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Chinese Water Dragon Care - 4

Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet - Section 4

Snout Damages

If your cage is an aquarium, or has glass or plexiglass doors, and is built in such a way that the dragon can see out of the glass at eye level, then you may find that he repeatedly bumps the glass with his snout either trying to get out, or fighting with his reflection... all this bumping will cause very bad damage to his snout.

A way to prevent this, if your dragon has a tendency to do this, is to plant some plants around the edge of the enclosure or use some paper to create a visual barrier. This will also help to make your new dragon feel much more secure and give him some hiding places!

If your dragon is constantly banging his or her snout on the glass it may be a sign that the dragons enclosure is too small. It may be time to get your dragon a nice large enclosure. The larger the enclosure the less frequently this snout banging activity occurs.

For more information, please see the "snout rubbing page" on how to prevent permanent damage to your dragons face!

Chinese Water Dragon Enclosure (Physignathus cocincinus)

Enclosure Size

Water dragons need height, since they are climbers, but they also need length! Provide branches to climb on (soak in weak bleach solution to kill parasites first, rinse well, and let dry), plants, basking areas, hiding areas, and ideally if you can make at least 1/3 of the ground area water.

Water Dragons need a space at least 2 x their total length therefore you will need to provide an enclosure that is a min. of 6 ft long (side to side), 2-3 feet deep and 4-6 feet high to do it right. Green and Australian can be kept together, with one to three males in a room-sized enclosure. Some females can be domineering and may not want any other females around ... others can cohabit with 3-4 females. You must monitor to assure ALL are feeding and basking properly. If any aren't, you are likely seeing the results of intimidation, and will need to increase the number of basking and feeding areas and/or increase enclosure size, or separate them.

If you decide to make a large enclosure for your dragon(s), and you live in a cool climate it would be a good idea to have two or three sides of the enclosure made of wood. Wood is a wonderful insulator, so a vivarium made mostly of wood will hold the heat during cool winter months much better than an enclosure made mostly of glass.

If you have a dragon or dragons that are hatchlings or juveniles then you might be able to get away with a smaller aquarium or enclosure for a while but you will eventually need a fairly large area for your dragon so you might as well spend less money by starting out with the right size enclosure.

The enclosure that we built last fall is made of 3/4 inch plywood, has sliding glass doors and is 6 feet high, 3 feet long and 2.5 wide. If I were to do it again I'd leave the height and width as they are and but make it 6 feet long! For a complete up to date description and pictures of our vivarium please see "my vivarium" page.

In order to heat the vivarium we have a 150 watt ceramic heat emitter (screwed into a ceramic light socket) . The ceramic bulb is inside the enclosure fixed to the ceiling of the vivarium, and attached to a biostat thermostat in order to regulate the heat within the cage. We have a UVB Fluorescent light at the top and a foot under that is a shelf to bask on, then directly under that shelf is another UVB fluorescent, with another shelf under it to bask on, then directly under the second shelf are two 75 watt basking lamps aimed at driftwood basking areas. 1/3 of the bottom is a plexiglass aquarium with a water fall ( made using a fluval 2 water filter and siliconed rocks), with an external drain for easy water changes, and the other 2/3 of the ground area is well planted and has a substrate of soil, sand and mulch mixture.

We have a computer fan at the top of the enclosure blowing the warm air downward, and another computer fan at mid level that blows fresh air across the cage for ventilation.

The enclosure was sealed with aquarium safe silicone, then polyurethaned several times with a water based polyurethane. The outside of the enclosure is painted with a water based latex and is a nice forest green.

Live Plants In The Enclosure

There are many benefits when live plants are included in an enclosure. The enclosure is pleasant to look at, the water dragons will have more hiding places, and humidity will be easier to maintain when live plants are included as they will need to be watered and misted. The only true downside to having soil and live plants in the enclosure is that crickets that are not eaten quickly tend to lay eggs in the soil.

Plants should be repotted in a safe soil mix that does not contain any fertilizers before being used in the dragons vivarium. It would also be a good idea to rinse the plant a few times in the shower to rinse off any powdered pesticides that could have been sprayed on the plants leaves to kill pests. Pesticides are toxic to reptiles. I generally keep new plants out of the dragons enclosure for a week or two after purchase and clean and shower the plant a few times before adding it into the dragons cage. Better to be safe than sorry!

I am currently using Pothos, and Dracenae plants in the enclosure, and Hibiscus and ficus trees in the living room for the dragons to climb in. These plants, as well as Philodendrons, Spider plants, and Epiphytes such as Staghorn ferns, and certain bromolaids are known to be safe for use with water dragons. Unfortunately not all plants are safe for use with reptiles. You can find a listing of Toxic plant links at: Toxic Plants

Chinese Water Dragon Head (Physignathus cocincinus)

Home Made Enclosures - Toxic Substances

If you decide to build your own enclosure over buying a pre-made one please make the enclosure with non toxic ingredients. Plywood is fine, plexiglass is okay- but it will scratch easily.

If you use wood in your construction, polyurethane the wood to water proof it. Water based polyurethanes are the best ones to use as far as having less toxic fumes, however, water based urethanes can still take 30 days or longer to cure. Latex and oil- based coatings will take even longer!

If you polyurethane though, please keep in mind that it will need to air out for a week to a month before you use it (and when you put your heat sources in take a good smell again since when it heats up more toxic fumes may be released!) and up to 30 days or more if you really want to be sure that all of the toxic fumes will be gone!

If you use silicone to seal the enclosure, use a brand that clearly states that it is aquarium safe, others are too toxic to herps.

Water based latex paints are okay but again the enclosure must have time to air out. You don't want to kill your new pet!


Author: Tricia Power
CWD Head Shot - © Alina Zienowicz [CC-BY-SA-3.0]