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Chinese Water Dragon Care - 2

Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet - Section 2


With age, males develop larger heads, large jowls, and a larger crest behind the neck.The femoral pores of adult males are slightly larger than that of the females. When dragons are mature and able to breed, they are generally about 2 years old and 2 feet in length. They are generally considered adults when they have mature colors just under their chins. One of mine has a nice yellow chin, and the larger one has a nice peach and aqua coloration under his chin. From what I can tell it is very difficult to tell if you have a male or female until they are mature. They generally have to be about twenty inches or longer in total length before their secondary sexual characteristics begin to develop thus making males and females easily distinguishable from one another. Your vet can probe your dragon to find out, but if you have a good vet he won't do this unless your dragon is about 18 months to 2 years old. There is also the danger of damaging the dragon when this is done, please keep this in mind if you decide to have your dragon probed! A safer way to sex your dragon is to compare it to other dragons. Please visit the "Water Dragon Photo Gallery" to see pictures of male and female dragons.

For a more descriptive means of sexing your dragon, visit "Sexing Your Dragon".

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)

Cage Mates

The first thing you need to do is be certain of the sex of your Water dragon. Two males generally will not get along. Two females normally will. Of course, a male and a female would be your best bet. You could then get them to breed and provide more captive bred dragons to the herp community and hopefully help lower the amount of wild caught dragons that are brought in to be sold! Dragons breed very easily!

I think it is best for new water dragon owners to begin with one lizard at first, unless you can get a guarantee that the company you are buying from will accurately sex a male and female lizard for you, if that's what you want of course.

Keep your one Dragon for a while, get to know it, let it adjust, and then get it a mate. You will learn more from your first dragon, and make fewer mistakes with your second!

Be advised, when you get your second dragon have a fecal (stool) test done for "Parasites" (do this with your first too) before putting it in with your first dragon. Also check both dragons carefully for "mites" - they are hard to get rid of and you don't want to have an infestation.

It's good to quarantine new animals for a month or more until you are sure they are healthy before putting them in with others. Please see "New Reptile Quarantine, and Signs of Illness". Prior to putting your new dragon in with your first one, take the time to introduce them for short periods, supervise the visits, watch for fighting, aggressive behavior, and stress. In time they should get along fine, but it will be less stressful on them and on yourselves if you do it slowly.


Day time temperatures should be between 84 and 88 F (28.9 C - 31.1 C), night time temperatures should be between 75 and 80 F (23.9 C - 26.7 C). It's a good idea to have at least two thermometers in the cage. One should be on the cool side, and one thermometer should be placed on the warm side of the "enclosure". Improper temperature ranges can result in your dragon becoming ill with a respiratory infection or make him more susceptible to other "common ailments" due to weakening of the immune system and inadequate digestion of nutrients due to slower metabolism when kept at too cool a temperature.

You'll have to play with different light wattages, or put your heat sources on a thermostat or dimmer switch to get the temps just right. I can't tell you exactly what wattage of bulb to use in your water dragons enclosure because this will depend upon the temperature of the room that the water dragon is housed in. If the room is generally cool you will need a higher wattage of basking light, if the room is kept fairly warm you will probably get away with using low wattage basking bulbs to heat the cage. Your lights should be on a timer so that your dragon will get a proper photo period. My lights come on at 8 am and go off at 8 PM.

Many keepers have problems regulating the temperature of their enclosures in the summer and in the winter. If the cage is too hot in the summer try using basking lights with lower wattages. If the cage is too cool in the winter increase the wattage of your bulbs, and possibly put some insulation on the outside walls of the enclosure to keep the heat in.

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)


We know that natural unfiltered sunlight is the very best form of lighting to provide for water dragons as well as most other herps, unfortunately many people who own water dragons are unable to provide natural sunlight at all (due to busy lifestyles or because they live in apartments and do not have the ability to provide adequate access to outdoor facilities for their dragons) so, you will note that I will only discuss the provision of artificial UVB light sources for the remainder of this care doc. If you are able to provide natural unfiltered sunlight for your water dragons,by all means do so.Please supervise your water dragon while it is sunning itself in order to prevent either escapes or overheating (To prevent overheating in the sun please provide your dragon with a shady area to go to in case it gets too hot, and never put a dragon in a glass tank in direct sunlight either as this could cause severe overheating and death!).

You will definitely need to provide UVB in the form of fluorescent lighting. Incandescent bulbs do not produce UVB rays, they usually only provide UVA lighting. The dragon needs UVB to produce vitamin D3 in order to absorb the calcium in the diet, without this lighting the dragon will get very little calcium from the food and supplements that you are giving it and will very likely develop Calcium Deficiency in herbivore and omnivorous reptiles or MBD (metabolic bone disease) which is basically a calcium deficiency, but can also be caused by too much vitamin D3 supplementation as well. Please see "Kidney failure/ metabolic bone disease/ vitamin D supplements in reptiles and amphibians" for more information on calcium deficiency caused by over supplementation of vitamin D3.

If your dragon gets calcium deficiency it may first exhibit symptoms such as shaking trembling limbs and body, rubbery pliable lower jaw, swollen limbs, which will progress to inability to move legs i.e. drags itself around ... and death! The first sign may also be swollen bumps on limbs which could be a sign of a broken limb - a sign of weak bone structure. Most of the above symptoms are generally reversible if caught early. The vet will probably get you to give the dragon injections of calcium and get you to give your dragon oral liquid calcium supplements at home both of which usually begins to reverses the symptoms in about two weeks. However if you provide UVB fluorescent lighting, and supplement the dragons diet you will probably never have to go through this!

So again,the first thing you need is a UVB light source that the dragon can bask under. The light should be set up so that the dragon is not more than 10 inches away from the light source when basking, otherwise the effects of the UVB light will decrease the further away the dragon is from it. The tube should also be set up so that there is no glass or plastic between the light and the lizard as this filters out UVB rays. If you have a screen lid between your dragons UVB tube and the dragon please try to use large holed screen as screen with very tight mesh can block out up to 30% of the UVB rays, glass and plastic between the light and dragon block out 80 to 90% of the UVB rays. Fluorescent lights do not produce much heat so there is little fear of your dragon burning himself on it, but I wouldn't count this as one of your heat sources. Try Zoo med's reptisun, iguana 5.0, or a vita light. UVB fluorescent tubes only produce UVB for approximately 6 months- they will have to be replaced twice a year as a result even though the tubes themselves will still produce light they will no longer be outputting much if any UVB after a 6 month time period.

UVB rays are produced in the 290 to 320 nm (nanometer) range. The average florescent tube used for lighting in a house or office of even for plant growth does NOT produce rays in this range. They produced light at higher ranges and therefore only produce UVA. When purchasing a florescent light please make sure that it states somewhere on the package that it produces light in the 290 to 320 nm range.

Remember- round or incandescent bulbs do not produced UVB- they produce UVA. Many incandescent basking bulbs state on the package that they are full spectrum but this only means that they produce "light" in the full spectrum of colors ... not the actual full spectrum of light rays. Don't be fooled by marketing promo on packages- check the labels and make sure you really are getting something that produces UVB. Having said this please note that there is a new form of UVB producing light that is in bulb form it's called a UV heat light. I still haven't made up my mind as to how safe these bulbs are for humans or pets or if they are as effective as UVB tubes.


Author: Tricia Power
CWD - © Emoke Denes [CC-BY-SA-2.5]
CWD - © Emoke Denes [CC-BY-SA-2.5]