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Blue Tegu Facts and Information

The Blue Tegu is the ultimate lizard, known for its gentleness, friendly personality, and personal bonds. They’re your mellow, long-term pal.

Tegus are large, intelligent reptiles who enjoy close bonds with their owners. They make excellent long-term companions and are known for their mellow temperaments as adults. They are often compared to dogs for their strong loyalty, free-roaming tendencies and ability to be housetrained.

In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about Blue Tegu care, so you can responsibly decide if you are up to the challenge. First, I will mention their native environment and physical characteristics. Once that’s covered, I’ll dive into their husbandry requirements, including cage dimensions. Next, we will cover UVB lighting, heating expectations, and humidity gradients to keep your Tegu healthy and thriving. Then, I will discuss what to feed your new reptile, and what their personalities are like. In the last few paragraphs, I’ll summarize everything to give you a clear picture of the care that your Tegu will require in captivity.

Native Environment

The Blue Tegu is thought to be a mutation from the Black and White Argentine Tegu, but this is a debated topic amongst the herpetological community. Blue Tegus are not studied in the wild and most of the data come from the reptile keeping community. As a result, this article will draw on information from the Black and White Tegu as well as from the Blue Tegu. Tegus in general were only introduced to the pet trade in 1989 but are picking up in popularity in the last decade or so.

One of the many places around the world where Tegus thrive.

Tegus can be found all over the world and live in a variety of ecosystems. Their native habitat is in South America, where they thrive in the tropical heat. They also enjoy woodlands, swamps, fields, savannahs, and semi-desert habitats. It should be noted that the pet trade has transplanted Tegus all over. They have become invasive in many areas of the world, destroying the local ecosystems. They are hungry scavengers and will eat the eggs of native animals, destroying the natural balance in any given area. This is why it’s crucial to extensively research Tegus and their care before purchasing them. If you feel as though you can not care for a lizard of this size, then please turn them over to your local humane society, or contact Emerald Scales, who will help with rehoming. Do not release your reptile into the wild. It will destroy the local wildlife for generations to come, as these hardy predators breed quickly and will overrun the natural ecosystem.

Physical Characteristics

The Blue Tegu is known for having a variation of blue, white, and black coloring that depends on the morph. The full coloring of this breed will not be reached until sexual maturity at 18 months. They can even be full white or platinum. More Albino Tegus are being bred from the Blue Tegu lineage than any other morph. Blue Tegus are also smaller than the other Tegu breeds, usually maxing out at 3 to 4 feet in length. These muscular reptiles are full-bodied and proportionate for their size. They also have smoother skin than some of the other Tegu morphs, who have a pebbly skin surface. They can live up to 20 years in captivity and are considered to be hardy companions with few health complications if their husbandry is correct.

Tegus are heavy-bodied reptiles with a long, broad tail that’s equal to the length of their body. Their powerful tails can be used to help anchor their body when exploring or to ward off potential enemies. They have been known to whip their tails like clubs when threatened. These terrestrial lizards are powerful reptiles with stout bodies, long tails, burly arms, and sharp claws. They have a beefy, long forked tongue that they use to smell the air around them. The males will have large pouches underneath their jaws called jowls. Jowls can take up to 4 years to fully develop and should be monitored as a way to indicate obesity, which captive Tegus are prone to.

These fast-growing reptiles will reach 75% of their adult size when they are 1 year old. Females usually stop growing at 2.5 feet, while males can reach up to 4 feet in length. These are hefty lizards that will reach a weight of 7 to 20 pounds when fully grown. It should be noted that these are robust, large reptiles that should be thoroughly researched before being brought into your home. Other large reptiles have thinner bodies that make them easier to care for and feed.

Tegus have large personalities and even larger bodies. These reptiles will need to be well trained and socialized frequently to avoid behavior issues from developing.

Husbandry Basics

Keep in mind that when you bring your Tegu home, they will be approximately 5 inches in length, but will grow rapidly. The Blue Tegu will reach 2 feet within their first year. While you can get a smaller cage upfront, you should start to plan that larger, permanent enclosure immediately.

The small reptile you bring home will not stay that size for more than a few months and it can take a while to set up a tank to properly suit the needs of your new family member! You should start your new Tegu out in a tank that is at least 36 inches long by 24 inches wide by 24 inches tall. This should get you through the first 9 months of their life before it’s time for an upgrade.

When you upgrade to the final vivarium, it’s recommended that your adult Tegu be kept in an enclosure that is at least 8 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet, although larger is always recommended. A good rule of thumb is to have the length of the enclosure be at least one and a half times the length of your Tegu, including the tail. The larger the cage can be, the better it is for the mental and physical health of your reptile. This will almost certainly need to be a custom-built cage, so it is important to keep that in mind when purchasing your Tegu. Enclosures of this size can not be purchased at the local pet store.

You can also have your Tegu roam out of its cage for monitored playtime, or even have a pack and play set up for it to explore. These intelligent giants need frequent stimulation and it is recommended that their enclosures reflect their particular needs.

Tegus are mainly terrestrial but will climb when given the opportunity to do so. Vertical space is not as important as horizontal space, but sturdy branches and ledges should still be included in the tank to provide adequate stimulation and thermoregulation.

egus are strong and will test the fortitude of their enclosure. They have strong limbs, a beefy tail, lots of energy, and thick claws. This means that they will try to scratch or burrow out of their enclosure. A strong wooden vivarium is always recommended.

In addition, there should be multiple, large hide boxes available in different spots in the enclosure. This will make your Tegu more comfortable as it explores its vivarium.

Due to their sharp claws and muscular arms, these burrowing lizards must be given at least 12 to 24 inches of suitable substrate. Allowing your Tegu the opportunity to dig provides them with entertainment, exercise, and the ability to file down those sharp claws! This is an important natural behavior that should be recreated in their captive environment.

A good substrate aerates well so mold doesn’t develop but still holds the shape of the burrow for the Tegu. It is recommended that each reptile keeper experiment to find a mix they are comfortable with. Components should include organic topsoil, sphagnum moss, play sand, coconut shell, and leaf litter. The substrate should not be dusty when dry because it can cause respiratory problems for your reptile.

Never use sand, aspen shavings, potting soil, or any pine shavings, as these can be toxic to your reptile. Never lay anything on top of the substrate that is heavy, such as a basking rock. If your Tegu burrows underneath the heavy object, it may cause the burrow to cave in, crushing your lizard.

You will need to periodically spot-check the substrate for feces, and change out the substrate periodically to keep it clean.

You can tell in this picture how large the claws are on this burrowing species. This is why having a substrate is a crucial component of their captive environment.

Lighting and UVB

UVB and heat lights are important components of proper husbandry for Tegus. Like most lizards, Tegus will need a 12-hour day and night cycle with a strong UVB bulb. The UVB bulb should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours, so your reptile has a stable day and night cycle.

It is recommended that the UVB bulb covers ¾ of the length of the tank. Depending on the model, it is important to note that the bulb should be changed every 6 months to a year.

UVB light is crucial in preventing Metabolic Bone Disease, which causes malformation of bones due to the inability to process and absorb Vitamin D and Calcium. It can be prevented with proper UVB and vitamin dusting meals before consumption. MBD is hard to reverse, so I implore everyone to properly use UVB lighting as a crucial component of correct reptile husbandry.

Blue Tegus will enjoy a basking spot of 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the enclosure can be between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows your Tegu the ability to roam the enclosure and regulate its temperature.

There should be multiple thermometers and hygrometers set up throughout the enclosure to monitor the different levels of humidity and temperature. Some variance is fine, but levels should fall within the recommended gradient.

If your reptile is not warm enough, you may notice that he will seem sluggish, not want to eat, or will just hang out underneath the heat lamp all day. Reptiles that are too cold will not be able to digest their food and may become impacted.

If your reptile is too hot, you may notice that he is hiding all day in his hides, under his borrow or as far away from the heat lamp as possible.

If your humidity level is too low, your reptile will not shed correctly, and tail rot can develop.

If your humidity level is too high, serious respiratory infections can develop. Proper husbandry is critical to keeping your reptile safe, healthy, and displaying its natural behaviors in its captive environment.

If you notice your Tegu’s actions are deviating from their normal behavior, the first thing you should do is check the temperature and humidity gradient.

Tegus enjoy humidity levels between 60 to 80%. When a reptile needs humidity levels that are this high, a misting system is recommended. There are commercial ones available that can be found in pet stores, but they are prone to breaking and are often expensive. If you are handy, it can be fairly easy to hook up a water pump to a plastic hose, a water source, and a few nozzles to get the light misting needed to keep the humidity levels within the proper gradient.

You can also hand mist the enclosure, but be aware that you will have to do so almost every hour.

Another way to supplement the humidity is to provide humid hides, but they should not be a replacement for proper humidity control. Humid hides are hides that are packed with wet paper towels or sphagnum moss. This allows the reptile refuge when higher humidity levels are needed during shedding.

Diet

Blue Tegus are omnivores. They enjoy a diet mixed with plant and animal matter and are known for being hardy eaters.

Feeding a full-grown Tegu for 20 years is an expensive endeavor, and this ongoing cost should be carefully considered before a Tegu is purchased. You will be making a moderately sized meal for your lizard multiple times a week as they grow older. The portion size you feed your Tegu in one sitting should be the size of their skull. This prevents overeating and choking.

A varied diet must be offered to your reptile to ensure that it is receiving the dietary requirements it needs to thrive. For the first year of their life, you should feed your Tegu 90% protein and 10% vegetables with fruit as treats. As they grow older, you can feed your Tegu 60% protein, 30% vegetables, and 10% fruit.

Fruit is high in sugar and can contribute to obesity, a leading health complication for Tegus in captivity.

For proteins, your Tegu can have cooked fish, dubia roaches, shrimp, cooked eggs, chicks, ducklings, boiled organ meats, ground chicken, ground turkey, mice, or rats. Mice or rats should be captive-bred and thawed safely before consumption.

Insects are sufficient for young Tegus, but as they grow older, they will not be an adequate food source.

For vegetables, you can feed your Tegu peas, squash, figs, dandelions, carats, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, turnips, squash, and yam.

For fruits, your Tegu can munch on strawberries, raspberries, apples, kiwis, pears, pumpkins, papayas, mangos, apricots, bananas, grapes, and other fruit.

The following foods should be avoided at all costs as it harms the Tegu:

  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Buttercup flower
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Spinach

If you are unsure of what to feed your Tegu, you should research thoroughly before offering the new food.

Make sure that you are providing our Tegu with a large, fresh source of water daily. Your Tegu may want to submerge themselves in the water dish, so make sure that it is large enough for them to do so. This is particularly important when your Tegu is shedding. Large, shallow plastic tubs work great as water dishes.

Bacteria will build up quickly in the water dish, so you should be scrubbing it out weekly to prevent harmful bacterial growth from developing.

Personality

Tegus are incredibly intelligent and are known for having big personalities. At two years old, they go through a Teguberty phase, where they may act out as a way to show dominance. This is an important point in your Tegu’s life, and you should make sure that you maintain a close relationship.

Training will become crucial at this point. This phase will pass and your Tegu should become more docile. Tegus are exceptionally intelligent and like to form close bonds with their owners. The Tegu can be taught tricks, commands, and will learn to respond to their names after being trained right.

It is likely that they will follow their owners around the house, and want to spend more time outside of their enclosure than inside. It’s for this reason that they are sometimes compared to dogs. They are known for cuddling up on the couch, exploring all the corners of the house, and are fond of playing with dog or cat toys. This is a very interactive reptile and they make great companions for keepers who are looking for a close bond with a reptile.

Tegus and many other lizards are known for brumateing during the winter months. Brumation is a lesser form of hibernation, but for reptiles. During this time, your Tegu will fall into a deep sleep. Their heart and breathing rate will slow and they will stop eating and drinking. This is a natural behavior and it will vary depending on your reptile. Some reptiles will brumate deeper and for longer than others.

If your Tegu will brumate, it will begin to do so at around age two. Some will not undergo this phenomenon, some will partake for months and some for only a few weeks. It is unique to your particular reptile, but do not be alarmed if its behavior suddenly changes in the fall.

Don’t continuously disturb your reptile during this time, but you can periodically do wellness checks, wake them up to hydrate them, or offer food. You can also offer them warm water soaks to ensure that they stay hydrated and clean. They will naturally come out of brumation when their enclosure warms up in the Spring.

Final Thoughts

Tegus are robust reptiles who make excellent pets for intermediate to advanced reptile keepers. While their care requirements are not difficult, they are exceptionally intelligent and need plenty of stimulation and interaction to thrive in captivity. They will grow to be 4 feet in length and up to 20 pounds. This means that their enclosure needs to be at least 8 feet long by 4 feet wide. Many people will not have space for a vivarium of this size. These reptiles will live to be around twenty years old and are hardy eaters, making them a significant long-term commitment. These reptiles make outstanding pets but are only recommended for keepers who have the time and resources to dedicate to them.

Tegus need a large enclosure with about 2 feet of substrate to burrow in. They need a humidity of around 60-80%. These reptiles require a basking area that is 95-115 degrees, but the tank can be as low as 75 degrees. These omnivores eat a very varied diet of meat, insects, veggies, and fruits as treats. They are hefty eaters and hardy reptiles in general with few health complications.

Tegus are intelligent, interactive large lizards that would make an excellent companion for someone looking for a more meaningful bond with a reptile. Expect these reptiles to spend a lot of their time outside of their enclosure. If you have the time and energy to foster a strong relationship with these reptiles, they will reward you with many years of close companionship.