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REPTILE / new pets

A Set-up Guide for New Chinese Water Dragon Parents

Chinese water dragon 101


4 things you didn’t know about Chinese Water Dragons

  1. They live about 15 years
  2. They can grow to be three feet long
  3. They come from tropical climates
  4. They have a “third eye”—actually, a spot between their eyes that can sense changes in light

The dragon’s lair

Chinese water dragons are loner-lizards; they’re happiest living solo. They also need a warm, humid environment in order to thrive.

An adult Chinese water dragon should live in a terrarium that’s at least 55 gallons. Make sure the terrarium has a screened lid that fits tightly, so your pet can’t escape.

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Water dragon habitat temperature

Like all reptiles, Chinese water dragons are cold-blooded and must have a warm habitat in order to maintain their body temperature. Furnish one side of the terrarium with a nice, toasty basking spot—with daytime temperatures of 90 F to 95 F. A heat light will help keep it warm.

The other end of the tank should be cooler, about 80 to 85 F during the day.

At night, turn the basking light off and use a ceramic heater or night heat lamp to keep the habitat between 65 F and 75 F.

Chinese water dragons also need moist air. Keep the tank humidity between 50% to 80%; if it’s any drier in there, they’ll start breathing fire—just kidding, they don’t breathe fire.

A thermometer at each end of the terrarium will help you monitor the temperature, and a hygrometer in the tank will help you keep an eye on the humidity.

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Lighting the lair

  • Dragons are active during the day, just like humans, and need about 12 hours of light. A UVA/UVB bulb in their terrarium simulates sunlight.
  • At night switch off the UVA/UVB bulb and use a night-specific bulb if you want to watch your Chinese water dragon sleep like a scaly little angel.
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Dragon decor

  • While your pet is less than six inches long, line the terrarium with reptile carpet. Once they’re past six inches, they’re big enough not to be overwhelmed by a thicker layer of bedding; replace the carpet with two to three inches of coconut fiber or bark.
  • Keep the terrarium clean by removing dragon-doo-doo at least once a week and changing out the bedding every month.
  • Add rocks, logs and real or artificial plants to the terrarium so your dragon can climb closer to the heat lamp or get shade from it.
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Chinese water dragon health

Give new pets three or four days to get used to their new surroundings before you handle them. Whether your lizard is new or settled-in, contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms of distress:

  • More time spent hiding
  • Eating or drinking less
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen joints
  • Shedding problems; discolored skin
  • Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
  • Runny droppings for more than two days

If you have questions about the health of your dragon, talk to a veterinarian who treats reptiles.

Other Reminders

  • Any pet can bite or scratch if frightened, hurt or stressed
  • Always handle reptiles carefully and watch children closely around them
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling reptiles or items in their habitat

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The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.