Chinese water dragon, Physignathus cocincinus

Chinese water dragons are a fun, intelligent and active reptile

At a glance...
  • Chinese water dragons are energetic and fun to have around
  • Ideal for more experienced hobbyists that can offer lots of space
  • Intelligent dragons that are very rewarding to care for
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Do Chinese water dragons make good pets?

Chinese water dragons originate from Southern China, Thailand and surrounding areas, where they inhabit arboreal forest habitats close to large bodies of water. They are very active lizards that can be quite skittish to begin with, but can be tamed down if the work is put in, this does, however, make them a better option for more experienced hobbyists rather than complete beginners.

This species is quite intelligent and can be a very rewarding pet for the right owner, and with all of the Chinese water dragons we have for sale being captive bred in the UK, you can rest assured that they came from a reliable source.

What type of enclosure would be best for a Chinese water dragon?

Due to their larger size and highly active lifestyles, Chinese water dragons require a lot of space. At Swell Reptiles we recommend a minimum adult enclosure size of 150 x 60 x 120cm (5 x 2 x 4ft). Hence their name, this species like to spend a lot of time in or around water, so are ideal candidates for a paludarium set-up which incorporates both aquatic and terrestrial elements.

Unfortunately, we do not stock an enclosure large enough for an adult Chinese water dragon, which usually needs to be a custom build, however, the Exo Terra Glass Terrarium 90x45x90cm is not a bad choice for a young individual.

Do I need to provide heat for my Chinese water dragon?

Like all reptiles, Chinese water dragons are ectothermic and cannot control their own body temperature, so they need to be provided with both hot and cool areas to enable them to do this. The ideal basking temperature for this species is between 32-35°C (89-95°F), which should be achieved using an overhead heating system such as a heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter.

It is of utmost importance that any reptile heating equipment is controlled by a compatible thermostat to avoid overheating. For a basking lamp, you should use a dimming thermostat, or for a ceramic heater, you should use a pulse thermostat.

Do Chinese water dragons need UV?

Chinese water dragons require a UVI between 3-4 to enable them to metabolise calcium and fuel other important biological processes. This is best achieved using a T5 lighting system, the percentage of which should be tailored to the distance between the dragons highest basking point and the light fixture itself.

If your UV light will be between 30-40cm (12-15”) above the basking zone, an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - 6% Forest is required, whereas if this distance will be between 40-60cm (15-24”) above the highest basking point, an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - 12% Desert would be required. You can also use a Solarmeter to test the UVI at varying distances within the enclosure and also keep track of the UV degradation over time.

How much water does a Chinese water dragon need?

At the very least you should provide your Chinese water dragon with a large pool, large enough for them to soak in but it is much better to give them enough water for them to swim in. Most reptile water dishes will not be large enough for this purpose, so at Swell Reptiles we use large faunariums, such as the Exo Terra Faunarium without the lid to provide a deep and wide pool.

If you have the capacity to create a paludarium for your Chinese Water Dragon, which is essentially an enclosure that incorporates both aquatic and terrestrial elements, then this will be by far the best option, as you will be able to provide a much larger water area than using a box or dish.

What substrate should I get for my Chinese water dragons land area?

We recommend using a moisture-retaining substrate such as coco soil or orchid bark for Chinese water dragons, although if you are going to create a bioactive enclosure, you may wish to opt for a more sophisticated planting substrate such as Arcadia EarthMix, which will provide a much better growing medium for your plants.

How do I decorate a Chinese water dragon’s vivarium?

Chinese water dragons are arboreal and as such their enclosure should be furnished with plenty of robust branches and vines to utilise all of the vertical space within the set-up, it is important to ensure these are secured in such a way that they can hold the weight of the dragon. Aside from this, it will be beneficial to provide covered areas using foliage, either in the form of live or artificial plants.

What do Chinese water dragons eat?

Chinese water dragons are omnivorous, but the main portion of their diet should be livefoods such as locusts, crickets, cockroaches and mealworms. Fruit and vegetables should also be offered to add variety to the diet and will also provide a source of additional vitamins they do not get from livefood. Occasionally, frozen mice can also be offered, but these should be reserved for occasional feeds only.

It is important that all livefood is supplemented according to a schedule, at Swell Reptiles we recommend using a calcium-rich multivitamin on every feed, such as as Arcadia EarthPro-A, a calcium plus magnesium supplement on every fourth feed, such as Arcadia CalciumPro Mg and finally, a vitamin D3 supplement on every eighth feed such as Arcadia EarthPro RevitaliseD3.

How do I buy a Chinese water dragon?

We often have UK captive bred Chinese water dragons for sale at Swell Reptiles. If you would like to purchase one, please pop down to our superstore and see us in person, as we are not able to ship livestock and will need to ask a few questions before we can allow someone to adopt one of our animals.

We will request to see some images of your set-up, which should be completely ready for the dragon to go into before coming down, so it should be of adequate size, have the correct temperature and humidity parameters and adequate UV lighting installed. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please see our dedicated Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet.

Common names Chinese water dragon, Asian water dragon
Scientific name Physignathus cocincinus
Country Southeast Asia
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 76cm (29”)
Natural habitat Forest habitats close to large bodies of water
Housing 150 x 60 x 120cm (5 x 2 x 4ft)
Ideal temperature 32-35°C (89-95°F) (warm end); 20°C (68°F) (cool end)
UVI 3-4
Ideal humidity 70-80%
Diet Omnivorous
Average lifespan 15-20 years
Personality Skittish, but can be tamed
Ease of handling Easy-moderate
Cohabitable No
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Help Guides
  1. Chinese water dragon, Physignathus cocincinus, care sheet
    Categories: Care sheetsLizards

    Chinese water dragon, Physignathus cocincinus, care sheet

    Chinese water dragon, Physignathus cocincinus, husbandry guide from the experts at Swell Reptiles, covering housing, heating, lighting and more.