Choosing a Water Dragon as a Pet
There are two types of water dragon, the Chinese water dragon and the Australian water dragon. The adult male Chinese Water Dragon can grow up to 3 feet in total length, while the Australian adult males can grow slightly longer. Water Dragons have a parietal eye, which is a light sensitive third eye located at the top of their heads. Water Dragons have a very mild temperament and biting is very rare, although they will whip their tails when annoyed or stressed.
Company for Water Dragons
Female Water Dragons will generally live happily together, although it is recommended that if you want to keep more than one, that you get them at the same time. Alternatively, you can introduce a new dragon later, but it can take up to four months for them to become accustomed to each other and they will need to kept in a divided vivarium until then. It is also recommended that your two dragons be about the same size as each other to lessen stress and aggressive behaviour. Two males will not get on, and will fight to the death, so they should never be kept together.
The expected lifespan is 11 years but some can live up to 15 years old. Proper care and attention is needed at all times.
Where Water Dragons Like to Live
The Water Dragon makes an excellent pet once provided with the right environment. They need large enclosures with plenty of branches for climbing and a swimming pool deep enough to submerge at least half their body height. Nocturnal creatures, your Water Dragon will sleep during the day and be awake during the night.
Chinese water dragons need a good pool of water to bath in. It should be large and deep enough so that a dragon can submerge at least 1/2 its height. You need to be able to remove and clean/disinfect the water daily, especially if your dragon uses it for a toilet.
If stressed or frightened, your Water Dragons will go underwater for periods of time to hide. They can stay under for about a half hour but are sometimes lethargic or dopey when you rescue them.
When handling your Water Dragon talk to it softly before attempting to pick him up, then gently place one hand over his body, placing one index finger over the shoulder, and have your thumb wrap around the underside of the opposite arm. Place your other hand under the dragons belly to give him a sense of support and slowly lift the dragon out of the enclosure or from where ever he happens to be at the time. Do not squeeze him in order to stop struggling as you will likely injure him.
In its habitat you must provide large branches and other objects for the Chinese Water Dragons to climb and perch on.
Diet & Nutrition
Water Dragons are omnivores so they eat both insects and vegetables, but they do prefer meat so will eat vegetables in smaller amounts. A varied diet of live food (choose food no larger than half the size of your reptile’s head), should be fed daily when juvenile and every two days when they reach adulthood.
Crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, locusts, pinkie mice and some fruit and vegetables should make up your Water Dragon’s diet.
Your Water Dragon will need a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. If your lizard is lacking D3 and calcium it can get metabolic bone disease which can be fatal. Breeding females, babies, and juveniles will need supplements more frequently.
If you notice your Water Dragon eating its own faecal matter, this is reasonably normal and, provided they are being fed enough, there is no need to be alarmed.
Health & Hygiene
A healthy Water Dragon will be bright and active. Signed of stress will be signalled by regular hiding under water, and if you notice this frequently happening, you should seek to identify the cause and remove it.
Metabolic Bone Disease
A problem for many reptiles, MBD is caused from a lack of calcium and/or UVA/UVB lighting. Symptoms include a thickened jaw line and/or ankles, bumps along spine, poor color, brittle/broken/misaligned bones, lack of coordination and weakened grip or tendency to fall.
Female Water Dragons will produce eggs during breeding season (December – June), regardless of whether or not they have mated. If she does not have a suitable place to lay her eggs, she will retain them, which will cause suffocation, dehydration or malnourishment, each of which will be fatal. When she wants to deposit her eggs, she will stop eating, but keep drinking. She may also start scratching the glass or ground, her eyes will be closed and she will remain in the lower part of her vivarium. Provide a container of clean sand in which she can deposit her eggs when you see these symptoms develop.
Cleaning the Habitat
Like any pet, regular cleaning of your pet’s home will be required to maintain its ongoing health. Establishing a regular routine will help you to keep your Water Dragon’s vivarium clean and disease free.
- Remove waste, debris, dead feeder insects, and shed skin from the vivarium
- Bathing pools must be cleaned and disinfected daily and fresh water supplied
- Remove and clean any objects that have faecal matter on them
- Clean and disinfect enclosure thoroughly
- Clean and disinfect interior items such as decorations, feeding and watering items
- Replace soiled substrate
Hand washing is very important when owning any reptile. Washing your hands before and after handling your Water Dragon will help keep you and your pet healthy. If you wash your hands before handling you reduce the risk of passing anything on to your pet.
As with all reptiles, Water Dragons have the potential to carry pathogens such as salmonella so children under five should not handle them and hands should be thoroughly washed before and after handling.
Take Me Home Checklist
Before you take your Water Dragon home, it is important that you have a habitat set up for him to move straight into. This list will help you identify what you need, and if you have any questions, our Pet Care Advisors in-store will be only to happy to assist.
- Large vivarium
- Full spectrum lighting (UVA and UVB)
- Heat Mat
- Large water tray
- Suitable substrate
- Branches and decor for climbing and hiding
- Misting bottle
- Live food
- Calcium and Vitamin D supplements