Columbia Tegus

Not to be confused with the black and white tegu of Argentina, the Colombian tegu is often found in the homes of herpes lovers across the country. These larger lizards aren’t for everyone, so be sure to read up on their care before deciding to get one. With proper care and the right environment, Columbia tegu can be a rewarding pet reptile.

Variety Overview

Scientific name: Tupinan Bisteguisin

Common name: Colombian black and white Tegu, Columbia Tegu, Gold Tegu, Black Tegu

Adult size: About 3 to 3 1/2 feet long

Life expectancy: up to 20 years

Wild Columbian Tegus

As the name suggests, Colombian tegus comes from the South American country Colombia, but can also be found throughout the Amazon basin. Their native habitat is hot and humid, and because they live near the equator, they like to eat almost anything they can find, including insects and rodents.

They are scavengers in the wild. They can also be found further south of the equator, where the climate is slightly cooler and their bodies periodically burrow into the soil to cool down. Little is known about their reproductive habits, as they often cool down underground and hide in burrows.

The Behaviour and Temperament of the Tegu in Colombia

These large reptiles are known for being more aggressive than the similar looking Argentine black and white targues, and as such, they are not for beginner reptile lovers. With regular handling, preferably from a young age, Columbian targus can be content to hang out with their owners and be carried around, but if they are not handled they can become aggressive towards humans.

Seasoned reptile owners who are also patient enough to tame their Colombian tegu will be rewarded with friendly reptile friends.

Ideally, you would get your Colombian tegu at a young age from a private breeder who is already handling their clutches. Treat your tegu daily and feed your tegu outside the regular enclosure so it doesn’t associate you with mealtime.

Living in Tegus, Colombia

Since Colombian tegus grow to be over three feet long, you will need a fence large enough not only to keep them safe, but also to provide enough space to burrow, move around, and eat. Most tegu owners end up building their own fence using supplies from a home improvement store, buying large terrariums, or using a closet or small bedroom as their tegu home.

A minimum of 6 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet is recommended for most Columbian Tigers who also have time to exercise outside the enclosure. Although large cages are required, keep in mind that Colombian tegus’ cages do not require great heights, as they do not climb like some similarly sized reptiles.

Water trays that allow your Columbian tegu to soak should be placed in their enclosures, as well as where they dig holes in their substrate, if they want. These areas can be provided by using large plastic containers to help with cleaning or to allow burrowing, you can simply provide deep reptile-safe soil or bark substrate.

A sunbathing spot can climb things like branches or shelves, and your tegu can get closer to the heating element if they want or hide under it. At least one hidden area should be provided. Try moving things around the cage regularly to provide mental stimulation and encourage your tegu to move and explore his home.

food and water

Along with some fruit, it’s ideal to feed your smaller tegu with gut-filled crickets, mealworms, hornworms, waxworms, and roaches. Insects should always be sprinkled with reptile calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to help prevent metabolic bone disease. Some owners use a large plastic storage container to hold their prey and then put their tegu in that container to eat.

Larger and mature adult tigers may be less interested in the insects they feed and should transition to pinky mice and eventually downy, adult mice, and mice of all sizes.

Chicks are also available if you want to add some variety to your tegu’s diet. Occasionally, some low-fat turkey and raw eggs are available. Tegus loves eggs, but these should be kept as snacks.

Most tegu owners feed their growing lizards several times a week or even a day, then reduce the number of feedings as they mature. Colombian tegus are prone to obesity, so once they are fully grown, monitor their weight and make sure they have enough time and space for exercise.

Heat and Lighting

Since Colombian tegus comes from a more tropical environment, you will need heat and UVB emitting bulbs to provide your pet with the proper light. Using a combination of ceramic thermal emitters, tanning lamps and full spectrum lighting, emits a high percentage of UVB rays to achieve a basking temperature of about 100 F.

The rest of the enclosure should be around 85F, with nighttime temperatures no lower than 75F. Make sure UVB lighting is not placed on glass or plexiglass surfaces as they block invisible light.

Most manufacturers recommend placing the bulb about 12 inches from your tegu’s basking area, but be sure to follow the package recommendations and replace the bulb every 6 months. Lights that emit white light should only be on for 12 hours a day to give your tegu a proper day and night cycle.

Use ceramic heat emitters or night heat lamps that glow purple or red to heat the enclosure at night. A thermometer should be placed inside the cage (preferably one at each end of the cage or one that can be moved) to monitor these temperatures in your home.


Since tegus burrow into moist soil and live in tropical environments, they are accustomed to high humidity. A large water pan for your tegu to soak and drink will help keep humidity levels high, but you may also need to spray the enclosure daily.

Monitor your tegu for shedding, if it’s a problem then it may be an indication that the humidity isn’t high enough. Placing a hygrometer in the enclosure allows you to measure its humidity.

Choose your Colombian Tegu

As mentioned, these are not suitable pets for novice reptile owners. The Colombian tegus is strong and can be aggressive, so make sure you’re up to the task before accepting it.

This is definitely the pet you want from a reputable breeder. A sick tegu may have dry patchy skin, swelling around the nasal passages, and unusual bumps on the extremities.

common health problems

Calcium and phosphorus deficiencies are common in tegus, and like other reptiles, they are susceptible to parasitic infections, respiratory infections, and most seriously, metabolic bone disease.

The latter disease usually results in a lack of UVB lighting. If your pet stops eating, appears lethargic, or develops any swollen or dry skin, be sure to take your tegu to a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles. These are all signs of Taku’s illness.

Breeds Similar to Columbian Tegu

If you’re interested in viewing lizards similar to the Colombian tegu, here are some suggestions:

Otherwise, check out our profiles on other species of monitor lizards.


Columbia Tegus
READ ALSO:   How to make a construction paper frog?
Scroll to top