View Full Version : Winning Essays!!

08-27-2007, 11:58 AM
Here are the winning Essays:

By Laurafl

Curious and cute, it’s no wonder that so many reptile lovers are falling in love with the Argentine Tegu. Although a green-headed hatchling can be an adorable pet, it can quickly turn into a handful if the owner has not done some proper planning.

Housing a young tegu will differ somewhat from an adult. While a hatchling can be kept in a 20 or 40 gallon aquarium, by the time it reaches adult size, it will require a cage that is a minimum of 6x3x3 feet. A large tegu that is closer to 4 feet long and weighing over 8 pounds may even need a 8ft space. Suitable for digging and burrowing, cypress mulch (alone or mixed with potting soil) is a preferred substrate because it is natural, it holds humidity, and it is fairly inexpensive. Ambient temperatures of 80-85 are required for this subtropical species, with a basking area of 90-100 degrees and the ability to thermoregulate inside the cage. Ultraviolet light is also necessary for proper calcium metabolism. Keeping the humidity up around 70% with assist with shedding and can be achieved by a daily misting of the substrate.

What does one feed such a pet lizard? This is an area that needs special attention. Some try to get by with feeding canned dog or cat food, but a tegu is neither of these. Even canned tegu and monitor food should be fed sparingly. A natural, whole food approach is best. Adding variety in the diet can be accomplished by altering the type of food fed each day. Whole foods include frozen and thawed (or freshly killed) rodents, chicks, crayfish, fish, fertilized eggs, and fresh fruits such as peaches, grapes, cherries, and berries. Other meats, vegetables, and fruits can be offered to discover which an individual prefers. Since lean ground turkey and organ meats do not contain the vitamins and minerals found in whole foods, they should be mixed with an appropriate reptile vitamin/calcium supplement if used in the tegu’s diet. Apparently, eating is the favorite pastime of most tegus and they can quickly become food aggressive. For this reason, tegus should never be fed by hand, and it is certainly questionable whether or not the tegu should even associate the owner’s hand with food at all. It is a common practice to either feed the tegu outside of its enclosure or to place the food in the cage at night when the tegu will not see the human feeder. Another advantage to feeding outside of the enclosure is to avoid impaction from accidentally ingesting the substrate. Remember, these reptiles have powerfully muscular jaws, solid teeth, and a bite packs quite a punch!

After a new tegu is settled in his home, the bonding process can begin between lizard and owner. While a tegu is not a true domesticated animal, they do recognize the scents of the humans around them. Trust is an important tool to have in your pocket, one that is not to be abused. To have the tegu associate the owner’s scent with his territory, place a shirt in his cage that has been worn that day. Be sure no food scent is around when he is to be picked up. Give him time to be held and crawl over his people before letting him roam freely through the house. In time, the tegu will learn that humans can be trusted, and that he has a safe place to roam in the house. Do not violate this trust by handling the tegu roughly or allowing him to roam in rooms that have unsafe conditions.

Eventually the time will come when an Argentine Tegu slows down for the winter. Towards the end of summer and beginning of autumn, he will eat less and spend more time hidden in his burrows. It is time for the owner to respond by cutting back on the food and watching closely for signs of hibernation. Leftover food in the digestive tract can be a death sentence for the sleeping reptile as the food rots inside his body. Bathing a lizard in warm water encourages him to pass waste and empty his system. Then he can be safely returned to his season of slumber.

Breeding tegus is an endeavor that should not be entered into lightly. According to some, all that is required is a male and female of the same species, but more thought should be placed into the process. Usually the goal of breeding is to continue or improve a species of animal. When selecting tegus for breeding, only the healthiest specimens that will add to the existing lines should be considered. Is it a robust animal with a hearty appetite, or the runtiest hatchling of a clutch that was cheaply discarded? Although it has been debated, the female should have gone through a hibernation period the previous winter in order to enter her fertile period. Mating occurs around April, shortly after awakening from hibernation, and eggs are laid about two weeks later. Known to be very territorial, female tegus defend their nests until the eggs hatch. A clutch consists of ten to seventy eggs, but the average holds about thirty. If the temperatures are consistently kept between 86 and 90 degrees, then an incubation period of 60 periods can be expected. It is important to remember that each animal is an individual and textbook answers are always guidelines and not hard and fast rules.

Why do I want a baby tegu? My teenage daughter has a pet Colombian Tegu that she adores. Through tegu research, my daughter told me about Argentine Tegus and they were an instant hit with my family. After much research, we found an adult female Black and White Tegu at a local reptile show and bought her at a fair price. While she wasn’t the ideal specimen that I was looking for, she fit in perfectly with my other animal ambassadors. She had not received proper care in the past; her toenails are worn to nubs, her tail has been broken and regenerated, and she was very underweight. She has a wonderful disposition, though, and is great at educational workshops. Children love to see large reptiles, and she is calm enough for students to pet. My family has made a business out of wildlife education and it is our mission to inform others of the proper care of reptiles as pets, help people overcome their fear of reptiles, and to correct much of the misinformation that exists. I would love to add a beautiful tegu to our collection. We enjoy scent training and clicker training our herps and it is so rare that we have a chance to get a baby animal! It seems that most of our animals are discarded ‘pets’ that have outgrown their owners. From a practical standpoint, we have the time, space, empty caging, and food available for another tegu as well.

Answering the question why I deserve a tegu is a little harder. I never believe I deserve anything more than anyone else. The only comment I can make is that if I were to receive a tegu as a result of this essay contest, it would not only belong to me and my family, but in a small way, also to the hundreds of children that we teach and reach every year.

And here is Kattt's:

Tegus are starting to become some of the hottest, latest need-to-have
reptiles out on the market. With beautiful colors, wonderful
dispositions, and easy care, its no wonder there is such a high demand

for them now. But as with any other reptile or even animal you can
get, you must care for it right and show it the love and affection it
deserves. My own interest for these amazing reps spurred from meeting
and talking with one of the bigger breeders of them. After speaking
with him and others I had the awsome chance to handle and play with
some gorgeous, friendly babies. After handling them of several minutes

I was set.

I love the colors on both the adults and the babies. I also love
the size they get. They get pretty large (depending on what species
you'll get). For example the Argentine Black and whites get roughly 3
ft and about 10-12lbs. On the other hand you have the Chacoan white
giants that can reach lengths of 5ft and 20+lbs. The ideal tegu I want

right now is a Argentine B&W. They get decently long, certainly
manageable to anyone, while still having a bit of weight to them.

For lighting tegu need uvb lights. A 7.5 or 10.0 is recommended as

the lower light simply do not have the power and uv output needed. For

acutal light brands I tend to use Powersun or Mega-Ray. Just from some

simple uvb output tests I've done with a uv meter and different lights

at different ages, I've discovered those tend to work best and last a
wile while still upholding the uv outputs. However, seeing as I live
in sunny Florida I make sure all of my uv needing animals get lots of
natural sunlight. The sun being part of the testing I did once, I've
learned that the suns uv output on a sunny day in direct light its
20x+ that of a uv light. Its generally said that about 1 hr of full
natural light is about equal to 10 hrs under a bulb. In the summer and

spring seasons my tegus/lizards stay outside, weather permitting,
every day or every other day at least. If you do this method you NEED
to have a clean fresh water source and a shaded cooler area. Tegus
usually like temps ranging from 83-100. You need to have a cooler spot

for your tegu to get too, and a warm basking spot. So with this method

my tegus would have natural light with little to no artificial uv
about 3/4s of the year, and controlled artificial light throughout the

winter months assuming they don't hibernate.

Now hibernation in tegus is not nessesarily required, but generally

suggested. In the wild tegus will naturally hibernate for 5-7 months
of the year. Not a whole lot is known on exactly why and what the
hibernation does to the tegus, but theorys on breeding and
fertilization are suggested. It is said that if a tegu misses a
hibernation they will not produce that year. None of this is set in
stone but seeing as I haven't personally been breeding or testing
these theories I cannot give any solid information. The basics I do
know from other reptiles is a period of time, generally towards
winter, where the animal will slow down on eating, sleep most of the
day, and not be very active. Reducing the light lengths is a good
starter to get them to go down. You need to make sure you have a
decent place for your tegu to sleep, a constant fresh water source
just in case, and that your tegu has no remaining food left in its
digestinal track that could possibly spoil. Once you notice your tegu
slowing down eating during this time completely stop feeding. Make
sure it has completely drained all food from its system and is ready
to go down. I generally check on my animals every other day or so just

to make sure they are doing ok. As I said before I cannot give proper
solid information on hibernation, as I haven't experienced it enough
myself or have talked with reputable people who have tested different

As full grown adults tegus need very large cages. I've been told
that a 40 gal breeder is good for a tegu up until they get close to
full grown. It is important that this be a breeder tank. Reason behind

that is because of the dimensions of your common aquarium/terrarium.
Generally they have a decent length and height but not a good width
for most large reptiles. But breeder tanks are more of a square shape
as oposed to the standard rectangular shape. You'll need a tank that
your tegu can turn around and move comfortably in. A good substrate is

cypress mulch. It is cheap and easy to clean while also retaining and
controlling the humidity they need. A squirt with a misting bottle a
few times a day keeps the humidity about right and the cypress mulch
helps hold it a bit. Depending on where you are will be precisely what

and how big of a cage you'll need. I, myself, have a large 8ftx10x8ft
outside enclosure in partial shade with several levels raised up on
wood. Now because it is raised up on wood I will have to provide a
decent space to dig but that also helps garuntee that there wont be
any breakouts. I have a large horse trough that should do as a fine
area to dig. Also in this cage is a small pool and a second floor
large hammock/ledge with a ladder leading up to it.

Tegus are omnivores. Meaning they eat both meats and plants. A
suitable diet would be a variety of meats like insects, rodents, lean
ground turkey, along with a variety of fruits like grapes, bananas,
ect. Alternating days of both are good. My tegus eat crickets and
grapes one day, lean ground turkey and bananas the next, super worms
and another fruit day after that and back to crickets and whatever
fruit. I suggest making charts and getting a very diverse range of

Seeing as theres a few breeders producing and selling tegus right
now, your best bet is to get one directly from them. Try to find a
good healthy stock, thats also docile and tame. Its not too hard to
tame down a small tegu but its not too fun. As for breeding yourself
that is something I am not anywhere near qualified to do. So I can not

give good information.

So this concludes my long essay/care sheet of information I have
been writing. Seeing as I am only one person with one experiences I
cannot guarantee that this is 100% accurate and good. Don't follow
anyones caresheets too exactly because there is constantly new
knowledge and information coming into play on the care for any
reptile. Hope this helped you in even the least bit. And any questions

can easily be answered on the forums or with someone more