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How to Care for Your Chinese Water Dragon

How to Care for Your Chinese Water Dragon


Chinese Water Dragons (Physignathus cocincinus) are large (2-3 feet; females tend to be at the smaller range), diurnal, semi-aquatic, arboreal reptiles native to China and Southeastern Asia.  Chinese Water Dragons are primarily green with bright colored throats, yellow or white undersides, and a striped tail.  Due to their size and specific habitat needs, they are considered to be advanced level pets.



Adult Chinese Water Dragons require large, tall enclosures.  The recommended enclosure size is 4-6 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 feet high.  The habitat should include 12-24” of substrate (recommendations range from sterile soil to wood mulch, though it’s important to avoid small pieces of mulch that the water dragon could swallow) to allow Chinese Water Dragon to burrow.  Additional cage items include a large, stable water bowl, large enough for the water dragon to soak or swim in, stable hiding spots, and some pieces of wood or branches that can hold a water dragon’s weight below the basking area.  The enclosure needs to have a humidity of about 80%. This can be achieved by misting twice daily, use of plants and running water, and avoiding screen enclosures. 


Heating and Lighting

Chinese Water Dragons require a basking area whose temperature is about 90 degrees F. Since the Chinese Water Dragon is a large reptile, a single light is often not enough to heat its whole body. Frequently a cluster of 2-3 floodlights will be used, one of which can be a full spectrum light to provide the Dragon with UVB. Alternatively, the UVB light could be a full- spectrum 10.0 fluorescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure. The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels. The air temperature in the remainder of the enclosure should be 84-88F during the day, and 75-80 at night.


Food and Supplementation

Chinese Water Dragons are generally carnivorous, though some have been known to eat small amounts of fruit and veggies. When they are young they should be fed daily on crickets, Dubia and other roaches. Insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3. Adult Chinese Water Dragons will benefit from insects and worms but will also enjoy larger whole-prey items such as mice (pinkies or fuzzies) and fish. It is best to feed a varied diet, as they may become bored with the same few items at every feeding. Chinese Water Dragons may be fed every 2-3 days, though some keepers feed them daily. Adult Chinese Water Dragons may enjoy the largest Dubia Roaches in addition to the bigger prey items.


*This care sheet contains only very basic information.  If you are new to Chinese Water Dragons, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.

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