Tegu Substrate Options

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“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.

Substrate Options:

  • DIY naturalistic mix – Roughly 40% organic topsoil, 40% Zoo Med ReptiSoil, and 20% play sand. Layer with leaf litter for best results. Holds humidity and burrows very well when kept moistened.
  • Reptichip — Mulched coconut shell. Holds humidity well, less dusty than coconut fiber.
  • 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.
Argentine Tegu Care Guide

By Tomfriedel (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Whatever you choose, substrate should be replaced at least quarterly and spot cleaned as needed.

Avoid these substrates:

  • Potting soil — Full of chemicals which are likely to be harmful to reptiles.
  • Sand — Dry and dusty on its own.
  • Aspen shavings — Doesn’t hold humidity well and molds easily.
  • Pine/fir shavings — Contains substances known to cause respiratory damage and other harm to animals (source).


Keep reading about tegu care:

  1. Introduction to Tegus
  2. Shopping List
  3. List of Tegu Species
  4. Terrarium Sizing for Hatchlings, Juveniles & Adults
  5. Temperature & Humidity Requirements
  6. Substrate Options
  7. Decorating Your Tegu’s Enclosure
  8. Feeding Your Tegu
  9. Handling Tips
  10. Benefits of Free-Roaming
  11. Common Problems & Questions About Tegu Health
  12. Additional Resources