The first thing you must understand about tegus is that they are large, active reptiles that need a lot of space to be healthy. Bigger is always better with tegu enclosures.
Hatchling tegu enclosure
Hatchlings can be housed in a minimum 48”x24”x24” enclosure, preferably front-opening. Some say that 36″x”18″x18″ is fine, but your tegu will grow out of it too quickly. A larger enclosure facilitates more activity, better temperature gradient, and deeper substrate for burrowing. Avoid the temptation to buy a glass enclosure if you can, as glass doesn’t hold heat very well, and screen tops provide too much ventilation to trap humidity. Young tegus grow very quickly, so if you are able to start with a yearling-sized enclosure, your hatchling will still use every inch of the space.
Yearling tegu enclosure
At about 1 year old, tegus should be moved to a 6’x3’x3’ front-opening enclosure. Technically this size can be used for the rest of your tegu’s life, as long as s/he has regularly opportunities to romp outside of the enclosure. This is also a popular size for adult Colombian tegus.
Adult tegu enclosure
Once your Argentine tegu reaches full size, it should be upgraded to a 8’x4’x3’ enclosure, with regular opportunities to free-roam (we’ll talk about that more in the Handling section). Like the yearling enclosure, this should be front opening, as this benefits both your back and the tegu’s wellbeing.
Of course, an 8’x4’x3’ enclosure is enormous, and difficult (if not downright impossible) to find commercially. So you’ll have to build your own adult tegu enclosure, or at least find a friend who is willing to do it for you.
If you wish to build your own enclosure, here’s a helpful how-to by Rian Weaver: 8ft x 5ft x 3ft Tegu Cage Build. The instructions are for an 8’x5’x3′ enclosure (which is fantastic — more room is always better!), but it should be easy enough to adjust if needed. He notes: “The Drylock has sand in it, and its dry texture is like concrete. I have not had to clip [the tegu’s] nails at all. From her climbing around in the cage and digging in the dirt, they get naturally filed down… I did several coats (mentioned in the guide), but there is no sign at all of her scratching (the durability of the Drylock was something some people questioned). Drylock Extreme is untextured, and therefore less ideal in my opinion.”
Can tegus be housed together?
Yes — if you take the right precautions. But if you want two tegus just to make sure the first tegu has a friend, let me put your mind to ease: tegus do not need friends, and they’re perfectly happy living alone.
The good news is that tegus possess enough “social skills” that more than one tegu can be housed in the same enclosure without incident. However, considerations must be made for the genders of the tegus in question, as well as the size of the tegu enclosure.
Gender compatibility for tegus:
- Female + female = yes
- Male + male = yes
- Male + female = no
When housing tegus together, each tegu must be allowed to have his/her own space. This means that if you want to have two tegus in the same enclosure, the enclosure must be twice as large as you would need for one tegu.
It is safer to avoid housing adult tegus with hatchling or juvenile tegus, as the smaller tegus will be in danger of getting eaten.
Note that due to differences with individual personalities, there is no guarantee that tegu cohabitation will always work.