Small Breed Rescue of Southern California
Custom Tegu Enclosure
One of the challenges to housing a tegu is the enormous amount of ground space they need. While a juvenile under 6 months could initially be kept in a 40 gallon (36"x16"x16"), a full grown adult would at minimum need an enclosure roughly 8ft by 2ft by 2ft (240 gallon) while still supplementing with out of the enclosure time. It can be quite difficult to place something that large in your home, especially when it comes to navigating doorways and halls to get it there. Furthermore, there are very few available on the market so you are going to have to build it yourself.
While tegus are terrestrial and do not climb much, that doesn't mean you cant build a tall enclosure with a small footprint instead, if you create multiple levels and plan the space carefully. Below we will show you how we took an armoire and turned it into a multi level enclosure for our tegu.
This enclosure ended up at around 45" wide, 24" deep and 58" tall on its inner dimensions which is over 250 gallons. It consists of three levels, each with a specific purpose.
Our tegu is almost 4 feet long and still has a lot of space to move around. Having the entire front open up makes it easy to interact safely and at their level without towering over them which can put them on the defensive. There are two doors which allows blocking the Tegu on one level while you service the other level.
This enclosure initially came to us as a partial conversion where the doors and walls were already cut open. There was minimal plexiglass and most holes were enclosed with soft screen. This would be fine for a juvenile but would not contain an adult at all. All the openings were covered in plexiglass, the upper most have holes drilled for ventilation. Locks were added to the doors for security and ease of use.
The entire interior was treated with a product called Dry Lock. It is a safe non toxic sealer of latex and sand typically used to seal basements in your home. It is available at your local Home Depot or Lowes and runs about $48 a gallon. Treating with a very light first coat makes subsequent thick coats much easier
Since heat rises and Tegus like to burrow, the bottom level was best suited as the hide box, The pool in the middle so any spillage helps humidify the hide box, and the top for basking. This satisfies all our required gradients. It contains around 10" of suitable substrate. We initially had the single round opening into the hide box but later decided to keep the entire front open. This prevents the tegu from blocking the hole with substrate when digging but also allows us to check on the tegu during brumation without disturbing them.
The second level up is where we wanted our soaking pool. It is important to make the best use of the space keeping in mind it needs to be easy for the tegu to reach the next level. adding steps to the ramp makes it much easier to climb. Also not the the ramp does not attach to the upper level. This keeps it modular and easy to remove for cleaning.
Make sure anything added to the inside of the tank is added in a tegu safe manner. This uvb light added to the soaking level needed to be affixed so securely that changing the bulb is somewhat difficult now. However its a small price to pay for being safe.
Planning the lighting is very important. We chose to add a false ceiling so we could easily protect the recessed lighting, make it easy to service, and allow the top of the enclosure to be used for storage space. These lights support Uvb, Uva, Basking and ceramic heaters. In hind sight I wish we would have incorporated a long tube style fluorescent uvb housing so that the UVB light is stronger at the basking spot. Because all this is modular, it will be easy to change with minimal effort.