Green Water Dragon: a Water Dragon for the Home

The green water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) is often referred to as the water dragon. In the English-speaking world, the animal is called the “Chinese water dragon” and, indeed, there is something mysterious and sublime about the iguana-like reptile. This Asian agame fascinates with its way of life. If you have a lot of space for a larger terrarium, the cold-blooded creature will give you a lot of pleasure. However, you shouldn’t be scared off by an adult male with a length of approx. 1 m …

Natural Spread

The green water dragon is known as the “Chinese water dragon”, but its natural range is by no means limited to the south of China. The water dragon also populates other regions of Southeast Asia, such as B. Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

As the name “water dragon” suggests, these reptiles seek proximity to water and prefer to live in lowland rainforests and moist forests. They can hide very well on densely vegetated shores and, in the event of danger, plop into the water and dive into the water at lightning speed. Or they are skilled at climbing trees. They prey on food in the water as well as on the ground and in the branches.

Water dragons are food opportunists and consume a wide variety of living beings. These include various insects, crustaceans, mussels, and worms. But fish, small lizards, small mammals and birds are also captured. In addition to this carnivorous way of life, they do not despise vegetable food either. The water dragon especially likes different types of fruit and vegetables. Some of the foods you can feed your game include:

  • insects
  • worms
  • mice
  • other rodents
  • chick
  • meat
  • sweet fruit

The individual preferences of your water dragon will become apparent after a short time. Always make sure you have a balanced and varied diet. You can pollinate the feed animals with suitable vitamin preparations before feeding. You should not overfeed the animals, otherwise, they will quickly become fat, which in turn will shorten their life expectancy.

In Southeast Asia, the climate is significantly influenced by the monsoons. This brings a lot of rain from mid-May to October. In the rest of the year, however, it is quite dry. Nevertheless, the humidity is high even in the dry season and fluctuates between 70 and 100% over the course of the year. The average temperatures are around 25-30 ° C.

To Biology

In the past, different species were included in the genus of water dragons. More detailed investigations within the zoological taxonomy have shown that Physignathus cocincinus is monotypical, i.e. the only species within the genus.

Water dragons are dark green or greyish tree-dwelling large lizards that are diurnal and swim excellently. These reptiles have a serrated crest that extends from the back of the head over the back and in most cases continues on the tail. The head, jaw, and teeth are strong.

In nature, they form loose groups, with male animals forming territories. For this reason, males are only kept individually with several females. Male water dragons grow up to 1 meter long (including the tail). Females stay a little smaller at 70 – 80 cm. The tail takes up a third of the total length.

Attitude and Care

Green water dragons look very similar to the green iguana but are significantly smaller (whereby 1 m total length is not to be despised!) And therefore they are more suitable for keeping as pets than their larger cousins.

When keeping it, you have to take into account the legal regulations on animal welfare. According to the expert opinion on the minimum requirements for keeping reptiles of January 10, 1997, a minimum size of the terrarium of 4: 3: 5 or 5: 3: 4 based on the head-trunk length is required for a pair of water dragons. With a head-trunk length of 30 cm, the terrarium should be at least 120 x 90 x 150 cm or 150 x 90 x 120 cm.

It is best to cover the side and rear panes of the terrarium with cork sheets or to model artificial rocks out of styrofoam or synthetic resin. Such an interior is not only decorative but also prevents frightened agamas from running their snouts on the glass and being seriously injured if they flee in panic. Such behavior is (unfortunately) typical for these lizards: When danger is imminent, they react with lightning speed with undirected escape reactions. You should take this into account when dealing with the animals and act carefully.

Setting Up the Terrarium

Since water dragons prefer to be close to the water in their natural habitat, you should also take this into account when designing a terrarium. The water part should make up at least 50% of the floor area and have a minimum depth of 20-25 cm. To enable easy and complete cleaning of the water part, you should pay attention to a floor drain during installation. The rest of the land can consist of natural substrates. However, soil-sand mixtures quickly lead to contamination of the water and thus increase the maintenance effort. Stable surfaces such as stone slabs or artificial rocks are gladly accepted. Thick climbing branches protruding over the water and other climbing possibilities accommodate the natural urge to move these reptiles.

Robust living plants such as yucca palms, bromeliads, or Ficus Benjamina can be used to plant the terrarium. Overall, you should provide a lot of privacy (covered back and side walls), otherwise, the animals can get restless and panic quickly.

In order to achieve the required high humidity values, you should spray vigorously in the morning and evening or install a sprinkler system.

Temperature and Light

In order to achieve daytime temperatures of 25-30 ° C in the terrarium, it is best to place either heating mats (in smaller terrariums) or heating cables (in large terrariums) on half of the floor. When laying the heating elements, you should take into account that the water part should also be heated to around 25 ° C. At night, temperatures in the land part can drop to around 22-24 ° C. A timer is therefore very useful.

In addition, you should provide a local hot spot for each animal with temperatures between 35-40 ° C. There the animals can dry off after bathing and thus prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms. HQI lights are very suitable for such heat spots, as they emit a lot of light and heat as well as some UV light. To prevent skeletal changes/rickets, you should equip the terrarium of the animals with suitable UV-B lighting or, alternatively, irradiate it every 1-2 days with stronger UV light bulbs for up to about 1/2 hour. Take into account that the light sources have to be replaced every six months, as their performance decreases.

Conclusion: Green Water Dragon as a Pet

The keeping requirements of the “water dragons” are manageable, but they require a lot of space and a relatively long time to be cared for. But since they can cope with different elements, on water, and on land, they are fascinating and beautiful to look at.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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