Animals / Reptiles

The Chinese Water Dragon

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Oriental water dragon, Indo-Cinese water dragon, Green water dragon, Thai water dragon, Asian water dragon. 

Cochinchina-Wasseragame, Cochinchina-Wasserdrache, Grune Wasseragame (German).


Order: squamata

Family: agamidae

Subfamily: agaminae

Genus: physignathus

Species: Physignathus cocincinus


The Chinese water dragon is native to China and South-East Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar. It can be found in the rainforest, on the banks of rivers and lakes.

It is a diurnal, semi-arboreal and semi-aquatic lizard. It spends the night on the trees and when it feels threatened, it jumps into the water where it can stay submerged for up to 25 minutes!  In the wild they live in the areas with 40-80% humidity and with the temperature range between 26-32°C. At times they move their feet so fast that they actually run on the water surface! 

Внешний вид

It is a large lizard that can reach 1 m, and the tail is about 70 cm long. Males are larger and more powerful that females. Also they are brighter and their crest is bigger (it goes along the spine).

It looks quite similar to its cousin – the Australian water dragon. Colouration ranges from green to dark green with green and brown stripes along the body. The throat and the chin are white. The long tail protects the lizard from the enemies; it is over a half of the total length of the dragon.  


The Chinese water dragon is easily tamed and is willing to interact with people. It can actually enjoy handling and be very friendly if socialized from an early age. They distinguish people by their appearance and smell.  

In the beginning it is important to be patient, not to grab the dragon – it doesn’t like it and it won’t trust you if you treat it like this. You have to build a connection based on trust, then you will obtain good results.

The water dragons are excellent swimmers and divers.

Males are normally aggressive to each other.

The Chinese water dragon caught in the wild can be very timid and panic at the sight of a person, so it can be very difficult to tame such a reptile. The dragons born in captivity are much more loyal and friendly and are tamed much easier.

Содержание и уход

The enclosure has to be horizontal and large, because the Chinese water dragon is a big and active reptile. The minimal size of an enclosure for 1-2 lizards is 100×80×70 cm. You can keep one lizard or a couple – a male and a female. Harems are also possible (1 male and 2-3 females), but in this case the enclosure has to be very large. It is best to place the enclosure on a table or a chest of drawers. At least three quarters of the enclosure have to be occupied with water deep enough for the lizard to fit in.

The substrate has to be well separated from the water. It can be soil with non-poisonous plans such as pothos or spiderwort, or otherwise you can use bark, moss, coconut cuttings.  Artificial plants are also a possibility. Large branches for the lizard to climb are a must. Another possibility: to use the fish tank with water all over the bottom (you will need to change it quite often though), and have some large branches coming out of it for the lizards to climb and to rest. The water has to be changed very often, sometimes daily. You can put a heat mat or a heat cord under the water.

The ambient temperature should be 25-28 degrees at daytime and 20-22 degrees at night, and up to 35-40 degrees at the basking spot. The basking lamp has to be directed at a branch, but it has to be at least 15 cm away from the lizard, otherwise it can get burnt.

The water temperature should be about 22-26 degrees.

The air has to be very humid, about 60-80%. You will need to mist your terrarium daily.

These lizards require at least 12 hours of light every day. UV lamps are a must. 


An adult water dragon’s menu should contain 80% of animal feed and 20% of vegetable and fruit.  It can eat big cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, pinky mice, snails, boiled eggs.

The water dragon loves finely cut vegetables and fruit: apples, pears, bananas, carrots, squash, dandelions etc.

The lizard should be fed from a shallow bowl that has to be taken away after feeding in order for the food not to rot. You will have to add to the food mineral supplements and vitamins.


A large and beautiful lizard that is easily tamed and willing to interact with people.

They are not difficult to feed.

They require a large enclosure. In a small tank they often get injured by hitting their head against the glass. 


The Chinese water dragon often injures its face and the tip of the tail if the enclosure is too small. If this is the case, you have to get a larger enclosure and to put on the wound any wound-healing powder.

Young lizards can get rachitis due to the lack of calcium and UV light. Then they grow very slowly and their limbs can become twisted. It can be easily prevented by adding calcium to the food and providing UV light. 


The Chinese water dragon is an egg-laying species that becomes sexually mature at the ae of 2-3 years old. The brumation period serves as preparation for mating season. The brumation takes place in the enclosure. Starting from September you have to gradually decrease the number of hours of daylight (you have to get it down to 4 hours during 2-3 weeks), and also to reduce temperature and then stop feeding the lizards. The temperature during brumation period should be about 19 degrees. This whole process lasts about 1-2 months.  After that you have to get the lizards back to the normal routine, also by gradually increasing the amount of hours o light, and once it has reached 4 hours, you can turn on the heating. Then the male and the female have to be separated for about two weeks, and during this time you should add vitamin Е to their food.  After 2-3 weeks the lizards have to be put together in an enclosure with a thick layer of substrate. Males court females: they become brighter and bob their heads. About 50 days after mating the female digs a hole about 10-15 cm deep and lays there a clutch of eggs (normally 6 to 20). After that you have to take away the eggs and put them into an incubator. The hatchlings come out in about 60 days. After the yolk sac dissolves, they start eating small insects and finely cut vegetables and fruit.

Average life span -about 18 years.

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