Tegu lizards are omnivore and opportunistic eaters that will eat just about anything you throw at them, but you need to make sure that you offer them a balanced diet in order to prevent obesity and other health complication.
In the wild, tegu diet consists mostly of insects, other reptiles, small rodents and fruits; although there are some differences in feeding between Argentine black and white tegus, Red tegus, and Colombian tegus. The latter is in fact considered almost carnivore, with only 10% of its diet consisting of fruits and vegetables.
As a tegu owner, you need to take into account your tegu’s species and age in order to provide adequate amounts of protein and nutrients. The good news is, because tegus aren’t picky eaters, it is relatively easy to feed them, just make sure not to overdo it or you are gonna end up with an obese lizard pet and potential health issues.
|Juvenile tegus (0-2 years)||90% protein||10% fruits and vegetables|
|Adult Colombian tegu||90% protein||10% fruits and vegetables|
|Adult Argentine tegu Adult Red tegu||60% protein||30% vegetables, 10% fruits|
All juvenile tegus regardless of species will require high amounts of protein in order to sustain their quick growth. At this stage it is better to provide whole prey in the form of insects (dubia roaches, crickets and mealworms), dusted or gut-loaded with calcium powder twice a week. You should not feed whole prey larger than the lizard’s mouth, but when your tegu is big enough you can start feeding them pinkies (or reptilink if you prefer). Some owners decide to skip feeding insects and whole prey whole together and rely on ground chicken and turkey, this is however not recommended because of a higher risk of nutrient deficiency, especially calcium. Providing a differentiated diet is always the best choice for your tegu’s health.
As far as fruits and vegetables are concerned, you can feed your tegu nearly anything in small amounts. It is best to limit fruits that are very high in sugar such as bananas, pears and apples. Citrus and avocados should also be avoided.
The diet of an adult Colombian tegu does not differ much from that of juvenile tegus, although your pet’s mouth will now be much larger and able to accommodate any kind of meat from whole mice and rats to steaks and burgers. At this stage your tegu may become less interest in insects so you will have to transition to meat, fish and seafood. You can also feed eggs (whether raw or cooked) together with their shell for an added calcium boost.
Argentine tegu and Red tegu
Compared to the Colombian tegu, both Argentine black and white tegus and Red tegus adopt a much more diversified diet as adults. In the wild, they are observed munching on both animal and plant food sources in nearly equal amounts. Because of this, it is generally recommended feeding around 60% of your pet’s diet in the form of proteins, 30% in the forms of vegetables, and 10% in the form of fruits.
Feeding chart and 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).
|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 for tegu
As already mentioned, tegus will eat just about anything, with few exceptions. Below, the best foods you can feed your tegu:
Snails (including shell)
|Other whole prey|
Feeder mice and rats
Gerbils, hamsters and other small rodents
Feeder frogs and toads
Chicks and quail hatchlings
|Meat and poultry|
Raw poultry (chicken, turkey, fowl, quail)
Raw meat (in moderation – beef, pork, lamb, venison)
Organ meats (heart, liver, gizzards)
Raw or cooked eggs (chicken, quail)
|Fish and seafood|
Raw fish fillets
Carrots and carrot greens
Prickly pear cactus (pods and fruits)
Foods to avoid
- Wild caught insects
- Processed meats
- Canned food that is high in sodium or sugar
- Azalea flowers
- Azalea leaves
- Buttercup flowers
- Marijuana leaves or flowers
Feed in moderation:
- Raw eggs – can lower vitamin B7 absorption in large amounts (see: tegu diet and eggs)
- Raw fish containing thiaminase (such as anchovies, bass, bream, carp, goldfish, tuna) – can lower vitamin B1 absorption in large amounts
- Veggies that are low in nutrients like lettuce leaves, celery and cucumber (see: best veggies for tegus)
- Citrus and highly acidic fruits like tomatoes
- Some fruits like apples, pears and bananas (see: best fruits for tegu)
Feeding Guide By Age
All tegus regardless of species are carnivorous (insectivorous in the wild) as hatchlings, so fruit and vegetables are unnecessary and since they are still growing at such a fast rate, and it is okay to feed hatchlings as much as they will eat, even multiple times a day. Insects and small rodents such as crickets, cockroaches, meal worms, wax worms, silk worms, butter worms are all recommended. Pinky mice, chicken or turkey meat, fish and cooked poultry eggs can also be offered if small enough to be swallowed.
At yearlings, tegus are pretty large and although they can still be fed on insects, they may prefer larger preys. Fruits and vegetables are now on offer and since they are still growing at such a fast rate, it is okay to feed yearlings as much as they will eat. Chicken or turkey meat, fish, cooked poultry eggs, small rats and mice, berries, melons, and dark leafy greens are all recommended.
As adults there is not much room for growth and so the tegus diet needs to be regulated more in order to prevent obesity. One substantial meal every other day should be enough. Chicken or turkey meat, cooked poultry eggs, medium rats, adult mice, fresh fish, day old chicks, berries, grapes, tomatoes, melons, apples, bananas, and dark leafy greens are all recommended.
Can tegus eat cooked meat?
Tegus can eat cooked meat, but it is not as good for them as raw meat. The cooking process denatures protein in the meat and makes it lose much of its nutritional value. It is perfectly safe and ideal to only feed tegu lizards raw meat.
Can tegus eat avocado?
No. Unlike other fruits, avocado are mostly made of fat, and it is very high in oxalic acid which can lead to metabolic bone disease. Smaller lizards such as bearded dragons are known to potentially die a few hours after eating avocado, so you do not want to risk poisoning your tegu.
Can tegus eat citrus?
Citrus should not be fed to tegus regularly because it may lead to upset stomachs and other issues. Lemons, limes and similar fruits are some of the most acidic foods out there and should be avoided. It is okay however to feed less acidic fruits like oranges and clementines in small quantities as they are a great source of vitamin C.
Can tegus eat cucumber?
Tegus can eat cucumber, but it is one of the least nutritious vegetables you can feed them. Because cucumbers are made almost entirely of water, there is no value in feeding a tegu cucumbers when they can get hydrated by just drinking water. Get them some more vitamins and nutrients from other sources.
Can tegus eat dairy?
Reptiles cannot digest dairy. Do not feed milk or cheese to your tegu as it will end likely end up with an upset stomach and cleaning up after them will be very unpleasant for both of you.
Can tegus eat dragon fruits?
Dragon fruit is nutritious, but it tends to be acidic and high in phosphorus, so it’s best to feed it to your tegu sporadically. Peel and cut the dragon fruit into pieces before serving it to your tegu.
Can tegus eat garlic?
Garlic is not good for tegus and should be avoided, as it contains a lot of phosphorus and acidic content.
Can tegus eat grapes?
Tegus can eat all kinds of grapes, although seedless varieties should be preferred. Concord grapes are high in oxalates and somewhat acidic, so it’s best to feed in moderation. If you are a variety of grape with seeds in it, it is best to halve the grapes and remove the seeds before serving, as fruit seeds may increase the risk of impaction.
Can tegus eat kale?
Kale is safe for tegus in moderation and one of the most highly nutritious vegetables you can feed them.
Can tegus eat lettuce?
Like cucumbers, lettuce leaves are made mainly of water and not very nutritious. As a rule of thumb, the lighter green the color of the lettuce, the least nutritious it is, which is why dark leafy greens are considered healthier than iceberg lettuce. Dark colored lettuce like lamb’s lettuce and purple colored lettuces like radicchio can be fed as a treat, but they are still rather poor in nutritional value. Kale is a better alternative in moderation.
Can tegus eat kiwi?
Tegus can eat kiwi, including peel and seeds. It’s very nutritious and healthy for them.
Can tegus eat mushrooms?
There is an undergoing debate whether it’s okay to feed mushrooms to tegu. Technically, Argentine tegus have been observed having fungivory tendencies in the wild, and some pet owners report having fed common portobello mushrooms to their tegus without any issues. Mushrooms are however very high in phosphorus and that can lead to impaired calcium absorption and ultimately cause metabolic bone disease in large quantities. Because of this, mushrooms are generally not recommended for reptiles, and even considered toxic for some smaller species such as bearded dragons. Given that tegus are much larger in size and need a more diversified diet, they are less likely to experience problems, but mushroom consumption should still be kept to a minimum.
Can tegus eat pumpkin?
You can feed pumpkin and any kind of squash to your tegu in moderation. Make sure to cut it into pieces and remove and seeds. You may want to remove the peel as well if it’s very thick.
Can tegus eat spinach?
Spinach is not healthy for tegu lizards and it is best to feed it very occasionally or avoid feeding it altogether. Despite being a nutritious dark leaf green, spinach is loaded with oxalates – which can seriously harm or even kill your lizard in high amounts.
Can tegus eat sunflower seeds?
Do not feed sunflower seeds (or any kind of shelled seeds) to tegus. Their digestive tract is not made to digest the shells which may accumulate and potentially cause impaction, which is a really serious and dangerous health condition which require surgery and may even cause death.
Can tegus eat tomatoes?
Tomatoes are highly acidic so it is best to feed them to your tegu only sporadically.
PetsWithScales.com is an informational website about big lizard pet care. We collect and provide information from different sources across the web on how to keep and care for reptiles as pets. The species we mainly deal with are tegus, monitor lizards, skinks and geckos. Our aim is to provide high quality information to help pet owners make better, more informed decisions about their animal’s diets, health and life.