Hibernation in 4 steps

I often get the question; “Is hibernation necessary?”. In my personal experience I think it is. What i have seen tegus who do not hibernate often get older much faster. Get problems with obesity and their joints. Of course you have to decide for your own what you do.

Different tegu, different needs

There are of course many types of tegus. Black and white (S. merianae), Chacoan (S. merianae), Blue (S. merianae), Red (S. rufescens) and Golden/Columbian (T. teguixin/cryptus/cuzcoensis/zuliensis). They are all from different locations in South America. So you can understand they have different needs.

Tegus in the wild

On this map you can see where the different types of tegus come from. Chacoan is a locality of black and white who live in Chaco Argentina. So they are added in the green black and white area. Same for blacknose, blackhead and black and whites.
This is the climate most black and white tegus live in. You can see temperature go between 10C (50F) and 15C (59F) and sometimes even under 10C (50F). In my experience if you stay between 10C and 15C your tegu is save. If you have a drop under 10C for 1 night, it won’t affect your tegu as long as the temperature on most of the hibernation is stable. I experienced more problems when temperatures went higher than 15C. Black and white started to lose weight or wake up often.
This is the climate most Red tegus live in. You can see its between 12C (53,6F) and 19C (66,2F) in wintertime. In my experience, because some even live in warmer climates, most do best at 18 to 19C. Some red tegus get pneumonia (infection in the lungs) when they are hibernated too cold.


Blue tegus live in a much warmer climate that is very close to the climate of golden tegus. Specially the tegus who came to Europe in 2011, who came from the island Fernando De Noronha. Like you can see the temperatures are almost the same 25C (77F) to 30C (86F) the whole year around. You can understand I never hibernate my blue tegus. In my experience they do very bad at cold temperatures. If you would hibernate a blue like you would hibernate a red or black/white tegu, you end up having a dead tegu.
Golden tegus live in a warm climate with no cold winter. I keep them like I keep my blue tegus. Warm all year around.


How do you hibernate your tegu in captivity?

I can only tell you how I do it for many years now. Like I said above. They all have different needs. Only Black and white (including: blacknose, blackhead and chacoan) and Red tegus hibernate. I start hibernation after they have become 1 year old because they are stronger and the chances of it going wrong is much smaller. because they are less sensitive at this age and size. This is a step by step explanation how I do it.

Step one:
Normally in September, but can also be later (depending on how long you want them to hibernate) I start building down light hours. From day one I do not feed them anymore. After a week I put the lights form 12 hours light a day to 9 hours light a day. the week after I put the lights down from 9 to 6 hours a day. The week after from 6 to 3 hours a day. And the last week from 3 to 0 hours a day. Then you let them rest for 1 week in the enclosure. In the month you are taking down light hours you can put your tegu in a bath several times to make sure his intestines are empty. It’s very important they are empty. If they are still full of food or poop it can rot in their belly and they will die. If you do this all the right way, noting should go wrong.

Step two:
This very depends on your situation and what species you keep. Reds need a temperature of 18C (64,4F) to 19C (66,2F). Black and whites need a temperature between 10C (50F) and 15C (59F). I normally keep them around a stable 12/13C to be save. Too much up and down in temperature is not good for them. In some situations a tegu can stay in his enclosure for hibernation. In this case make sure you blind the windows so no light comes in. If your room is not cold enough you need a basement or garage that’s cold enough. A room that is too cold you can warm up with a heater on a thermostat. This is the most save way. You can put the tegu in a box with straw and move them in the box too the climate controlled room a week after all lights went off.

Step three:
Now that your tegu is a sleep you need to make sure he is alright. The first weeks he can be a little restless. This is normal. After a while they get very quiet. Just check on them at least 1 time a week. You can touch him and he will make a huffing sound. This is very important. You need to listen. If he sounds normal and smooth he is doing well. If you hear a sound that sounds off, like boiling water. something is wrong. He probably got pneumonia. in this case take the box with the tegu to a room temperature room and let him warm up slowly. After that you put the tegu back in the enclosure and put the light and heat on so it will slowly warm up. keep the hotspot on for some nights too so he recover from the pneumonia. Often they do not need antibiotics to recover from pneumonia. Just heat will do the job.
Make sure the straw is always dry and do not put any water bowl in the box if you keep the tegu in a box. They do not need water while hibernating and it can only make the straw wet and this can cause pneumonia.

Step four:
I normally wake them up in March. This is something that needs to be done slowly in a day. First you take the box out if you have them in a colder room in boxes. Put the box with the tegu to a room temperature room and let him warm up slowly. After that you put the tegu back in the enclosure and put the light and heat on so it will slowly warm up. If they go from 10/18C to 25C+ in some seconds they can’t handle it and this can cause damage in your tegu to even dead. So make sure it goes slowly. You can put the light at 10/12 hours a day from day one, but do not feed the first week. Their stomach needs to start up again. This takes time. After a week you can give food that’s easy to the stomach.