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Water Dragon Care

By: Dr. Steve Divers

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Water dragons need a large enclosure. They will literally rub their flesh off trying to get out of a too small enclosure. They need space at least 2 times their total length – which is a minimum of 6 feet long (side to side), at least 2 to 3 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet high. Large enclosures permit landscaping, a bigger water pool and an overall improvement in the aesthetics of the set-up. The enclosure should be high enough to allow plenty of branches so the lizard can bask under a heat lamp or spotlight during the day.

These lizards are semi-aquatic and should be provided with a large water area in their enclosure, covering preferably at least a third of the floor area. The water should be maintained at 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). In most cases the general heating of the enclosure is sufficient, but an aquarium heater or a heat mat placed underneath the water container can be employed if necessary. This water body will also provide high humidity to the enclosure, which is essential for these lizards.

For hygienic reasons the floor is most easily lined with newspaper, although granulated bark, artificial turf and alfalfa pellets can be used. Replace the floor covering daily or weekly depending on contamination. Other than the branches for basking areas, provide boxes, pieces of bark or hollow tree for retreat areas.

Asian 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 co-habit with 3 or 4 females. You must monitor your pets to assure all are feeding and basking properly. If any aren't, it is probably because of intimidation and you will need to increase the number of basking and feeding areas, increase enclosure size or separate them.

Water dragons will try to escape from an unsuitable environment or evade dominant cage-mates. They do not seem to perceive glass, screen, or other clear material as a barrier and might damage their nose by attempting to escape through these surfaces. You can try creating a visual barrier by putting tape across the glass to help them perceive these obstacles.

Nutrition

Water dragons are mainly carnivorous, feeding on a wide variety of invertebrates, small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs and also on rare occasion on fruits and plant matter. In captivity they should be fed insects (crickets, locusts, waxworms), the occasional pink mice, and will rarely accept fruits or vegetables.

All insects should be nutrient gut loaded by feeding a commercial insect food or a mix of crushed fish pellets and calcium supplement, with a slice of potato for moisture. In addition, all insects should be thoroughly dusted with a high calcium supplement immediately prior to feeding. It is wise to vary the food items to avoid potential nutrient excesses or deficiencies and multivitamins can be added to the dusting formula once or twice weekly.

Juveniles should be fed the same diet as the adults, like insects (crickets, locusts and waxworms), making sure smaller food items are used. As they grow they may accept some fruits, as well as pink mice. Juveniles should be fed every day while adults can be fed every other day or 2 to 3 times a week.

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