Physignathus cocincinus

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This is a specific care sheet for Chinese Water Dragons (Physignathus cocincinus), for more in this genus see Category:Physignathus.

Species Information Bar
Chinese Water Dragon care sheet
Physignathus cocincinus
Chinese Water Dragon.
Chinese Water Dragon.
Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Reptilia

Subclass: Diapsida

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Lacertilia

Family: Agamidae

Subfamily: Agaminae

Genus: Physignathus

Species: P. cocincinus

Chinese water dragons range form southeast Asian mainland (Thailand, Southern China, Vietnam, and Cambodia). They are large diurnal, arboreal lizards, living mainly in the branches of trees and bushes. However, they have also been found in burrows in sandy places. These lizards are also known to be semi-aquatic. Their long laterally flattened tail is well utilized when swimming.

Colours range from a light mint green to a dark forest green with slanted, vertical stripes along the sides that display colours of pale green, mint green, aqua/turquoise. As the males mature they gain an iridescent throat in the ranges of bright pinks, peach, light yellow and orange. The tail, which is heavily banded, can be used as a whip for defense, but is most often used for balance while climbing and because of it’s laterally flattened shape makes it an excellent swimmer. The heads are triangular shaped while a male’s head becomes wider as it matures into adulthood. A dark strip starts at the corner of the eye and goes back toward the ear. They have sharp teeth, but because of their already easy-going nature, will rarely bite humans. These lizards also have a high nuchal crest. In males this crest is taller than in females and they gain a second, very obvious mid-sagittal crest. This is also a lizard that can run on it’s back feet. They are one of several bi-pedal lizards.

Like other lizards, water dragons have a third eye called the parietal eye. This is located on the very top of the head and looks like a milky scale. This is a fully functioning eye, however it is only able to detect light and dark such as shadows going overhead. This is part of their advanced warning system that allows them to see birds of prey flying over head. They act accordingly taking cover by running into the foliage out of sight and relative safety.

Pet Reptile (Physignathus cocincinus) Care Information
Reptile Information Bar
Regions Found: Thailand, Southern China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, living mainly in the branches of trees and bushes, sometimes burrowing in sandy places.
Natural habitat: Chinese water dragons are diurnal and arboreal lizards.
Longevity: It is expected that a well cared for Chinese water dragon will live for 10 to 15 years in captivity.
Years to Maturity: At around 18 months old
Adult Size: Hatchlings are ca. 13-15 cm in total length. Adult females reach 60 cm whereas males are up to 90 cm total length. However, the tail makes up over 70% of this size.
Temperament: Chinese water dragons have an good temperament, they rarely bite, and make fantastic pets
Housing, Feeding and Climate of Physignathus cocincinus
Housing Size: The length of the tank should be at least twice the length of the water dragon.
Reptile Foods: Chinese water dragons eat crickets, mealworms, waxworms, earthworms, grasshoppers, butterworms, locusts, and possible small feeder fish. Adults can also be fed pinkie mice and kingworms.
Temperature: Day time between 84 and 88 F (29 C - 31 C). Night time between 75 and 80 F (24 C - 26.5 C).
Humidity: Humidity should be about 80%
Reptile Lighting: Full spectrum UVB is required as a substitute to natural sunlight.
Special Requirements:
Breeding Physignathus cocincinus
Breeding Difficulty: Medium. Chinese water dragons breeds regularly.
Physignathus cocincinus
Clutch Size:
5-15 eggs
Gestation Period: Water Dragons lay eggs at around two months after copulation
Incubation Temperature: 84-86 F
Incubation Humidity: 100%
Incubation Period: 65 days +- 15
Snout Damage
Recommended Pet Supplies for Physignathus cocincinus

nb. All of these can be purchased from an online pet store

Chinese water dragon description[edit]

A Chinese Water Dragon
Hatchlings are about 1 inch snout to vent, and 5 to 6 inches (13-15 cm) in total length; are often a brownish green dorsally (upper surface of the body) and a pale green to white ventrically (lower abdominal surface of the body), light colored stripes (usually white or beige) run vertically across each side of the body, with brown and green banded tails, very large eyes and short snouts.

Adult males are approx. 3 feet (92 cm) total length, adult females are approx. 2 feet (61 cm) total length. The tail of these lizards, from my observations, appears to make up approximately 70% - 75% of the water dragons total length. The tail is laterally flattened, banded brown and green, and ends in a fine point. Dragons use their tails for balance and leverage when climbing, and can use them to whip would be attackers, predators, and, or keepers.

Adult water dragons are, of course, green with colors ranging from a dark forest green to a light mint green. The lower body of an adult dragon is generally white or very light yellow. Vertical, slanted stripes, run along the sides of the water dragons body. These stripes can range in color from a pale green , mint green, to an aqua, or turquoise color. The throats of juvenile and adult water dragons can also be quite colorful with throat colors ranging from a very pale yellow, to orange, to peach, and bright pink.

The head has a triangular shape, and on adult male dragons, the head will become quite large and wide. Large, rounded, white scales run just below the mouth area and end in one or two larger pointed scales where the head and neck meet. The tongues of water dragons are similar in shape to our tongues in that they are thick and wide, but their tongues end in a very small fork. The tongue has a sticky surface that helps them to catch and hold their prey. Their teeth are small and pointed- the better to eat a omnivorous diet- and can draw blood if a dragon were to bite their keeper. (Luckily most dragons are even tempered and rarely bite their keepers) A dark stripe runs from the lower corner of the eye and extends out toward the ear .

A very small (1-2mm) round shiny spot located at the top of the head, between their eyes, is known as the parietal eye.(The third eye.) The parietal eye is thought to help water dragons, as well as a number of other reptiles, sense differences in light. It is believed that they use their third eye to help them thermo-regulate. For example, it may help them to decide upon a good basking spot, or it may help them sense that light levels are decreasing and that they had better find shelter for the night.

Water dragons have well developed nuchal crests, but they are often higher, and have longer spikes on male dragons. Males also have prominent mid-sagittal crests.

Water dragons have well developed legs. The front legs are generally much more slender than the back legs. The front legs, and strong 5 toed front claws, are used to climb and grasp branches. The muscular back legs are used to aid in climbing and swimming, as well as jumping or leaping from object to object! Water dragons can run bipedally, that is on their hind legs, and this is quite a sight to see. Their hind feet are 5 toed as well, with the middle toe being the longest . Their claws are long and thick and end in sharp needle like points.

Housing Chinese Water Dragons[edit]

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 chinese water dragons enclosure[edit]

Live Plants for Chinese Water Dragons

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

Home Made Enclosures and Toxic Substances[edit]

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!

Housing Chinese Water Dragons Together[edit]

Chinese Water Dragon groups
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.

Heating for chinese water dragons[edit]

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 heat sources[edit]

Chinese Water Dragon 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!

Lighting in chinese water dragon enclosures[edit]

Chinese Water Dragon Lamps

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.

Humidity in chinese water dragon enclosures[edit]

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.

Substrate in chinese water dragon enclosures[edit]

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!

Feeding Chinese Water Dragons[edit]

Chinese Water Dragon Feeding Intervals[edit]

Dragons at different stages of maturity get fed differently. A hatchling or juvenile needs to be fed daily; an adult- gets fed about every 2 to 3 days, although many people like myself do feed their adult dragons on a daily basis. Feed smaller portions if you would like to feed an adult dragon on a daily basis to prevent them from becoming overweight.

However, whatever size the dragon is disregard this feeding schedule if the dragon is skinny as you need to get some weight on this little guy! Feed every day in this case, offering food 2 or three times a day. Your dragon may only eat a bit in one sitting but be hungry later, and if you don't offer more food your dragon will take longer to get back in shape!

Food Items To Offer Chinese Water Dragons[edit]

Crickets, mealworms (normal size, jumbo and super), waxworms, and earthworms, grasshoppers, butterworms, locusts, some people try small feeder fish like goldfish, and you may also want to offer a little bit of finely shredded veggies and fruit (if your dragon will eat veggies this should make up about 10% to 15% of their "diet").

Adult dragons should be offered all of the above plus King mealworms (Zophobas). Supervise these feedings though, these worms bite back, some people squash their heads before feeding them to their lizards!), pinkies ( newborn hairless mice ) and Fuzzies ( slightly older baby mice, just starting to get hair).


Insects are fairly high in phosphorus and low in calcium, but do have nutritious value if not fed in abundance or as the soul diet. Most insects also have a hard indigestible exoskeleton that could cause a bowel impaction if fed in large quantities. All insects should be gut loaded with well balanced offerings of veggies and perhaps even some calcium and vitamins before being offered to reptiles. (See fruit and veggies below for some gut loading ideas)

Insects that are fairly easy to purchase: crickets, mealworms (tenibrio), Super worms (tenibrio mealworms on steroids- I don't recommend these!), King mealworms (Zophobas), and waxworms (very high in fat and very low in calcium- use only as a treat!), and earthworms.

Insects that can occasionally be found locally or may be purchased by mail order: butterworms, grasshoppers, locusts, Hissing Roaches, cicadas, and silkworms ... (I'm sure there are many others!)

Many people write to me asking if it is okay to feed their dragons insects that they have found in their yard. My answer is always "No". These insects may be contaminated by pesticides and or herbicides used in the area. Please do not risk your dragons life by feeding him wild caught crickets or other insects. Even if you don't use pesticides, someone in your neighborhood might, and therefore the insects will likely be affected. There have been a number of studies done to see just how far chemical contaminants can travel, and it has been shown that almost every place in the world has been touched by chemical contaminants of some kind or another.

It is not advisable to use insects that are not mentioned on this list as they may be toxic to your dragon. Over the summer a number of people were catching fireflies and feeding them to their herps- a number of these herps died. It seems that fireflies have some chemicals in them that are extremely poisonous.


Earthworms are fairly high in calcium, and are fairly well balanced nutritionally. They are also soft so the risk of impaction is lessened.

Whole Prey[edit]

Whole prey food items are generally high in calcium and protein, and due to the calcium content should be included as part of the diet. Mader states in his Reptile Medicine and Surgery " Carnivorous lizards should be fed pre-killed whole prey. Rodents are preferable to chicks, and chicks are preferable to fish." he also goes to state " If mice, rats, rodents, rabbits and chicks make up the bulk of the diet, vitamin and mineral supplementation should not be necessary. It should be noted that newborn pinkie mice have less total calcium than do adult mice, and a calcium should be supplemented if these are used."

A selection of whole prey food items would range from pinkie, fuzzie and adult mice, rat pups, some people have offered gerbil fuzzies?, young chicks (Mader himself used to feed his dragons chicks), and feeder fish such as minnows. Some people also offer small lizards such as anoles to their dragons as a food source.


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.

Life Span[edit]

Anywhere from 10 to 20 years ( from the feed back that I've received, the oldest one that I personally know of is an 11 year old male that one of my email buddies has, and this dragon is going strong, I'm sure he has many years ahead of him!) So be prepared for a long term pet. I have also heard that the two adult Chinese water dragons kept at the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo are 15 and 17 years old. I was told this by a curator who has recently confirmed these ages.

Sexing Chinese Water Dragons[edit]

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.

Chinese Water Dragon Snout Damage[edit]

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.