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Gold Tegu: Info & Care Guide for Beginners (with Pictures)

Oliver Jones

Any reptile fanatic will tell you that reptiles can be just as cute and cuddly as a typical dog or cat. Maybe you are one of these people and you are considering adding a Tegu to your family. The word Tegu comes from an Amazonian word meaning lizard. Gold Tegus are a less common type of lizard kept as pets, but they can be quite interesting and intelligent. Read on to find out more about these unique lizards.

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Quick Facts about Gold Tegu

Species Name Tupinambis teguixin
Common Name Gold Tegu, Tiger Lizard
Care Level Advanced
Lifespan 12-20 years
Adult Size 32-43 inches
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size 4 ft wide and 2 ft long
Temperature & Humidity

 

Ambient temperature of 80°F, basking spot of 120°f-130°F, humidity of 80%

Do Gold Tegu Make Good Pets?

gold tegu_smspsy_Shutterstock
Image Credit: smspsy, Shutterstock

Gold Tegus are harder to domesticate than other types of Tegus. Due to this, it is recommended that only advanced herpetologists keep this type of lizard.

Appearance

Gold Tegus are large lizards, measuring from 34 to 43 inches long. They will weigh between seven and eight pounds. They have a glossy body with golden and black bands alternating over it. Their legs and tail are thick and strong.

How to Take Care of Gold Tegu

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

tegu lizard_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

 Tank

The minimum size of your Gold Tegu tank should be 4-foot wide by 2-foot long. If you have a bioactive substrate, you will only need to do spot cleaning of the tank from the defecation of the Tegu. If you have a regular substrate, it will need to be cleared out fully every 3-4 months. You should have a very shallow tub of water for your Tegu to bask in and drink from. This should be cleaned out daily or every other day.

Lighting

In order to help your Tegu get the appropriate amount of Vitamin D, you should use a UV-B bulb to light their enclosure.

Heating (Temperature & Humidity)

The ambient temperature of the tank should be around 80°F, while their basking area should be around 120°F-130°F. The humidity should be kept around 80%. This can be achieved with a humidifier. You may need to enclose parts of the top of the tank with plastic wrap to keep the humidity this high. Never put plastic wrap near heat lamps, though.

Substrate

gold tegu_Joelfotos_Pixabay
Image Credit: Joelfotos, Pixabay

Tegus like to bury and dig in their substrate, so you should have a nice deep layer of substrate in their setup. A good substrate mix can be made with the following ingredients, which you can buy at a pet store or local hardware store: peat moss, topsoil, and coco bark. Mix in equal parts to provide the perfect substrate for your Tegu that has the added benefit of holding moisture well also.

Tank Recommendations
Tank Type 4’ W x 2’ L
Lighting UV-B lamp
Heating Ambient 80°F, sunning spot 120°F-130°F
Best Substrate Mix of peat moss, topsoil, and coco bark

Feeding Your Gold Tegu

rats in hand_Karsten Paulick _Pixabay
Image Credit: Karsten Paulick , Pixabay

Gold Tegus are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They prefer eating small animals and catch them with their sharp teeth. They will eat small mice and rats as well as birds and eggs in the wild. They are also known to eat fruits when available.

Diet Summary
Fruits 10% of diet
Insects 0% of diet
Meat 90% of diet – small/medium-sized rodents, eggs
Supplements Required N/A

Keeping Your Gold Tegu Healthy

tegu_Tomaz Jorge de Melo Tom_Pixabay
Image Credit: Tomaz Jorge de Melo Tom, Pixabay

These unique lizards are not commonly kept as pets, so many health issues are not known about them. Here are some common health issues that Tegus may suffer from:

  • Metabolic bone disease. This is caused by an imbalance of phosphorus and calcium. Symptoms include limping and bowed legs. Dietary improvements are the main treatment of this disease.
  • Reptile fungus. This is caused by too high humidity and too low temperature in an enclosure. Symptoms include weight loss and appetite loss. Antifungal medications can be used to treat this fungus.

Lifespan

These large lizards will live from anywhere from 12 to 20 years in captivity.

Breeding

Gold Tegus are almost never bred in captivity due to the difficulty of getting two Tegus to mate. In the wild, Gold Tegus will mate after they emerge from brumation. Once a female Tegu’s eggs have been fertilized, she will lay them in a nesting burrow. The babies will then hatch after 154-170 days.

Are Gold Tegu Friendly? Our Handling Advice

gold tegu_Roy Buri_Pixabay
Image Credit: Roy Buri, Pixabay

Golden Tegus are difficult to domesticate, so it is best to handle them with gloves. This will help shield you from any bites that the lizard may try to give you.

Shedding & Brumation: What to Expect

This lizard goes through brumation, which is a dormant period for lizards. During this time, the Tegu will not eat, defecate, drink, or move for several weeks. Tegus also do not shed in one piece like a snake, they will shed one part of their body at a time.

How Much Do Gold Tegu Cost?

gold tegu_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

A small Gold Tegu will run you from $60-$80 online.

Care Guide Summary

Gold Tegu Pros
  • Explorative
  • Beautiful markings
Gold Tegu Cons
  • Difficult to Domesticate
  • Known to bite

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Conclusion

Gold Tegus are very interesting lizards that should only be kept by advanced herpetologists. They are beautiful to look at, but hard to domesticate. If you are advanced in lizard care, taking care of the Gold Tegu can be a very rewarding challenge.


Featured Image Credit: Henner Damke, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.