Gold Tegu care sheet (Tupinambis Teguixin) By: Mike Trembath
Gold Tegu’s are found within central south America, with correct care in captivity they can live for up to 15 years or more. They are the smallest species of Tegu, they generally max out at 3-3.5 ft (males being bigger than females) and are usually light bodied. They are agile and very powerful. They are also referred as the common Tegu, Colombian Tegu and Colombian black and gold Tegu.
Columbian tegu’s come from a much hotter climate than their Argentine cousins, so unlike the Argentines they do not hibernate over the winter. They may go into a mild brumation. For babies I would suggest a temperature of around 110f for basking temperatures, this should get the hot side to around 95f. Tegu’s should always have somewhere to cool down, so the cool side of the enclosure should be from 75-80f. The only thing I would change for adults is the basking temperature, I have mine at around 130f, anything from 120-135f is perfectly fine. To reach these temperatures I use par38’s a row of 2 50 w’s from a height of around 12” would heat it nicely. For a smaller enclosure 1 80w will do the trick.
UVB is believed to be essential for Tegu’s of all kind! It prevents metabolic bone disease and helps bone growth. The d3 produced by the uvb lights help metabolise calcium which is crucial for correct growth. The choice of what UVB light you use is entirely up to you, unless it’s a low% or coil. I highly recommend the arcadia t5 6% on a reflector. They only need changing once a year, they are much more powerful than the t8’s too. Some keepers prefer to use and Mercury vapor bulbs like powersun, bright sun (believed to be the best M.V. and solar glo. Most M.V.B’s need changing once a year unless they pop. For when it’s nice and sunny outside I recommend building a mesh outdoor enclosure to use for a certain period of time during the day (only 1 or 2 hours) so that they can get natural uv. This is very nourishing for them and its on of the best things you can do for them.
In the wild Tegu’s live in burrows, therefore you should provide a deep, moist, burrowing substrate. My favorite is a sand soil mix at about a 40% sand-60% soil on half the enclosure then orchid bark on the other half. For adult you would need at least 8-12 inches to allow them to dig around. I find this substrate also holds humidity very well. Some keepers have a preference like cypress mulch, this also works well.
Gold Tegu’s are carnivorous, though a little bit of fruit wont harm as a treat unless it’s highly acidic. I like to use a huge variety of foods, this includes: fish, minced turkey, lean diced beef, quail egg (raw), hard-boiled egg, mice, chicks, rats, locust, dubia roaches, morio worms, young giant African land snails (CB). Foods such as: earthworms (night crawlers), quail, other species of roaches such as red runners are all OK to feed. Young tegu’s may accept crickets. All inverts should be dusted with calcium (no d3, using d3 calcium too much can lead to a d3 overdose which can be fatal!) and gutloaded before feeding. A tegu should be made to work for their food, worms tend to burrow down so that means the tegu goes digging after them, this prevents them from getting bored. They also need the exercise and chasing their food helps.
Tegu’s love water, golds are thought to be semi-aquatic. A deep and large water bowl is a must in my opinion. The water should be changed daily (as tegu’s like to do their ‘business’ in the water) and should be deep enough to allow them to submerge their entire body. Bathing them is also a great idea as it allows them to swim around. It also helps with humidity and shedding.
Enclosure size and material
For a lizard that can reach 3.5ft I would not recommend a smaller enclosure than a 6ftx3ft. With the water bowl and basking area there really isn’t as much space as you think there would be. A preferred size is 8x3 or 8x4. People have successfully kept them in 5x2’s or 6x2’s with lots of ‘free roaming’ time but I would still go bigger. As long as they get the correct exercise and the temps are fine (correct thermal gradient). Baby’s can be started off in 4x2’s but it wont last them longer than a year. Given the chance tegu’s will climb but a arboreal enclosure is not a must. With a minimum of 8 inches of substrate you’ll need at least a 2ft tall enclosure (preferably higher).
I would suggest building your enclosure around a frame and out of exterior wood. I use OSB3, its cheap, strong, durable, doesn’t look nice but once you seal and paint it it’ll look just as nice as other wood enclosure. For sealant I would use G4 pond sealant 2 coats should work. It is completely waterproof when set.
Gold/Columbian tegu’s are know to be aggressive but I think that’s mainly down to the owners techniques. Most will not be as ‘tame’ as argentines but they will tolerate handling. You first have to build trust and not rush things, tegu’s are highly intelligent and take time and patients to tame down. Be prepared for maybe a couple of bites and a fair few tail whips. A young tegu shouldn't hurt so much, but believe me, a bite from an adult will!
Under the basking light humidity wont be very high (around 20-30%) but in the cool end it needs to be around 60-80%, you can achieve this by using the correct substrate and correct depth. Spraying/misting the enclosure once or twice a day will help too.
Written By: Mike Trembath