Chinese Water Dragon

a close up of a Chinese Water Dragon's head

Are you looking for a unique pet that is sure to turn heads? Chinese Water Dragons may be the perfect choice for you! These lizards are native to Southeast Asia, but they have become popular family pets in recent years.

Chinese Water Dragons are known for their bright green color and long tails. They can grow up to two feet in length, making them one of the larger lizard species . They are also quite active and can be seen climbing, swimming, and running around their enclosure.

Chinese Water Dragons are large lizards native to the forests of south-eastern China as well as a few other countries in the area. They are very fast growing, and can grow up to 3 feet long. Males are very territorial, and will protect their females from other males. They are not recommended for beginners because of their housing needs as well as them being difficult to view because of their problems with glass windows.

Chinese Water Dragons are very agile, and like to climb on things. They are very clean, and enjoy bathing regularly. Chinese water dragons are also very curious and enjoy interacting with their family. They are also very patient and gentle, and don’t mind being handled by their family.

Chinese Water Dragons make great family pets because they are relatively easy to care for. They require a large enclosure with plenty of branches for climbing and hiding spots. The enclosure should also have a shallow pool of water for the dragon to swim in. It is important to provide your dragon with a temperature gradient in their enclosure, as they need both warm and cool areas to regulate their body temperature.

Chinese Water Dragons are very beautiful creatures, and will look stunning in your home. They are also very calm, and will rarely cause trouble. Once you have their living enclosure taken care of they are very easy to care for, and will require little maintenance. 

Breeders and pet stores will usually sell them for between $30 and $50.

In terms of diet, Chinese Water Dragons are omnivores and enjoy a variety of insects, fruits, and vegetables. They should be fed a balanced diet that includes crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and other insects. Fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes should also be included in their diet..

If you’re looking for an interesting and unique pet, Chinese Water Dragons may be the perfect choice for you. They are relatively easy to care for and can make great family pets with regular handling and training. With their bright colors and active personalities, they are sure to be a hit in any home!

Chinese Water Dragon Information

  • Average Length: 2 to 3 feet
  • Average Weight: 2 pounds
  • Skin Appearance: Banded with stripes and scales
  • Skin Colors: Bright, turquoise or dark green
  • Grooming Needs: High
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes! 
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: No
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Metabolic Bone Disease, Skin Infections and Parasite, Mouth Rot, Egg Binding
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 15 years


Chinese Water Dragons or Asian Water Dragons are semi-aquatic lizard species that can be found in China and south-eastern Asian countries of Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. They are also called Thai or Green Water Dragon.

Physical Appearance of Chinese Water Dragon

a Chinese Water Dragon standing on stone

Newly hatched Chinese Water Dragons are up to 6 inches long, that includes their tail. They have a brownish-green on the top of their body with a pale green to white color under their abdomen. Their body is lined with light stripes of beige or white that run perpendicularly along both sides of their body. Their tail is shaded with greens and browns.

While growing, Chinese Water Dragons shed their skin several times. Once they are around 10 inches long, their body color changes to a brighter green, ranging from aqua to mint shades. The stripes on their sides change to various shades of green.

Males will grow up to 3 feet long and females up to 2 feet long. Their tail makes up around 75 percent of their length and they use it to balance when climbing. Their tail is narrow and becomes pointed towards the tip.

Chinese Water Dragons have a short snout and large eyes. They have a triangular-shaped head, males have larger heads than females. Under their mouth they have wide rounded scales that are whitish that go from mouth corner to mouth corner line the area under their mouth. They have a dark black stripe running between their eyes and their ears.

Water Dragons have muscular legs that let them climb and swim. Their front legs are narrower while their rear legs are bigger. They have five toes on each foot.

Chinese Water Dragons have a broad forked tongue that tapers to the end. Their tongue is sticky and lets them catch food. Their teeth are small spikes.

Chinese Water Dragons have a spiked crest that starts at the top of their neck and runs down their back and party way down their tail. Adult males have more prominent and pointed spikes than females.

The parietal eye is located on the top of the head between the eyes. The parietal is an organ in reptiles that lets them sense heat and light.

Temperament of Chinese Water Dragon

a Chinese Water Dragon basking on a log

Chinese Water Dragons are friendly and social reptiles. They are generally active and like to climb on rocks and branches. Chinese Water Dragons like to swim and if their enclosure has room for swimming then they will enjoy spending time in the water.

Chinese Water Dragons are receptive to handling and we recommend handling them regularly. Not handling them regularly can cause them to become aggressive when they grow up. If threatened the Chinese Water Dragon may sometimes open their mouth as a warning. Their open mouth can be followed by a whip from their tail but it’s unusual for this to happen.

Since Chinese Water Dragons are social animals and they can be kept in pairs but don’t keep same sex pairs. Two males or two females housed together will get aggressive with each other. If you want to keep two males or females, you’ll want a separate enclosure for each.

Their Compatibility with Children

Chinese Water Dragons are demanding but can be handled by children. Your children should have experience handling other reptiles before they handle your Chinese Water Dragon. Children need to have patience to let Chinese Water Dragons get used to being handled.

Children should always wash their hands after handling the lizard. We recommend this because most lizards are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in humans. Washing their hands should prevent your children from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from the lizards.

Living Space for Chinese Water Dragon

Creating an enclosure for Chinese Water Dragons takes a lot of effort and can be expensive. They are arboreal or reptiles that like to climb on branches and their enclosure should have enough height and lots of branches.

Baby Chinese Water Dragons can be kept in small indoor enclosures. When they grow adults might need a larger outdoor enclosure. An outdoor enclosure can be created using wood or glass. Water Dragons can’t understand glass and may repeatedly rub their snout against the glass injuring themselves. Many families will cover large sections of the glass with a layer of cardboard or paper to keep their reptile from hurting itself.

a Chinese Water Dragon resting on a branch

Enclosure Size

As mentioned before, adult Chinese Water Dragons will need a large enclosure. The minimum recommended size is 6’Lx3’Wx3H’. Setting up an enclosure of this size will take a lot of effort and may be costly.

Decorations

They need high basking areas to rest. A few branches or shelves at various heights will let them climb and move around. Leafy green plants like Hibiscus, Phothos, Spider Plant and Dracaena should be used to make your Chinese Water Dragon’s enclosure look close to their natural environment. All these decorations will make your Dragon feel secure.

Substrate

Reptichip is a great substrate that retains moisture and will release it over time keeping your enclosure’s humidity levels high. If you have a female Dragon they NEED soil for part of the substrate. Female Dragons will lay eggs even without a male, and they need to be able to build a nest. If they cannot build a nest they will egg bind and die painfully.

Water Source

Your Chinese Water Dragon’s enclosure should have a pool of water because they like to soak. The pool or pan should have a depth equal to at least half their height. This will let your Chinese Water Dragons partially submerge in water.

Best Climate for Chinese Water Dragon

Maintaining the recommended water conditions might be difficult in an outdoor enclosure. 

Temperature

a Chinese Water Dragon looking for food while climbing a branch

Chinese Water Dragons need separate warm and hot areas. They are cold blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. The separate temperature areas let them move and adjust body heat. The separate temperature areas can be created by placing the heating equipment in one area of the tank. 

The daytime temperature should be between 84°F to 90°F in the warm area and 95°F in the basking area. Nighttime temperature can range from 75°F to 80°F. Ceramic heat element and basking light should be used to keep the temperature in this range. Secondary heat sources include reptile heat mats and heat tape. 

Humidity

Chinese Water Dragons need a humidity of around 80 percent. The pool of water in their enclosure should keep the humidity high. A good substrate like reptichip will hold moisture well without being soaking, and will really help keep the humidity high.

Lighting

Natural sunlight is the best lighting source for your Chinese Water Dragons. If your enclosure cannot give access to sunlight use incandescent basking lights. The lights should be kept on for 12 hours to replicate the natural day and night cycle. Pairing the light with a timer will make it easy to never forget to turn the lights on or off.

Your Chinese Water Dragons will need both a UVA and UVB lighting bulb. The UVB light helps them absorb calcium, without which their bones will become weak. Place the UVB bulb in the basking area and make sure there is no glass or obstacle to block the light. The bulbs should be kept on for 12 hours a day. Make sure that the UVB bulb is replaced after six months because they will start to lose their efficiency over time.

The Attention A Chinese Water Dragon Needs

Several thermometers should be kept inside their enclosure to check the temperature. Keep the thermometers in both the hot and warm areas of their tank. Regularly check the readings and make changes if needed.

Chinese Water Dragons will need optimum humidity to shed their skin. If you have difficulty keeping the humidity high you can add a shed box with sphagnum moss because it will help them shed. If you are using a good substrate that retains moisture then keeping the humidity high shouldn’t be too difficult.

Keep a hygrometer inside the enclosure to check the humidity level and make sure it’s high enough.

Health Issues

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Mouth Rot

Doctor holding a sign with the name of the medical problem

Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is an infection in a reptile’s mouth. Mouth rot is very serious and can cause your reptile a great deal of pain, and could eventually lead to their death. Mouth rot is typically caused by an injury to your reptile’s mouth, or their enclosure not being kept at the correct conditions.

Symptoms of mouth rot in your reptile are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Blood in your pets mouth or their water bowl
  • Swollen areas in their mouth
  • Weight loss

The first step to fixing the problem is finding out if they injured their mouth on something, or if their enclosure’s conditions are not right. If their mouth is injured you should get them to a vet to have them look at your reptile. If the problem is environmental then fix the problems in their enclosure.

No matter what the cause of your reptile’s mouth rot, you’ll still need to take your reptile to your vet because the treatment requires prescription antibiotics. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the mouth rot. Because this infection kills tissues in your reptile’s mouth, areas may need to be removed, including teeth. It’s better to prevent this problem before it happens by keeping your reptile’s enclosure at the conditions they need to be happy.

Skin Infections

Chinese Water Dragons can have skin infections for a number of reasons. The main reason they’ll usually get an infection is because their enclosure is too humid. Other reasons are that they have skin that they’re unable to shed, their enclosure isn’t well ventilated or that it isn’t cleaned often enough.

Symptoms of a skin infection are:

  • Discolored patches of skin
  • Yellowish blisters
  • Swollen areas of skin

If you suspect your Water Dragon has a skin infection you’ll want to bring them to your vet for a check-up. Your vet will prescribe an antibiotic that will need to be applied to the affected area for 10-14 days. You’ll also want to correct the conditions that lead to the infection.

Parasites

Intestinal Parasites like roundworms, hookworms or pinworms can cause serious health issues in reptiles. In mild cases, the disease may not show symptoms but in severe cases it can result in:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Behavioral issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose Stool
  • Throwing up food

Captive lizards generally contract parasitic infections from other infected reptiles, contaminated food or objects. Regular cleanings to their enclosure can reduce the chances your reptile will be infected from parasites in their environment. Take your pet to your vet if they have the above symptoms.

Parasitic infections have the potential to destroy the digestive tracts of your turtles and must be treated as soon as signs are noticed.

Mites

Mites are tiny black insects that are parasites. They feed off the blood of your reptile, and they can be quite the pain in the butt to get rid of once you have them. Most times they will be caught and sold already having mites, or they’ll get them from another pet.

Symptoms of mites on your reptile:

  • Long soaks in their water
  • Rubbing on objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on your reptile or objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on you from handling your reptile

We recommend contacting your vet to find out what treatment they recommend for killing mites. Keep in mind that mites don’t tend to stay in one place, and any other snakes or reptiles kept in the same room could be infested with mites as well. Distance between pets is key, just as washing up between handling pets is key to not spreading mites from pet to pet.

Ticks

Ticks are blood sucking parasites that are just as bad for your lizard as they are for people. They can pass on quite a number of terrible diseases to your reptile. Depending on what the ticks carry, or if left untreated, they can cause your reptile to die.

Symptoms of ticks on reptiles:

  • Rubbing on objects in their enclosure
  • Long soaks
  • Weight loss
  • Red spots or deformities on their skin

Usually with the above symptoms, especially red spots on their skin people will be suspicious of either ticks or mites. Ticks are a lot easier to see than mites are and with a close inspection of your reptile you should be able to spot them pretty easily.

The treatment is fairly straightforward and can be done at home, or you can have your vet do it. Once you find a tick attached to your lizard, rub it with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball, then use tweezers to pull the tick off. Using alcohol first should help the tick release their grip and make them easier to pull off. If you are at all worried about diseases your reptile might have gotten from the ticks you can have your vet take a look and they may prescribe medication based on what they find.

Egg Binding

Egg binding is a condition that can affect some captive female lizards. This happens when females are unable to lay eggs. A female lizard with the disease will become lethargic, weak and have sunken eyes. Lack of proper nutrition and poor living conditions are usually what causes the condition.

If your pet has these symptoms, take them to a vet immediately. Egg binding is serious and can quickly lead to death. Calcium supplementation, creating a nesting area inside their enclosure and feeding them a healthy diet should help prevent egg-binding.

Salmonella

All reptiles are potential carriers of salmonella bacteria. The bacteria is present on their skin and shells (for turtles) but doesn’t seem to harm them. A major concern is that the disease can be transmitted to humans. Salmonella can cause serious and life-threatening conditions in humans. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain in humans

As a preventive measure, we always recommend washing your hands after handling any reptiles. Pregnant women, young children and older people shouldn’t handle reptiles. These people are at an increased risk of getting infected because they have a weaker immune system.

Grooming and Care

Poor water levels can lead to health issues in your Chinese Water Dragons. Your Chinese Water Dragon can get Pseudomonas because of unclean water, especially if they poop in the water and it is not changed. Completely change the water every day.

Thoroughly clean the enclosure and decorations once a week.

Feeding A Chinese Water Dragon

crickets are great food for Chinese Water Dragons

Chinese Water Dragons are omnivores and should be fed a variety of meaty foods and small amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Insects like crickets, earthworms, king mealworms, mealworms, grasshoppers and locusts are good for them. The feeder insects should be gut-loaded. Gut loading involves giving feeder insects nutritious food before feeding them to reptiles. When reptiles eat the feeder insects, the nutrition passes on to them. Don’t feed wild-caught insects to your Water Dragon because the insects may have been exposed to pesticides.

Pinkie mice and feeder fish are rich in calcium and important for baby Chinese Water Dragons.

Chinese Water Dragons are picky and may not eat if only 2-3 types of food are being offered to them. Rotating their food can help make them not so picky with their food.

Around 10 to 15 percent of your Chinese Water Dragon’s food should be fruits and vegetables. Vegetables like mustard greens, sweet potato, collard greens, green beans, carrots and dandelions are good for them. For fruits give them raspberries, papaya, figs, mangoes and strawberries. Finely chop all fruits and vegetables before feeding them.

Fruit should be less often than vegetables. Some Chinese Water Dragons don’t eat fruit.

Feed Baby Chinese Water Dragons every day and adults every 2 to 3 days. The quantity of food will depend on their weight. Feed slim Chinese Water Dragons fed more and larger ones a little less less.

Add calcium supplements to their food every other feeding. Vitamin and mineral supplements should be given once a week.

Remove any uneaten food after 24 hours.

Related Questions:

Are Australian and Chinese Water Dragons the Same?

Australian Water Dragons (Eastern Water Dragon) and Chinese Water Dragons (Asian Water Dragon) are two different species. They look completely different and are not related to each other. Chinese Water Dragons with their bright green colors look somewhat like Iguanas. Australian Water Dragons have a greyish green color with black bands on their body and tail.

Australian Water Dragons are divided into two subspecies.

Are Chinese Water Dragons Endangered?

The Chinese Water Dragons are currently not listed as endangered, but they are collected from the wild for the pet trade. In the future, it could become a threat to their future survival. Their population has been declining in recent years, but not enough to be listed as endangered.

Can Chinese Water Dragons Reproduce Asexually?

Chinese Water Dragons can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Sexually is when they male and female mate to fertilize the egg. Sometimes they may reproduce through Parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is the process where some animals reproduce without the need of sperm to fertilize the egg. Parthenogenesis happens when the cell in an unfertilized egg gets duplicated to have two chromosomes in the nucleus. Unless the female has numerous recessive mutations in their genes, the offspring are usually healthy.

Chinese Water Dragons are one of the few animal species that are able to reproduce asexually. Other reptiles that can do this are Colombian Rainbow Boas and Garter Snakes.