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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.