Chinese water dragons are very similar to small iguanas and spend a lot of time swimming. They are popular as pets due to their smaller size, but their care requirements are more complicated than most people anticipate.
The Chinese water dragon, with the scientific name Physignathus cocincinus, is a species of agamid lizard, native to China and mainland Southeast Asia.
There are no other recognized subspecies of the Chinese water Dragon, but there are other similar lizard species, with the nearest genetic relative being the Australian water Dragon, Intellagama lesueurii.
They usually grow up to 1m in size, measured from nose to tail, with females being slightly smaller than males in length. The tail represents about 70% of the total length of the animal.
In captivity, the Chinese water Dragon has an average lifespan of 10-15 years. With proper care, some may even reach the age of 20.
The Chinese water dragon is a popular exotic pet, partly because of its unique appearance. The head is triangular in shape and their color varies in shades of light green to dark green. The tail is long, representing 2/3 of its total length, with dark green or dark brown stripes. The belly is usually in lighter colors, white, pale green, or pale yellow. The most attractive feature of the Chinese water dragon is its brightly colored neck in shades of yellow and orange. Adult males have larger heads than females and develop larger ridges on the back of the head and neck.
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One of the most debated topics is whether or not there are mutations in the Chinese water Dragon. A “morph” is a type of animal bred to obtain some characteristics and appearances not found in animals raised in the wild. While some Chinese water dragons may display several color variations, aqua, bright green, or even blue, there are currently no official mutations.
These lizards are one of the friendliest types. They usually like to be handled, and regular manipulation is essential to prevent them from becoming too aggressive.
If the Chinese water dragon is scared or feels threatened, it can bite or beat its tail. They are quite active in their environment and like to climb rocks, trees, branches, or plants. They are also good swimmers and are happy when there is water in their enclosures.
Chinese water dragons are social animals. They tend to thrive in captivity when in pairs or groups. This is recommended, especially since owning more water dragons does not require much more work or expense.
Water dragons need large enclosures, and the minimum size for an adult dragon is 180cm long, 60-90cm deep and 150-180cm high. An enclosure of this size will likely need to be customized and will be expensive.
A male and female pair will probably get along, while two males and even two females can show aggression unless they are given a lot of space in a very large enclosure. Large fish aquariums are often used but are not ideal.
For the substrate in the enclosure, choose something that will not cause damage if ingested: soil sterilized in pots, without vermiculite or chemicals, covered by moss good for moisture, as well as a mixture of peat, soil, and sand, soil and cypress mulch, indoor/outdoor rugs or paper.
A lot of branches should be provided for climbing and beach sitting; place some diagonally and others horizontally for “beach sitting”. Living plants such as pothos, dracaena, hibiscus, fichus, and staghorn ferns are a good addition.
In the enclosure in which the Chinese water dragon lives, it will also need a good pool of water. It should be large and deep enough so a dragon can sink at least half its height. A litter box for cats works beautifully, but if you can, you should designate half of the enclosure for water and the other half as a beach area, using substrates to create a shore.
You must be able to remove and clean the pool daily, especially if the pet uses it for its needs, otherwise, you will need to have a quality water filter. Humidity should be maintained at about 80%. Steam the enclosure once or twice a day as necessary. Living plants in pots can help maintain humidity.
Daytime temperatures should range from 29 to 31 degrees Celsius, with a place of relaxation of up to 32 degrees Celsius. At night, the temperature can safely drop to 24-27 degrees Celsius. There should be a temperature gradient and make sure you measure temperatures on both cold and hot sides.
To achieve the proper temperature, a combination of heating light, ceramic heat element, heat buffers under the enclosure, and heating band can be used. A UVA/UVB bulb should also be used to create a 12-hour on and 12-hour off program to reproduce a day/night cycle.
You can feed Chinese water dragons with crickets, worms, wax worms, earthworms, locusts, fat worms, and possibly small fish. Adults can also be fed occasionally with small mice. Insects caught in the wild are to be avoided due to the risk of pesticides and always avoid fireflies because they are potentially toxic.
A small amount, 10-15 percent of its diet, of vegetables and finely chopped fruits can also be provided. Try dandelion as well as sweet potato, parsnip, green beans, carrots, and yellow or orange zucchini. Fruits should be used in smaller quantities than vegetables; strawberries, raspberries, mango, papaya, figs, and melon can be given.
Young green water dragons should be fed daily, while, as a rule, adults can be fed every two or three days. The best way to determine how much to feed them is to look at the state of their body. Thin dragons need more to eat and fluffy dragons need to be fed less.
Use a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement on foods once every two feeds, along with a full vitamin/mineral supplement once a week. You should always consult your veterinarian first.
There are some common health problems seen in Chinese water dragons, including:
Chinese water dragons are native to the plain and mountain forests of East and Southeast Asia, especially China and India. It likes semi-aquatic, freshwater environments and can be found in the wild along the banks of lakes and freshwater courses.
Chinese water dragons are diurnal reptiles, which means they are most active during the day. They like to spend their days relaxing on plants and trees located close to water bodies, where they heat up in the sun and eat insects. If they feel threatened or frightened, they will jump from the tree into the water below. They are good swimmers and can stay underwater for up to 25 minutes. Creating an environment with safe artificial plants or natural plants for lizards is good for both camouflage and the mental health of the lizard.
When choosing your Chinese water dragon always make sure you buy your pet from a reputable breeder or pet store.