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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
Vol 8, Issue 2   
June, 2006
The Argentine Black and White Tegu (Part 1)
In this Issue

by Bert Langerwerf of AgamaInternational



Housing a tegu outdoors is far easier than housing it indoors and if you're in a climate which permits it, we strongly recommend it. It's not that housing a tegu indoors is difficult, but keeping them outdoors requires very little work after the initial setup. The direct sunlight and dirt burrow will mean not having to worry about UV light bulbs or keeping their burrow moist.

For the first half-year the baby-tegus can be housed in a rather small enclosure of 3-4 feet long. But as they grow larger they will need more space and a ground-surface of 4 by 8 feet or more is needed for adults. Tegus are from a horizontal habitat and therefore the terrarium should be as large as possible in horizontal direction. In nature they spend all night, all winter and also the hot part of summer-days inside their burrow, which is over 80% of their time. The burrow is always damp inside and that damp atmosphere is needed for shedding. Therefore the tegus should have a hidebox that can be kept damp also. Best is to place a hidebox under the terrarium, and an opening in the bottom of the terrarium will lead to that hidebox and imitates the burrow. This hidebox can have its own little inspection door. As the most natural substrate inside the terrarium hay can be used. Then cleaning is easy by simply replacing the dirty hay by new hay. The floor of the pampas is also covered with some hay fallen from the grasses. Further the tegu may decide to use part of the hay to stuff his hidebox.

The climax of terrarium keeping is having your own pampas in your backyard with pampasgrass and Argentine tegus combined within a fence of metal. I have constructed 3 such habitats of 1000 sq. feet (92 sq. meters) each for the tegus. I use galvanized corrugated steel of good quality. I noticed that such steel does not rust after 10 years in the ground. I buy this steel at a big steel company, where I am allowed to cut in "my" size pieces of 5' (1.5m) and a few inches. I place it 2 feet (61cm) deep and 3+ (92+ cm) feet stick out of the ground. I top it off with angle metal and fix the entire structure with blind rivets. It takes me a week to make such a 33 by 33 feet enclosure. I do that in winter, when my animals hibernate. Since it takes a few years before pampasgrass grows to nice large bushes, I leave other local plants in at the start, and as the pampasgrass takes over I take the other plants away. Also I have another thistle like decorative plant from the Argentine pampas growing in it. Eventually this will become a habitat with 2 plants and the tegu from the pampas.

Every 'Pampas-enclosure' gets also 2 underground hidingplaces, from where I can remove the animals in case winterweather turns exceptional cold. Nightfrosts are no problem, but several nights with temperatures below freezing are too cold, and then I take them to the basement, where boxes are ready for them to continue hibernation. Such a pampas-habitat can also be made further north in the USA, as long as the pampasgras will survive. Primarily it is important that there are 5-6 months of good weather, while the weather in winter is not important, as the animals can be taken out of their hidings and brought to safer ground to continue hibernation. And they can be put back in the end of March or start of April, depending on the weather.

So, here I walk in-between my tegus. It is like feeling on Galapagos or having Jurassic Park in your own backyard. Since I only keep full-grown tegus in that habitat a protective netting above it is not needed. The Opossums, that occasionally enter to eat the food, which the tegus did not finish, are even chased out by the tegus in the morning.

An outdoor tegu enclosure does not need to be that big. I find it nicer, when bigger, but a 100 sq. ft (9.3 sq. m) terrarium, made out of corrugated steel is an ideal size for an adult pair. Such a smaller enclosure I give a ridged roof of good quality metal wiring screen, which enables me to cover the terrarium with plastic during winter, so that during hibernation animals are safe in the burrows in case of heavy rainfall.


While keeping a tegu indoors adds a bit of complexity, it is still not very difficult. However, you should be aware that tegus are very intelligent animals and really like to roam around and explore. If you are going to keep your tegu indoors, try to take him out and let him roam around. Tegus can learn to come when called, love people, and are fascinating to watch as they roam about. While they are somewhat prone to knocking things over, a little forethought will keep them out of trouble. Also, though they are terrestrial animals, they are excellent climbers and can make their way up nearly anything which is not slick (for example, one person discovered his tegu had climbed all the way up the bathrobe he had hanging on a hook and was looking around wondering where to go next). Since indoor tegus will not have the stimulation available to outdoor tegus, you should make sure to provide it to them via frequent time out of their enclosure. You'll enjoy it too.

The enclosure for a single adult tegu should be 8' (244 cm) long by 4' (122 cm) wide and a little more than 2' (61 cm) tall. (While the tegu won't really use the height, you will any time you want to do anything inside of the enclosure.) 3/4" Medium Density Fiberboard painted with polyurethane or other good waterproofing agents (shellac will not last) works well for most parts. For the viewing window (or doors), 3/8" plexiglass works well. It is more expensive then the thinner plexiglass which is a little more common (though Home Depot does sell both thicknessses), but the thin stuff is too flexible relative to the strength of adult tegus. They won't break it, but they will likely be able to bend it far enough to escape out of their enclosure.

There are two options as far as the door goes. A top-opening enclosure is simpler and cheaper, and perhaps a little more convenient as far as working on the enclosure goes, but it means that you can't keep anything on top of the enclosure (the astute reader will notice that front-opening doors allows one to stack enclosures on top of each other to save space).

If you're going with the top-opening version, there are several ways to put in the front viewing window. The easiest way is to use a router to create a grouve 3/8" deep along the edge of the hole for the viewing window, insert the plexiglass, and then use screw-wings to hold it in. If you make the front out of two or more pieces of wood, you can also use a router to cut a groove for the plexiglass into the middle of the appropriate edges of the wood and just screw the middle of the wood into place. If so, make sure that the groove is at least 1/2" deep, as even thicker plexiglass has some give to it over the 6' or so that the window will be wide.


Article reproduced with permission. Bert Langerwerf breeds and sells a wide variety of animals including Australian Eastern Water Dragons, Tegus, Bearded Dragons, Shinisaurus crocodilurus, Uromastyx. Berts website is:

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Choosing a Healthy Snake (cont.)

3. The snake's muscles should appear well toned, and the animal should feel strong as it crawls through your fingers or coils around your arm. Avoid snakes that are underweight. The body of the snake should be symmetrical and have no bumps or depressions that could be indications of a tumor or broken ribs. You can gently palpate the entire length of the snake to check for any irregularities.

4. The snake's skin should have a healthy luster and have no cuts, abrasions (look at the nose), burns, or discolored areas. Check the ventral scales for blistered areas or infectious discharge. The anal scale should lie flat against the ventral surface and be clean, with no fecal matter noticeable.

5. Both eyes should be the same size and protrude from the snake's skull the same distance. They should have the same clarity, and both pupils should adjust to varying light.

6. During the entire time that you're inspecting the snake, you should be keeping your eyes open for mites. These are flat, pinhead-size bugs that hide under a snake's scales and suck its blood. They can be dark or light colored, and they like to congregate around the eyes, mouth and vent, but they can be anywhere on the snake. Sometimes they can be found dead in the snake's water bowl, or they may be seen on your hands after you've handled a snake that's infested with mites. Mites reproduce very rapidly and, if left untreated, they can eventually kill snakes as the number of mites increases. If you are ever handling someone else's snakes and you see mites, I recommend that when you leave their location you take a shower and wash your clothes thoroughly before going near any other snakes. This may sound extreme, but these insidious parasites can travel on your body or clothes, and they're so small that you probably wouldn't even know they are there. Mites can be very difficult to eradicate, so it's best to keep your snakes from being exposed to them if at all possible.

Q&A More on Keeping Snakes together

Addendum to last issues Q&A which was:

I have a 7 foot Red-tailed Boa and my friend has a 7 foot Burmese python. He is moving and wants to leave it with me. The only problem is that I would have to keep them in the same enclosure. I have a large enclosure over 6 feet in length and 24" tall and 30" deep.

Do you think I could keep them in this enclosure without them fighting? I notice they are sometimes kept together in per shops but I have never tried it myself.

I only ask you opinion, not a guarantee that things turn out OK.

The answer I gave prompted some response from Mike Veerhagen of

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In the News
Tell Us What You Think!

If you have a story about one of your critters, funny or serious, found a great web site, found a great article or would like to contribute in any way, please contact me. I'm friendly, don't bite and would welcome your contributions.

And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those too!

These could include:
- Great herp web-sites
- A fantastic herp article you know of that should be shared
- Why you pet reptile is fantastic
- A great idea you had
- Funny things that happened
- Dumb**s things that happened
- Images you'd like to share
- Care sheets for your herp

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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Tell Us What You Think!!

Thanks to those who have given me feedback. I always want to
know of your achievements, good and bad.

I've just added a section on making cages waterproof. There
are a number of ways to do this and I have covered some of
those options.

I have also added "How to Make a Reptile Cage Stand in Five
Easy Steps" to the bonuses. Those of you have purchased the plans
are welcome to download it. It is about 25 pages and has detailed
steps. It is aimed people who have not made something like that
before. There is a picture on the website of what a finished
stand would look like.

I am currently finalising a book on making glass vivariums
and should have that available within a month or so.

I have also some plans for a 3'x3'x18'' display type cabinet
with side doors. This should also be available within a month
or two.

Thank you to those people who continue to give me feedback
and help others in their endeavours. You know who you are
so well done!!

I have a few ideas for some other additions to the book and
perhaps some other publications but I would love your input.

These could include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened (like the one in this issue)
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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