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Chinese Water Dragon Care - 7

Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet - Section 7

How Much To Feed

How much to feed a Chinese Water Dragon is a difficult question to answer. The basic answer is as much as they will eat! If your dragon is thin then it is best to offer food a few times a day for awhile to get it's weight up. For example, if it only eats 6 crickets at the first offering, try offering him some mealworms, or wax worms a few hours later. I'll bet he'll eat some more!

Keep a record of your feedings so you'll know how much he is eating daily, weekly etc. That way, you will notice if your dragon is improving or if a problem may be starting to develop.

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)

General Rules About Feeding

Food items of the appropriate size should be offered to your water dragon. The size of the food item should be no longer than the length of the head, and no wider than half the width of the head, and preferably about one third the width of the head. That is the advice in Philippe's book, but for pinkies I don't know, my female eats them and they are longer than her head, and maybe a little wider than half the width, but then again she chews them up, sometimes only eating half at a time!

How To Feed

Water dragons are considered omnivores. You can offer food items by hand, by holding the food item (fish, pinky, insect ...) in tweezers, or you can drop it in front of the dragon, or you can serve it to him in a bowl. The point is, it doesn't matter how you feed the dragon, just do whatever works best for the dragon.

If the dragon isn't eating well, try offering different types of food items. Sometimes they get bored so try offering food in different ways if your dragon doesn't seem too interested with the way you normally offer the food. Throw crickets in the dragons water dish. Sometimes the sight of struggling crickets sparks a non-eating water dragons interest. Feeding the dragon at slightly different times of day may make the dragon take more interest in the food being offered. Dangle pre-killed food items such as pinky mice in front of the dragon. This makes the pre-killed food item move a bit and seem alive and sometimes that is all that is needed to get the dragon to try the food.

Do note that while dragons may go off their food because of boredom with the diet, the most common reason for lessened appetite or no appetite at all is illness, stress or a female dragon being gravid (pregnant) and in it's last couple of weeks of the pregnancy. Lessened appetite may be the first sign that something is wrong with the dragon so do pay attention and take note of this if you notice that your dragon is eating less and less.

If you are trying to feed your dragon fish for the first time, especially live fish, you likely wont have much luck if you just put the fish in the dragons water dish. Try letting the fish flop on the ground in front of the dragon. This usually works well!

When offering pinkies or feeder fish for the first time, you might want to be SURE the dragon is hungry. If the dragon is healthy and is not too thin, you might want to try not feeding it for a day or two, then offering a pinky for the first time. You might have more success this way. A well fed dragon may not be quite as eager to try something new.

Tricias Diet Example

An example of what mine eat:

  • For the week of Dec 17 - 23 1995 Female-Rogue- 5" svl 18.5 stl ate 14 large to medium crickets, 27.5 King mealworms and 1/2 a pinky.
  • Male-Knight- 5.25" svl, 20.5" stl ate 14 large to med. crickets, and 26.5 King mealworms.
  • My smallest dragon 2.75" svl, 9.75" stl ate 4 med. crickets, 25 mini mealworms, and 1 waxworm.
  • My larger small dragon 3 1/8" svl, 11 stl ate 6 med crickets, 37 mini mealworms, and 1 waxworm.

Personally, I feel that they should be eating a bit more, especially pinkies but they are gaining weight and growing on this amount, so at least I know that I'm not feeding them too little.

It would be a good idea to pick up one of those kitchen scales for weighing food to weigh your dragon with now and then.

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

NOTE: Improper diet, inadequate heat, and or improper lighting can cause a reptile to not digest it's food properly or not use the calcium and other nutrients in it's food properly. Usually, a combination of all three of the above stated improperly performed basic requirements WILL result in calcium deficiency. This is a very serious ailment!

MBD is made up of a number of disorders. One of the most common of these disorders is an improper balance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet resulting in hyper or hypo calcemia. MBD can affect the internal organs as well as the bones. When there is an imbalance of calcium in the diet (hypocalcemia or hypercalcemia) bones become weak and spongy. The affected bones will also enlarge, and have irregular outlines i.e. bumps and swellings. These bones will deform easily and may also fracture easily. As the calcium levels in the blood drop muscle tremors, tetany, and or asthenia occur. When the calcium level becomes critically low death from cardiac failure may occur.

Signs and Symptoms of MBD Signs of metabolic bone disease include hard knobs in the long bones of the legs, bumps along the vertebral column of the back and tail, softening or hard swelling of the jaw, and softening of the plastron or carapace (for turtles and torts). All of these signs may be felt before they can be seen, making a careful physical exam important. Visible signs of moderate to severe MBD include jerky gait when walking, tremors and twitches in the limbs and muscles of the legs and toes when at rest, and shakiness when being held. Advanced cases of MBD include all the above signs plus anorexia and fractured bones. Severely deficient reptiles tend to be lethargic and may only be able to drag themselves along the ground. Arboreal lizards spend all of their time on the ground as they lack the strength to grip and climb.

Please see Calcium Deficiency in herbivore and omnivorous reptiles and Herp Centers Metabolic Bone Disease page for more information about this much too common ailment.


Author: Tricia Power
CWD (First) - © B Kimmel [CC-BY-SA-3.0]