How to Take Care of An Argentine Black and White Tegu

The Argentine Black and White Tegu, also referred to as Argentine Giant Tegu, Black and White Tegu, Huge Tegu, Lagarto Overo, and Salvator merianae, is a huge lizard species categorized under the Teiidae family. This lizard is considered the largest among the tegu lizards. It is an omnivorous species that takes refuge in savannas, tropical rainforests, and semi-deserts of central and eastern South America. Professional reptile owners and hobbyists admire the Argentine Black and White Tegus for their unusually high intelligence, and they can also be house-trained. Beginners who can manage this species’ massive size can take good care of it.

If you want to learn more about the Argentine Black and White Tegu, make sure to read further!


This lizard species was first described in 1839 by French zoologists André Marie Constant Duméril and Gabriel Bibron. Argentine Black and White Tegu are voracious lizards with attractive spotted scales. They are considered invasive species due to their impact on natural wildlife. They are found in South Africa, particularly in Paraguay, Brazil, eastern Uruguay, and northern Argentina.

Characteristics of an Argentine Black and White Tegu

Average life span: 15 years in captivity

Average length: Up to nearly 5 feet

Juveniles have emerald green color from its snout to midway down the neck with black markings. The emerald green coloration turns black after months of shedding. Its tail is banded black and yellow; fewer bands indicate an older lizard. They also have bright green heads that turn black with time. Like most lizards, it can drop its tail as a distraction when attacked or threatened.

Adult Argentine Black and White Tegus are larger than females. As their name suggest, they have black and white coloration that appears a banding pattern across their backs and tails. During the winter season, Argentine Black and White Tegus seek refuge in burrows as they undergo a hibernation-like period called brumation. In south Florida, they emerge from their burrows around February. During early spring, Argentine Black and White Tegus will breed, and females will achieve sexual maturity during their second year of brumation. Females lay an average of 35 eggs every year, and they are also the ones that construct their nests made of dried vegetation.

Sex can be determined through tail and jowls. The vent at the tail’s base will bulge when it’s a male, whereas a female’s tail base will lie flat. Adult males have developed jowls, while females’ jawlines are smooth.

Tking care for an Argentine Black and White Tegu

This species is famous for being docile for its massive size. As such, it would need a big, secure enclosure. A large glass aquarium with a locking lid that measures 6 ft. by 3 ft. by 2 ft. will be ideal. Tall cages are not advisable as an Argentine Black and White Tegu do not climb trees nor stand on its hind legs.

Argentine Black and White Tegus like to burrow, so they will need a substrate that is absorbent, easy to clean, and will accommodate their digging habit. Substrates such as orchid bark, eucalyptus mulch, and cypress mulch are preferred, although some hobbyists prefer the convenience of putting several layers of paper for easier cleaning. Avoid materials such as stone gravel, ground corn cobs, and wood chips to lessen the risk of ingestion. Stay away from indoor/outdoor carpets since they are likely to get shredded and entangled on your pet’s nails and toes.

As diurnal species, Argentine Black and White Tegus require full-spectrum UVA and UVB lighting, as well as a basking spot. While they can tolerate cooler temperatures, daytime temperatures are necessary to aid proper digestion and overall health. The ambient daytime temperature should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking spot should be between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Night time temperature can be cool, but don’t create a drastic temperature change. Use different bulbs, heat lamps, heat mats, and ceramic heat emitters to maintain temperature. Avoid hot rocks because they can cause serious burns.

As omnivores, they can be fed with a large variety of food sources. They could be fed with gut-loaded crickets dusted with vitamin supplement or calcium, along with other readily-available insects such as waxworms, and mealworms. Older Argentine Black and White Tegus can be fed with pinkie mice, pre-killed or frozen-thawed. You can add a variety of fruits and leafy greens to their diet, too.