Animal Information

Feeding a VARIETY of FOODS to Animals is Important… the Tegu

Feeding the diverse species list we have here at the Crazy Critters facility is actually very fun and never feels like a chore. Even when she spills her food.

We occasionally feed our lizards in their enclosures. Some like Fluffy is always fed there just because we are not sure of how she will act with the freedom. We do this type of enrichment in slow short bursts until the animal has predictable behavior.

The theory works with a variety of animals. If you get them full enough, they do not feel the need to search and escape. With that said, we would never leave these exotics unattended while giving them enrichment such as exploration on the porch.

Feeding Tegu is very rewarding as there is almost nothing they do not eat.

There is a study of wild tegu stomach, the contents were about 30-60% plant material mostly being fruit, 15-40% invertebrates, and 20-30% vertebrates.

In contrast, juveniles ate approximately 50% invertebrates, 20% vegetation, and 20% vertebrates. Oddly, these same diet percentages are found in adult wild Columbian Tegu.

According to Mariah Healey, a reptile husbandry specialist at ReptiFiles.com, Argentine Tegus are omnivores and should be provided a diet of 60% protein, 30% vegetables, 10% fruit in captivity.

Portion size is important with whole prey items because tegus don’t chew their food, and can choke if given something too big. For safety’s sake, always offer whole prey slightly smaller than their skull.

Like other pet reptiles, tegus are prone to obesity, which usually happens when they are fed too often or receive too many rodents, fatty meats, fruit, or human food.

Sticking to a schedule and encouraging exercise is a good way to keep your tegu at a healthy weight. Adding calcium and mineral supplement will ensure the healthiest animal diet possible.

Insects

  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Crickets
  • Death’s head roaches
  • Discoid roaches
  • Red runner roaches
  • Dubia roaches
  • Earthworms/nightcrawlers
  • Grasshoppers
  • Hissing roaches
  • Hornworms (captive only; wild hornworms are toxic!)
  • Locusts
  • Mealworms
  • Silkworms
  • Snails (preferably with the shell)

Do not offer wild-caught insects, as these often carry herbicide and pesticide residues than can poison your tegu!

Meat

  • Beef heart
  • Chicken and quail chicks
  • Ground chicken/turkey
  • Eggs, with shell (raw or boiled)
  • Fish (human-grade)
  • Crayfish/crawdads
  • Shrimp
  • Frogs (human-grade)
  • Mice
  • Rabbit meat, parts, or kits
  • Rats
  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Snakes (nonvenomous frozen-thawed)

Frozen whole prey items… must be prepared correctly before feeding. Thaw it out in the fridge the night before feeding day, then about 15-30 minutes before feeding, stick the prey in a BPA-free plastic bag like a Ziploc and submerge in warm, almost hot, water.

A quick note about eggs… taw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases a tegu’s ability to absorb biotin (vitamin B7). When a reptile can’t absorb biotin, it can cause skin, scale, and shedding issues. Fortunately, cooking neutralizes this enzyme.

A quick note about fish… some fish contain an enzyme called thiaminase. Thiaminase destroys a reptile’s stores of vitamin B1 (thiamin). Over time, this can cause thiamin deficiency. Thiamin deficiency causes neurological damage and even death if not caught in time. Cooking the fish neutralizes this enzyme.

Fish that contain thiaminase include: bass, catfish, goldfish, herring, mackerel smelt, tuna, and whitefish.

Fruits & Vegetables

Always wash fruits and vegetables before giving them to your tegu in case they have been exposed to poisonous chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. Be sure to cut them into small, bite-sized pieces before offering.

VEGETABLES

  • Alfalfa
  • Bell pepper
  • Cactus pads
  • Carnation flowers
  • Carrot (root and greens)
  • Cilantro
  • Dandelion (flowers and greens)
  • Greens: collard, kale, mustard, turnip
  • Hibiscus flowers
  • Parsnip
  • Pumpkin (note: laxative)
  • Rose flowers
  • Squash
  • Yam

Do not feed Avocado, azalea flowers/leaves, broccoli, buttercup flowers, eggplant, lettuce of any kind, onion, rosemary, sage, spinach. marijuana or hemp leaves, These foods can make your tegu sick or even die!

FRUITS

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cactus fruit
  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Grapes (green or red)
  • Figs
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries

Do not feed: Citrus, rhubarb, seeds, or pits. These can make your tegu sick or even die!

Commercial Diets

Prepared (commercial) reptile diets aren’t a complete replacement for fresh food, but they do make a good addition to your rotation of tegu foods. If you want to offer a prepared reptile diet, make sure that it’s high quality: no grains, artificial flavors, or artificial colors.

These are ReptiFiles’ favorite commercial reptile diets for omnivores, and work well mixed in with other foods as part of a balanced diet:

Dog/Cat Food

Believe it or not, dog and cat food is also good for tegus as a part of the rotation in a varied diet, 

As with reptile diets, the key is to choose a food that has a (relatively) short ingredient list, animal meal/byproduct and is GRAIN FREE. Ideally, the food should contain as much of the whole animal as possible (meat, bones, and organs), which is why raw dog food diets are a great source of food. 

How often should you feed your Tegu depends on the age.

  • Hatchlings (0-6 months) — 5x/week
  • Juveniles (7-12 months) — 4x/week
  • Subadults (1-2 years) — 3x/week
  • Adults (>2 years) — 2x/week

Click here to read more about Tegu diet from ReptiFiles.com

Check Out Our New Video Of Gora The Tegu Eating Her “Protein” and Mazuri

Check back tomorrow when we feed some other types of critters this same diet.

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