Argentine Tegu Diet | What Do Argentine Tegus Eat?

What do Argentine tegus eat?

Argentine Tegus are well known for their large size and their large appetites. If you are interested in owning a tegu it is crucial to understand what is the ideal Argentine tegu diet. 

The Argentine tegu diet might take some research at first but is pretty simple to understand. Simply put, you want to make sure that your tegu has a variety of foods in its diet to stay as healthy as possible.

What Do Argentine Tegus Eat?

The Argentine Tegu is an omnivore. Argentine tegus eat a variety of fruits, insects, eggs, and small animals.  Some of the most common foods they eat in captivity are:

  • Fruits and Veggies 
  • Crickets and Cockroaches
  • Earthworms
  • Cooked Eggs
  • Raw meats
  • Fish Fillets
  • Rodents and Chicks
  • Dog and cat food

Tegus enjoy a wide variety of foods in their meals. Who doesn’t? So it is important that they get a multitude of plant and animal foods in their diet every week. 

Argentine Tegus Need Variety In Their Diets

In the wild, Black and White Tegus eat a lot of different foods, basically whatever they can find. That may be fallen fruit like mangos and papayas, or the various creepy crawlies that dwell in the dirt and beneath the leaf litter on the forest floor. 

They may even hunt a bit when they really need that protein to survive and may take young birds from the nest, though they usually prefer to steal the eggs. They don’t like to have to work too hard for the food so they definitely are more opportunistic feeders than outright predators.

This is good for those that choose to own an Argentine Tegu. Owning a reptile with a high prey drive would be a bit dangerous.

In captivity, these tegus are a bit pickier with their food choices, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Most of the time they will accept most fruits but one tegu might refuse some fruit while another goes crazy for the same fruit. 

Tegus have a lot of personality, even when it comes to food. It might take a bit of experimentation to find what fruits an Argentine tegu will accept. But, all in all, there are many things a tegu can eat.

Live Prey and Protein To Include In A Tegu Diet

Protein sources such as live prey and insects should constitute roughly 55-65 percent of an argentine black and white tegus diet.

When they are younger the majority of the food you will be feeding your argentine tegu is insects. You want to feed them insects that are not as large or larger than their skull.

Best Insects To Include In A Tegu Diet Include:

  • Crickets
  • Dubia Roaches
  • Meal Worms
  • Earth Worms
  • Super Worms
  • Wax Worms
  • Silk Worms
  • Snails
  • Soldier Fly Larva
  • Hornworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Locust

* Note: Tegus should only be fed captive-raised insects and should never ever be fed wild insects.

Live And Previously Frozen Prey For Argentine Tegu Diet

  • Mice of all ages depending on tegu size ( this would include pinkies)
  • Rats
  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Baby Chicks
  • Quail Chicks
  • Baby Rabbits ( Kits)

* Note: Tegus should only be fed captive-raised prey and should never ever be fed wild prey.

Other Protein Sources For Argentine Tegus

When it comes to the ultimate health and best diet practices whole prey is often superior. This is because it typically contains more nutrients such as calcium which is essential for the long-term health of a tegu.

That said, there are some other protein sources that you can add to your tegus diet, however, whole prey is typically ideal.

  • Rabbit Meat
  • Ground Chicken Or Turkey
  • Venison
  • Lamb
  • Beef In Small Amounts
  • Beef Heart
  • Shrimp
  • Crawfish
  • Soft Boiled Or Scrambled Egg ( Don’t cook in oil )
  • Fresh Fish That Is Low In Mercury

Best Vegetables And Fruits For An Argentine Tegu Diet

When it comes to fruits and vegetables they should constitute roughly 40 percent of the tegus diet. That said, only about 10 percent of a tegus diet should come in the form of fruit.

Tegus can become overweight if not properly fed or if they do not get enough exercise. So you want to avoid too much sugar and high amounts of fat in your tegus diet. 

Best Vegetable Sources To Include In A Tegu Diet

  • Squash Including Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, yellow squash Ect
  • Bell Peppers
  • Parsnips
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Alfalfa
  • Green Beans
  • Snap Peas
  • Leeks
  • Mustard Greens
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Bok Choy ( In Moderate Amounts )
  • Asparagus ( In Moderate Amounts )
  • Yams And Sweet Potato ( In Moderate Amounts )

Veggies To Completely Avoid Feeding Your Tegu

Some vegetables can be either not beneficial or even harmful to your Argentine black and white tegu. Though this is not a complete list, here are some veggies you do not want to feed your tegu.

  • Lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Swiss Chard

Best Fruit Choices On An Argentine Tegu Diet

Fruit can make a great additional treat for your tegu. That said, it should only constitute roughly 10 percent of the Argentine black and white tegus diet.

Tegus are known to gain too much fat from improper dieting and low exercise. So too much fruit and high-fat foods should be limited. Fruit is however nutritious so it should constitute some of a tegu diet.

  • Blackberries
  • Blue Berries
  • Raspberries
  • Melons such as cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Mangos
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries ( In Moderate Amounts )

* Note: You should always avoid feeding your tegu fruit with the seeds still in it.

Fruits That You Should Avoid Feeding Your Tegu

  • Rhubarb
  • All Citrus Fruit

Can Tegus Really Eat Dog And Cat Food?

Some varieties of dog and cat food can actually be rotated into your Argentine tegu diet. That said, you certainly can not get away with only feeding a tegu dog food like you would a pet dog.

Tegus need a whole foods diet that is rich in nutrition. Some dog and cat foods are better than others.

You certainly would not want to choose just any dog or cat food for your tegu. Likewise, I am sure many brands would contain ingredients that are not ideal for an Argentine tegu.

Foods with grains for example would not be a great fit for a tegu diet. Some brands would also contain harmful foods such as avocado in their kibble.

So even though some people choose to fit dog and cat food into their tegus diet, I would not recommend doing so unless you thoroughly research the food.

Make sure it does not contain harmful ingredients and is safe for your tegu. It can be done but do your research first.

Vitamins And Supplements For Tegus

In addition to their normal meals, Tegus need to have vitamin and mineral supplementation in their diet. Supplementing your Tegu with the right added nutrients isn’t as complicated as one might think. They really only require two different supplements.

  • Calcium Powder For Tegus: Argentine Black and White Tegus that are under 1 year in age need to have their food dusted with a quality calcium powder 3 to 4 days a week. 

Because the food that Tegus enjoy the most, insects, crustaceans, and meat, contain high levels of phosphorus, they need to have a lot of calcium in their diets in order to process and metabolize all of that phosphorus.

Without supplementation, they can succumb to a few health problems related to the high levels of phosphorus in their diets.

Adult Tegus that are eating more whole prey items require less supplementation, about 1 to 2 times a week with calcium. 

  • Multivitamins For Tegus: Black and White Tegus need additional Carotene supplements as well. So, they need a multivitamin with that specific ingredient. Juveniles should get this multivitamin supplement added to their food once a week, whereas adults should receive supplementation once per month. This supplement can come in powders, sprays, and liquids. Additionally, some foods, like freeze-dried insects can contain added mineral nutrients by the manufacturer. 

See, that wasn’t too bad now, was it. They really only need two different supplements to maintain their best level of health.

The road to finding the best supplements is fraught with poor quality and filler ingredients. It is important for the health and well-being of your reptile that you use supplements with the highest quality ingredients.

How Often Should You Feed An Argentine Tegu

As is usual with reptiles, they don’t need to eat quite as often as most of the pets we are used to. They also require more or less feeding depending on their age.

Adult tegus need to eat about every two to four days whereas a juvenile Tegu will need to eat a bit more, feeding every other day. Juveniles will feed like this up until about three years of age, or when they have reached maturity which takes about three years on average.

Hatchlings need to eat frequently, as in every day. Also, while they are still considered hatchlings, and much smaller than their adult counterparts, they will need a different diet.

The easiest items are crickets and small roaches along with earthworms.  When they are large enough to accept them, they can also be fed pinkies, which are baby mice.

Once they are large enough to take most foods, you can begin to experiment with fruits and veggies as well

How To Feed An Argentine Black And White Tegu

Feeding time is really the only time that an Argentine Black and White Tegu might show some bad behavior. Docile as they are, they can be a bit testy when it comes to protecting their food.

So, there are some important things to keep in mind when feeding a large lizard such as the Black and White Tegu. 

  • Let Them Eat In Peace: It is best to have them eat in their enclosure or someplace where they feel safe and no other humans or animals in the home are going to interrupt them while they eat. A Tegu protecting their food can become hostile and bite those that get too close. Even the most mild-mannered Tegus can show his behavior during mealtime. So, let them eat in peace.
  • Don’t Feed Tegus By Hand: It is best practice for your Tegu to eat in their safe space and it is easiest to feed them by placing their food on a plate or some other flat surface that allows them easy access to their meal. Never introduce food by hand. 

The Argentine Tegus bite can be up to 1000 newtons in force which is comparable to a dog bite. You don’t want them to accidentally bite your fingers when trying to feed them. This is especially important when giving your Tegu live or dead whole prey. 

Argentine Tegu Diet Summary

Tegus are omnivores and eat a variety of prey, vegetables, and fruits. The Argentine black and white tegu diet should consist of roughly 55-65% protein sources such as insects, rodents, chicks, and other prey. 40 % or so should consist of vegetables and only about 10% should be dedicated to fruits.

The Argentine Black And White Tegu is a fairly easy reptile to care for and they give a lot back as pets. They have a lot of personality and can show a lot of affection for the people they love, which is unique among reptiles.

So, feed them well and give them the vitamins and minerals they need. Then your reptile and human relationship should flourish.

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