“Substrate” is another word for bedding, and tegus are burrowing lizards, which means that they like to have a lot of it! 12-24” (30-60 cm) of it, in fact — or at least on one side of the enclosure. Tegus with regular opportunities to burrow tend to be more physically fit, demonstrate more natural behaviors, and keep claws filed down without human interference.
- Coconut fiber — Finely-ground coconut husk (also known as Eco Earth and coco coir). Holds humidity well, but gets dusty when dry. Also tends to attract/breed fruit flies. Mix with topsoil for best results.
- Coconut husk aka Reptichip — Mulched coconut shell. Holds humidity well, less dusty than coconut fiber.
- Orchid bark — Typically composed of kiln-dried redwood. Pine is usually dangerous, but the kiln-drying process neutralizes harmful oils. Attractive and holds humidity well.
- Cypress mulch (not blend) —Holds humidity well, especially when layered on top of soil/sand mix.
- Eucalyptus mulch — Holds humidity well, but don’t use if you plan to use live plants in your enclosure. More popular outside of the US.
- Soil/sand mix – Roughly 60% organic topsoil and 40% play sand, coconut fiber can also be added. Holds humidity and burrows very well when kept damp. This is arguably the best substrate for tegus.
- Bioactive — Bioactive substrates are “self-cleaning,” and can be left with minimal maintenance for years. If you are interested in creating a bioactive habitat for your Argentine or Colombian tegu, great! Join Reptile and Amphibian Bioactive Setups on Facebook to get started.
Whatever you choose, substrate should be replaced at least quarterly and spot cleaned as needed.
Avoid these substrates:
- Potting soil — Full of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are harmful to reptiles.
- Sand — Dry and dusty.
- Aspen shavings — Doesn’t hold humidity well and molds easily.
- Pine/fir bark or shavings — Contains oils that cause neurological damage and even death in reptiles.