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Argentinian Black and White Tegus



Argentinian black and white tegus are sometime simply called black and white tegus, although this can lead to confusion as there is also a Columbian black and white tegu (the Columbian is similar but smaller and less docile). Sometimes they are also called giant tegus, or big headed tegus. The scientific name is Tupinambis merianae.

Life Span:

The estimated life span of an Argentinian black and white tegu is about 10-12 years in captivity.

Size and Appearance:

The Argentinian black and white tegu can reach an adult size of 4 feet or even longer (including the tail). They have a fairly distinctive pattern of white and black dots and stripes over the entire body.


Despite its large size, the Argentinian black and white tegu enjoys a reputation as being quite docile and tame (much more so than other tegus). This is especially true of those that are handled regularly from a young age.

Housing Argentinian Black and White Tegus:

Due to their large size, Argentinian black and white tegus need a large secure enclosure. Juveniles can be kept in a large aquarium with a locking lid, but adults will need a larger specialty or custom built cage. For adults, plan on at least 6 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall (tall cages not necessary for tegus). A hide should be provided at either end of the temperature gradient, and keeping the hide slightly damp can help with shedding.


Tegus like to burrow, and need a substrate that is absorbent and easy to clean. Cypress mulch, orchid bark or eucalyptus mulch are the preferred substrates, although some people prefer the convenience of several layers of paper (although this prevents the natural instinct to dig). Avoid wood chips, corn cob or gravel due to the risk of ingestion. Indoor/outdoor carpeting is likely to get shredded in digging attempts and the stray threads can pose a risk of entangling nails/toes.

Light and Heat:

Argentinian black and white tegus are diurnal and need exposure to full spectrum UVA and UVB lighting. While it is true that tegus can tolerate cooler temperatures, for proper health and digestion, daytime temperatures should be maintained at 80-85 F (27-30 C) with a basking spot at 100-110 F (38-43 C). Cooler nightime temperatures are fine. Use lamps and heat mats, and avoid hot rocks. For more on providing the proper lamps and heat, see "Reptile Light and Heat."

Feeding Argentinian Black and White Tegus:

Juvenile tegus can be fed a diet largely composed of crickets (dusted with a calcium/vitamin supplement) along with some other feeder insects for variety. As they get older the can be fed pinky mice, and eventually adult mice (frozen, prekilled). Adult argentinian black and white tegus can have a variety of fruits and vegetables added to their diet. Canned dog food and eggs can also be offered as an occasional supplement. Feed in a bowl or with tongs to prevent accidentally getting bitten.


Argentinian black and white tegus enjoy soaking, so provide a large shallow water dish. Provide fresh water frequently.
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