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Chinese Water Dragon Care - 3

Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet - Section 3

Heat Sources

You will also need one or two basking lamps. This can be any incandescent light, either a specialized basking lamp or a regular bulb. You may have to buy different wattage to provide the right amount of heat. i.e. anywhere from 50 watt to 150 watt bulbs. These lights get hot so make sure that your dragon can't get near them!

Another good heat source might be a Zoomed, or Pearlco ceramic bulb (Ceramic Heat Emitter or CHE). These come in different wattages, and get extremely hot! make sure your dragon can't touch it at all! It will sear flesh!!! If you get one of these definitely put it on a thermostat or dimmer. Ceramic heaters are a great way to provide heat at night since they don't produce light. If you use one of these ceramic heat emitters and you are afraid that your lizard might at some point come in contact with the bulb you should try to build a protective wire cage around the bulb so that the lizard can never actually touch the CHE.

Another good source of heat at night would be a nocturnal bulb. There are many commercial brands available in pet stores.

Human heating pads, are good to bask on but don't raise the ambient cage temperature very much. They may be placed directly inside the enclosure or underneath a slightly propped up tank.

I don't like the stick on heating pads that the stores are selling lately. You cannot move these if you end up putting them in the wrong area, because if you do try to do this the pad usually tears and this will render it unsafe for reuse. These stick on heating pads also make direct contact with the glass tank and can cause the glass to become extremely hot and could actually cause the glass to crack as well. I've heard of a number of reptiles being badly burned when these sticky pads have been used.

Do not get a hot rock!, Many lizards, and snakes have been badly burnt by them! Hot rocks can crack, short, smoke and can develop hot spots over time that can burn your lizard. Some people try to get around these short falls by wrapping the rock in a cloth material or burying the rock in the substrate- but then how can you check to see if the rock really is developing hot spots or it has cracked? Hot rocks are also not good when in contact with moist substrates or moist humid environments- this is when they might short out and possibly electrocute your lizard. Many house fires have been traced back to the use of hot rocks in a reptiles cage. For all of these reasons I suggest that if you have already purchased a hot rock that you cut the cord off and use it only as cage decor- for your own and your lizards safety.

You should also have good ventilation in the cage, and the temperature should be on a gradient i.e. top of cage warmer or cooler, or have a warm side and a cooler side so the dragon can thermo-regulate. Typically the basking area is going to be the warmest but the dragon will need a cooler place in case it gets too hot! You should have a couple of thermometers in the cage to measure the temps in different areas!

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)


Water dragons love water, (well not all of them, but most do!) you should provide a fairly large area of water by either using a large plastic container (kitty litter pan) or make a nice water area using an aquarium or something with a water filter and waterfall for example. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. Whatever you use you need a container that is large enough for the dragon to enter and exit easily, and it must be filled with enough water that he can immerse up to 50% of his body height. You should be able to remove the water container easily for cleaning and disinfecting, as well as refreshing the water supply. The water container should be changed daily. You will probably find that your dragon goes to the washroom in the water. This is a good thing as it means the rest of the cage stays cleaner longer! The water doesn't have to be heated, room temp. is good enough. You might want to use a filter in the water though to keep it cleaner longer.

When changing the water in the container please be sure to clean the dish with soap and water, rinse well, then disinfect the container with a 5-10% bleach solution, rinse the dish thoroughly afterwards before replacing the water container in the dragons enclosure. * soap and bleach may produce toxic fumes when uses together- so please use them separately and rinse the container well between use of the soap or bleach solution.* Other disinfecting solutions may be used rather than bleach if you prefer- a novosolin or quatracide solution will provide adequate disinfection as well.


Humidity should be about 80%, even with a water container in the cage this can be difficult to maintain. I have live pothos and dracenae plants in my cage, planted in soil, so watering and misting these plants also helps to provide a humid atmosphere. You should get a gage that measures the humidity. Try to mist the enclosure twice a day. If you are really having problems keeping the humidity above 50% or higher try covering part of the top of the enclosure if it has a screen cover- you could put a piece of plexiglass or even saran wrap or foil over part of the opening- this should help a bit- but, by all means never cover the whole top of the enclosure there must always be air circulating in the cage!

Some people feel that maintaining a humid environment is not necessary. I do not feel this way. Water dragons are from a tropical humid climate, and being kept in the harsh warm dry conditions of captivity can be harmful to your dragons health.

Iguana's also come from tropical humid areas and it has been found that if they are kept in captivity in a too dry enclosure they will more easily become dehydrated. Once an iguana becomes dehydrated the kidneys start to become affected. Many iguana's die every year from kidney failure. Some of these deaths are the result of animal protein in their diet, and some of these deaths are caused by chronic dehydration.

While iguana's and water dragons come from different areas of the world I feel that their habitat and living environment are very similar. Please mist your cages once or twice a day, and make every effort to maintain a proper humidity level for your dragons sake- his life span could be affected as a result of low humidity levels.

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)


You can use a combination of soil and orchid bark but the dragon may accidentally ingest some of this when eating its food items on it, or you can use astroturf (but melt/bind the edges so the little pieces of green fiber doesn't fray as this may be ingested too!) With ingestion of substrate you run the risk of your dragons digestive track getting impacted, this could be very serious!

Substrates that I've heard other people mention with few problems resulting in their use are: Sterile soil and playground sand mixture; sterile soil and cypress mulch, or orchid bark mixture; Astroturf with bound or melted edges; bed sheets; newspaper, or butcher paper; paper towels; ceramic tiles, and alfalfa pellets.

I generally prefer to suggest that people use sterile top soil or a soil that has no additives or at most only some sphagnum moss added to it. This has proved to be a generally safe medium and it will also help keep the cage humidity in the proper range. If the soil is not marked "sterile" it would be wise to bake the soil at 300 F for 30 minutes or so in order to kill off some of the bacteria, fungus and or little bugs that could be in the soil before using it in the dragons cage. Some soil mixes have additives such as vermiculite (the shiny stuff) and or perlite (the tiny white styrofoam like balls) that are indigestible but extremely attractive to curious water dragons. Please don't use soils with these additives. Also don't use soils that have added fertilizers. Fertilizers could be extremely toxic to your dragon and I'm sure you'd hate for anything to happen to your dragon because you used a soil with fertilizers added to it.

Substrates that have been known to cause problems are: Commercial brands sold in pet stores such as bark, shavings and other products made with moss- All of these commercial products are easy for the dragon to accidentally ingest, and have been known to cause impaction in several reptiles and amphibians. Whatever you use as substrate don't use cedar or pine as they emit fumes and resins which are toxic to herps!


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