largest types of tegu, and males grow larger than females. A minimum enclosure size of 8x4x4 is generally recommended. The length of the cage should be no less than twice the length of the lizard.

Temperature

Tegus are cold blooded and need sources of external heat to warm themselves up. Because of this, it is crucial to set up their enclosure in a way that offers both warm and cool spots, allowing them to thermoregulate their body temperature. Make sure to have a warm environment with day time temperature ranging from 100-110F and another cooler area inside the cage with temperatures between 80 and 85F. Not having a well lit, heated spot in the cage may lead to the tegu going into brumation during winter, in this period of time the tegu will mostly retreat to their cage and refuse to eat regularly. This is a totally normal form of hibernation that occurs in nature that will not hurt your tegu, and is actually needed for females to be able to breed. Tegu owners who are not interested in breeding generally prefer to avoid letting their pets go into brumation because they will cease nearly all interaction during this period, and may halt their growth due to the limited food intake.

Lighting 

All species of tegu require 12-14 hours of UVB light exposure per day. Ideally, let the tegu roam outside to get access to sun rays as often as possible, while keeping a UVB light inside their cage using an automated heat lamp with a 12 hours on-off schedule. A heat lamp will provide both precious UVB and a source of heat during the day. If you intend to start brumating your tegu, shorten the timer on your heat lamp to 8 or 6 hours to simulate shorter day times, and eventually turn them off completely.

Substrate

Tegus are burrowing animals which need a substrate depth of around 12-24″. Burrowing is necessary for tegus to keep their bodies active and claws filed without the need of nail trimming by their owners. As the majority of tegus come from wet areas with plenty of rain, it is important to choose a bedding substrate that holds humidity. The best substrate for tegu is cypress mulch, which can be mixed with topsoil and sand. Other DIY mixes often include coconut shells or reptisoil.

Humidity

Tegus require a high level of humidity, around 75-90%. This can be achieved by choosing adequate humidity retaining soil, by spraying the top soil and tegu itself with water regularly, and leaving a bowl of water in the enclosure every day, which the tegu will use for both drinking and “freshening up”. Make sure any water bowl you introduce to your tegu enclosure is tip-proof and big enough for your pet to soak in it. Replace the water daily.

Decor

Your enclosure needs to provide your tegu with both hiding spots and sources of entertainment. Tegus, particularly young ones, often fall prey to birds and larger reptiles and you will need to provide them with a hide box or “cave” where they can feel safe from predators and sleep comfortably. A dog kennel or large plastic bucket can be used for adult tegus. If you can get your hands on a very large hollow log, that will also do the job. Keep in mind that tegus are highly intelligent creatures and as such, they tend to get bored easily: they need to interact with their environment, play with it, and at times they tend to destroy everything in sight. Make sure to keep your tegu entertained by adding plants, barks, boxes and “toys” around. Many owners will occasionally hide their pet’s food or offer live prey to give the tegus an opportunity to scavenge and hunt as they would in the wild.


Chacoan Tegu Diet

Tegu lizards are scavengers who eat just about anything. In the wild, their diet relies heavily on insects, plants, fruits, eggs and small animals such as rodents. In captivity, it’s important to feed your tegu a mix of meat and veggies, with the occasional whole prey, but they will most likely munch on anything you throw at them. Paraguayan and Argentine tegus are considered omnivore, in nature they have been observed eating fruits, vegetables and meat in almost equal amounts. In captivity, it is best to provide them with a balanced diet that minimizes fats and sugar in order to avoid obesity and other potential health complications.

Food requirements

Juvenile chacoan tegus should be fed a diet high in protein in order to promote growth. This can be achieved by feeding mostly insects such as cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, mealworms, silkworms and snails. As they grow larger, you may be able to start feeding them pinkies and reptilinks. Eventually, you can feed them raw chicken and turkey, raw or boiled eggs (with the shell), fish and shrimp; as well as vegetables and fruits such as carrots, bell peppers, squash, pumpkins, dandelions, strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes, cherries, cactus pads and fruits. Chacoan tegu will need plenty of fruits and vegetables in their diet as adults, but it’s best to go easy on fruits which are naturally high in sugar. As a rule of thumb, aim at the following diet percentages:

Dietary requirements
Juvenile chacoan tegu (0-2 years)90% protein, 10% fruits and vegetables
Adult chacoan tegu (>2 years)60% protein, 30% vegetables, 10% fruits

Feeding schedule

How often you need to feed your tegu depends largely on its age. The younger your pet, the more often it needs to be fed. Fully grown adults only need to be fed a couple of times a week, although you may still decide to feed them daily (make sure you don’t over do it or you risk ending up with an obese lizard).

Feeding schedule
Hatchlings (0-6 months)Feed every day
Juveniles (7-12 months)Feed almost every day
Subadults (1-3 years)Feed every other day
Adults (>3 years)Feed twice a week

Foods to avoid

  • Wild caught insects
  • Processed meats
  • Canned food that is high in sodium or sugar
  • Avocados
  • Azalea flowers
  • Azalea leaves
  • Broccoli
  • Buttercup flowers
  • Eggplant
  • Hemp
  • Lettuce
  • Marijuana leaves or flowers
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Spinach

Feed in moderation:

  • Raw eggs – can lower vitamin B7 absorption
  • Banana – can lower calcium absorption
  • Raw fish containing thiaminase (such as anchovies, bass, bream, carp, goldfish, tuna) – can lower vitamin B1 absorption

Supplements

Calcium supplements are especially recommended for reptiles. Choose a calcium supplement that is free of phosphorus and vitamin D3 and dust your tegus’s food with it once to twice per week. Occasionally feeding whole prey (e.g. frozen mice, whole fish with bones) can also help provide calcium as opposed to ground meats. Finally, you may also gut load live insect preys with calcium and then feed them to your tegu. Once a week, you can sprinkle or mix a multivitamin with your tegu’s food as well. These recommendations are the same for all tegus regardless of age and species.


F.A.Q.s

Is Chacoan a species of tegu?

No, Chacoan tegus are not a distinct species. They are a color morph of the Salvator merianae, also known as the Argentine black and white tegu or Giant tegu. The term “chacoan” is generally used to describe their origin which is from Paraguay, and they are also called Paraguayan tegus. But they belong to the same species as the Argentine tegu and they are almost identical except for the color.

Do Chacoan tegus get larger than black and white tegu?

Both Chacoan and Argentine black and white tegu can grow up to 4.5 feet (for adult males). Some people claim that Chacoan tegus can get even bigger, up to 5 feet. The size of each individual ultimately depends on several factors such as diet and environment. Overall this species gets quite big, though, and larger than the Colombian tegu.


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