Argentine black and white tegus have become increasingly popular over the years, especially as more owners join the reptile niche. They’re often lauded as ideal pets due to their docile temperament and distinctive personalities. But do Argentine tegus really make good pets?
Argentine tegus make good pets but are not the best option for beginners. Though they are my top pick for a large lizard for an experienced owner they are simply too large for a first-time owner.
Like any animal, they thrive best in environments that cater to their unique needs. Tegus require specific diets and care, as well as thorough socialization.
Prospective owners should research tegus before adoption or purchase so that they’re fully aware of these needs. However, for the right owner tegus make great pets and are amazing reptiles.
Tegus Make Good Pets For The Right Owner
Tegu lizards certainly make an impression wherever they go. As if their striking black and white or red coloration weren’t enough to grab interest, their size, lifespan, and temperament also make them good pets.
- Size –Males can grow up to 5 feet (a whopping 60 inches) and 20 Ibs. Females are typically smaller and only grow up to 3.5 feet (42 inches) and 15 Ibs.
- Lifespan – Like many reptiles, tegus are a long-term commitment. Tegus can live up to 20 years in captivity, provided they are properly cared for.
- Temperament – Tegus are known for their docile temperament. When purchased young and properly socialized, tegus can even bond with their owner. However, this takes extensive handling and patience.
It’s important to remember that, just like people, tegus are individuals and have their own personalities. Whereas one may tolerate and even enjoy being handled, another may not prefer it.
Make sure to monitor your tegu and be sensitive to their preferences.
Are Tegus Good Beginner Pets?
Some of the things that make Tegus so attractive are the same things that can make them bad choices for some people. The main thing to consider is just how large Argentine tegus get.
Tegus need a very large enclosure. Though they are typically not as aggressive as many other lizards of similar size they can still be dangerous. This is especially true if they are not properly socialized.
Of course, this is also true with many other pets as well. Though maybe tamer than tegus, pets like dogs also need to be socialized. After all, you wouldn’t simply leave a dog in a kennel for its whole life and expect it to be properly trained, would you?
If you are a first-time reptile owner I would probably suggest that you do not start with a tegu. Yes, tegus make great pets but only if properly cared for.
You won’t know how good you are with reptiles until you try. That said, the last thing you want to find out is that you are a lousy reptile owner who owns a 5-foot-long lizard.
Are Tegus Good Pets For Kids?
A tegu is not the first lizard I would recommend for a kid. Tegus are simply too big of lizards for me to recommend for kids.
Tegus can get along well with older kids and even make good pets — can being the operative keyword here. The most important thing to consider is the sheer size of an Argentine tegu. Before Purchasing here are several important factors to consider:
- Age – If your children are young (and therefore likely inexperienced), this is not the right pet to get them. Kids aren’t usually able to provide the extensive care tegus require.
- Experience – Tegus aren’t appropriate for inexperienced kids or adults. But if your family is familiar with reptiles and prepared for the responsibility, then it may be a good fit.
- Temperament – If your child is prone to temper tantrums or shows of aggression, don’t get a tegu. Like most animals, they don’t like loud noises or behavior they might interpret as a threat.
Personally, I think it would be wiser to go with something like a bearded dragon or blue-tongued skink instead of a tegu for kids.
Because of their size, Tegus can be dangerous for kids. If properly handled this probably will not be a problem but I think it is wise to start with something smaller.
Are Argentine Tegus Good With Other Pets?
Just like with kids, you should consider the age and temperament of your current pets before bringing an Argentine black and white tegu into the house. Remember to ask yourself these questions:
- How will my pets react to a tegu? Will they be frightened, aggressive, want to play, etc.?
- Could this tegu view any of my current pets as food or otherwise harm them or visa versa?
- Do I have the time, energy, and money to take care of a tegu and my current pets?
- Do I have the capabilities to keep this tegu separate from my other animals?
Though Argentine tegus can make wonderful pets, they are still predators and exotic animals. As such, you should exercise extreme caution before bringing one into a home with other pets.
That being said, many owners have had success keeping Tegus and other pets in their homes. Dogs in particular can do well with tegus, as long as they’re properly introduced and given their own spaces to retreat to when desired.
That said, I have no idea how your pets might react so you have to make that choice yourself.
Are Tegus Hard To Care For?
As we’ve discussed, Argentine black and white tegus are large reptiles that live a long time. And if properly cared for, they can be wonderful companions.
But be forewarned, these reptiles require more intensive care than many other pets. They need a specific diet and enclosure to thrive. Below are some of their basic care requirements:
- Diet – Prey (i.e., animals or insects) should be the bulk of your tegu’s diet, supplemented with veggies, fruits, and vitamins and minerals.
- Enclosure – At a minimum, tegus need a space that 8 feet long, 4 feet tall, and 4 feet wide. But bigger is always better when it comes to enclosures.
- Substrate – Tegus will need 8 – 12 in. of cypress mulch, orchid bark, coconut husks, or similar type beddings; you can also mix different types.
- Heating – Create a heat gradient in the enclosure from hot to ‘cold’ of roughly 95 – 75 °F, plus a basking spot of 125 °F.
- Lighting – Provide UVB light to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies, as well as daylight heat and basking bulbs.
- Humidity – Maintain 70 – 85% humidity in order for your tegu to thrive. Soaking dishes, humidity hides, and misting systems can help with this.
Besides socialization, the most important part of keeping a tegu is providing a healthy, safe, and enriching enclosure.
For a more in-depth look at what it takes to care for an Argentine tegu, check out this ultimate Argentine tegu guide.
Before you bring a tegu into your home, ask yourself if you have enough space to house and exercise it, and the ability to provide all of the specialized care it will need.
It’s also a good idea to call local vets in your area to make sure they cater to exotics and have experience with reptiles. Though you’ll hopefully never have any health problems, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Surrendering Your Argentine Tegu
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to purchase or adopt Argentine tegus with the best of intentions— only to realize later that they’re incapable of caring for them.
This happens for a variety of reasons, but if you find that you’re unable to care for your Argentine tegu, it’s very important that you surrender it thoughtfully and to a place where it will be well cared for:
- Rehoming – Reach out via friends, social media, exotics forums, etc. to see if there are any experienced keepers able to adopt your tegu. Don’t let anyone fool you—if they don’t seem to have the maturity or capacity to care for a Tegu, politely decline.
- Surrendering – Contact local shelters and exotics programs to see if they have the ability and capacity to take your tegu. Make sure they are well equipped for reptile care. Some shelters have basic reptile enclosures, but they are not prepared for large lizards like your Tegu.
- State Programs – Research to see if there are exotic surrender programs in your state. For example, Florida has an exotic pet amnesty program.
Most importantly, don’t release your tegu into the wild. Not only is your Tegu domesticated and could be injured or killed, but Tegus can also wreak havoc on native ecosystems and are considered an invasive species in several states because of this.
With all of this in mind, make sure that you do your research before purchasing an Argentine black and white tegu.
Is The Argentine Tegu A Good Pet For You?
Argentine black and white tegus can make wonderful pets as long as they’re properly cared for and owners understand their unique needs. Owners should be prepared to put in a fair amount of work keeping their tegus happy and healthy.
In addition to this, they should be aware of the danger that comes with keeping all animals, especially exotics. Tegus are powerful reptiles that can cause serious injury and harm if the right precautions aren’t taken. But when It comes to the giant lizards, tegus are my top pick.
So do your research and take a hard look at your life and capabilities to see if you can handle an Argentine tegu. If you can, great! With the correct treatment and home setup, you’ll be able to enjoy this wonderful reptile for years (even decades) to come.