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Black and White Tegu Care

Black and White Tegu Care

Black and White Tegu (Tupinambis merianae)

also known as the Argentine giant tegu.

Popularity: Make good lizard pets because of moderate size, attractive appearance, and cat-like demeanor. They are one of the most intelligent reptiles.

Origin: Argentina, South America

Native habitat: Forest-edge savannahs and adjacent rain forests

Size: 3 to 4.5 feet

Lifespan: 15+ years

Appearance: Hatchlings have a yellow complexion with black markings. The yellow fades to white within months. Adult males are considerably larger than females. They have beaded skin and linear stripes running the length of their bodies.

Diet: Omnivorous

Activities: Terrestrial, spending large amounts of time in deep burrows to hide from the elements.

Misc characteristics: Vary active when not in brumation. Owners say Tegus act as if they were a cat or dog. Some black and white tegus can be bred with the red tegu and blue tegu.



Provide a single adult male with an enclosure that is at least 6 feet by 2 feet: 6 feet by 3 or 4 feet for pairs. The enclosure should be secure and well ventilated. Provide deep substrate to allow for burrowing. Bark or mulch type beddings are best, and orchid bark, cypress mulch, and coconut husk are all acceptable. Provide a few hide spots such as half logs or cork bark slabs.

Temperature and Light

Keep ambient temperatures within the cage between 80 and 90 degrees F. during the day — 5 to 10 degrees cooler at night is normal. Provide a basking area of 95 to 100 degrees. You can use under tank heat pads to provide heat, as well as standard and nocturnal (red) heat bulbs, and ceramic heat emitters. Use a thermometer to ensure the temperatures are right. Provide full spectrum UV with standard fluorescent UV bulbs or a self-ballasted mercury vapor bulb. The latter can double as a source of heat and ultraviolet light.


Keep humidity levels between 60 and 80 percent. You can do this by using a humidity promoting substrate (like peat moss) and regular misting of the enclosure. You can also use humid hides. To do this, stuff one or two of your Tegu’s favorite hides with damp sphagnum moss and keeping it a little damper than the rest of the substrate. Be sure to provide them with a large, sturdy water bowl that is big enough for the reptile to submerge itself.


Feed your Tegus appropriately sized insects crickets, mealworms, waxworms, roaches, and high calcium fruits. If the lizard won’t eat the fruit, you can stop offering it. It may also eat rodents, but offer them in moderation. Regular feeding is necessary, but the amount and how often will depend on your Tegu. It should have a filled-out appearance when its belly is full. Provide a calcium and vitamin supplement.

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