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A tegu enclosure needs to be big enough to permit appropriate mobility along the horizontal and vertical planes, facilitate a proper temperature gradient, and promote behavioral freedom of choice per the 5 Provisions of Animal Welfare (Mellor, 2016). Of course, these guidelines aren’t very helpful when it comes to determining the minimum acceptable enclosure size for housing tegus. How much do you need to give them?
Let’s look at some of the most recent and welfare-focused publications on housing reptiles: According to the Federation of British Herpetologists’ 2022 Code of Practice, members of the Tupinambis and Salvator genera should have an enclosure which measures at least 6x3x3 SVL (snout to vent length). The German Society for Herpetology and Terrariums, recommends a floor space measuring at least 5×3 SVL. Although this means that the absolute minimum enclosure size varies by individual animal under these standards, generalizations can still be made.
According to these standards, and based on each species’ maximum SVL, ReptiFiles recommends the following minimum enclosure size for tegus:
Salvator merianae & rufescens:
- Males — 10’L x 5’W x 5’H / 3 x 1.5 x 1.5m
- Females — 8’L x 4’W x 4’H / 2.4 x 1.2 x 1.2m
Tupinambis teguixin: 5.5″L x 3’W x 3’W / 1.7 x 0.8 x 0.8m
Given that female Argentine tegus are generally significantly smaller than males, the minimum enclosure size for an adult female is smaller than what is required for a male. Of course, ReptiFiles strongly recommends providing more than the minimum amount of space to reptiles whenever possible.
What enclosures can be used for tegus?
The enclosure should be front opening for ease of access and feature a mesh top for ventilation and ease of safe lamp installation (tegus tend to like to knock down their lamps!). ReptiFiles recommends the following commercially-available enclosures for tegus:
- Custom Reptile Habitats Essential 8 Foot PVC & Aluminum Enclosure
- Kages 8’x4’x4′ Premium PVC Reptile Enclosure, with “2 square screens” top option
- Toad Ranch 8’x4’x4′ s-TEGU-saurus Sanctuary
Custom Reptile Habitats and Toad Ranch also offer custom enclosure building services. If you are unable to find a big enough enclosure available for sale or simply want a less expensive option, you will 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, but it should be easy enough to adjust. 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.”
You can also find advice for building your own tegu enclosure in the DIY Reptile & Amphibian Enclosures group on Facebook.
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.
Keep reading about tegu care:
- Introduction to Tegus
- Shopping List
- List of Tegu Species
- Terrarium Sizing for Hatchlings, Juveniles & Adults
- Temperature & Humidity Requirements
- Substrate Options
- Decorating Your Tegu’s Enclosure
- Feeding Your Tegu
- Handling Tips
- Benefits of Free-Roaming
- Common Problems & Questions About Tegu Health
- Additional Resources