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Tegu Enclosure Requirements & Caging Setup

The most important thing to worry about when caring for a tegu lizard is to make sure it’s housed in an adequate environment. Tegus have specific requirements when it comes to enclosure size, lighting and heating, substrate and humidity; you will need to ensure that you provide your pet with all it needs in order to thrive and be happy.

Enclosure Size

Tegus are very large reptiles that require a lot of room where they can wander around and burrow. 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. Colombian tegus and Blue tegus generally do not grow larger than 3-3.5 feet in size and a minimum enclosure size of 6x3x3 may suffice. For larger Argentine black and white tegus, Red tegus and Chacoan tegus an enclosure of 8x4x4 or more is needed. Male tegus grow larger than females and hence require more space.

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.

Heating

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 110°F-130°F and another cooler area inside the cage with temperatures between 75°F and 85°F. You can use heat lamps, heat mats and basking stones to reach the ideal temperatures within the enclosure.

Basking tempCool down tempNight temp
110-130°F (43-54°C)75-85°F(24-29°C)65-75°F(18C-23°C)
Temperature requirements

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.

Humidity

Tegus require a high level of humidity, around 50-80% for Agentine and Colombian tegus, and 70-90% for Red tegus. 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.


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