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Water dragons can become tame and make good pets if the right care can be provided.
Adults can reach sizes of up to 90cm, including the tail, so it is important that you can provide a habitat large enough to accommodate the size of your water dragon.
Water dragons are not social animals and adult males can be territorial, so they are best kept singularly.
The average lifespan of a water dragon is around 15-20 years, so you must be sure you are ready for a long-term commitment.
Diarrhoea: this can be cause by many problems including incorrect feeding or intestinal parasites.
Mouth rot: Cheesy deposits appear in the mouth.
Respiratory problems: Signs include fluid or mucus from the nose.
Metabolic bone diseases: Signs include deformed, swollen or paralysed hind limbs. This is due to a lack of calcium, vitamin D3 and/or lack of exposure to UVB/UVA light. It can be reversed if caught in time and properly treated.
Nails: Overgrown nails can often indicate you pet isn’t getting enough exercise or is inactive for other reasons. If nails become overgrown they will need to be trimmed with specialist equipment and your vet or pet shop will be able to advice.
If you are at all worried about the health of your bearded dragon you should consult your vet as soon as possible. It is recommended to seek a vet that has experience with reptiles.
Your pet should also be insured against unexpected veterinary costs.
CHOOSING YOUR WATER DRAGON
A healthy water dragon will be bright, alert and active with its body and leg muscles appearing well-formed and strong. It should also have no signs of injury to the body. It should be bright green in appearance and have a slim body.
An escape-proof wooden or fibreglass vivarium with good ventilation and a glass front is the most suitable. Water dragons are known for not realising that clear glass is a barrier, and many damage their snouts by constantly rubbing – glass impregnated with mesh can therefore be a god option for this species. The minimum size should be 90 x 120 x 60cm (W x H x D) with greatest dimension being the height.
All reptiles are cold blooded and need an external heat source to maintain their body temperature and each species of lizard requires different degrees of heating. One end of the vivarium should be heated to create a thermal gradient, allowing the pet to choose its preferred temperature. The ideal thermal gradient is 25-26°C at the cool end and 30-34°C at the basking end. Night temperature can be dropped to a minimum of 16-18°C, which will benefit your pet as this reflects their natural environment.
Background heat can be provided by using heat mats and more intense heat by spot light or heat lamps. Your pet shop can advise on heating products that are suitable for you particular set-up.
Digital thermometers should be placed at each end of the tank to monitor the temperature range and the maximum temperature of the heat gradient should be controlled by thermostat. You should fit wire mesh guards over exposed heat sources to prevent thermal burns.
Water dragons are diurnal lizards and require high intensity UVB and UVA lighting to fully absorb and utilise the calcium in their diet. This light should be left on for 12-14 hours in the day. The bulbs will need replacing regularly as their UV output decreases with use.
Water dragons require high humidity of 65-85%. This can be achieved by spraying the vivarium frequently with tepid water or by installing a waterfall or automatic misting device.
The floor of the cage should be covered with suitable substrate, such as a mixture of coconut bark and coconut soil, which helps to maintain high humidity.
Provide a combined UVA/UVB spotlight or a UVB heat lamp and UVA strip bulb for basking and place climbing rocks of branches approximately 6-12inches beneath – check the manufacturer’s instructions too. Provide a shelter, with a piece of cork bark for example, and additional bark or branches to create areas for climbing. It is essential to provide your pet with a place to hide and feel secure, and it’s also highly beneficial during skin-shedding. Water dragons are strong swimmers, so a large bath should be provided for this, which is deep enough to allow your pet to submerge its whole body.
Remove droppings (frequently produced in the bath) and any uneaten fresh food daily. Water bowls, baths and food bowls should be washed, rinsed and refilled daily. Vivarium’s should be completely cleaned out and disinfected on a regular basis. Soiled substrate should be disposed of and replaced daily through a spot-cleaning regime.
FOOD AND WATER
Water dragons are omnivores and will eat a varied diet of live insects (no bigger the space between their eyes), fruit and vegetables. Fruit should only be fed in limited quantities due to the high energy content.
Young and growing water dragons should be fed insects up to twice a day with occasional fruit and vegetables. Adults should be fed three or four times a week with supplemented fruit and vegetables too. Once their growth slows their appetite diminishes substantially.
Animal protein can be supplied as crickets, locusts, pinkie mice and giant mealworms. Waxworms should be fed sparingly as they have a high fat content. When feeding your dragon give them a few insects at a time, if they are eaten readily feed a couple more. Remove any uneaten live insects after 30 minutes as they annoy pet by nipping at them during the night while dragons sleep.
It is important to feed the insects you intend to give to your dragon, providing a nutritious diet and water will ensure your pet also receives a balanced diet. This is also known as gut loading the insects.
Suitable fruit and vegetables to fee your dragon include spring greens, watercress, parsley, carrots, kale, green beans, apple, pear, and berries (in limited quantities). All fruit and vegetables should be washed and dried before feeding and offered in bite size pieces.
It is very important that food should be dusted with a vitamin and calcium supplement on a regular basis; once or twice a week for non-breeding adults and all food for juveniles and egg-laying females. Failure to undertake such dietary supplementation may result in metabolic bone diseases and other such problems.
Water dragons can be tamed and rarely bite. Movements to pick them up should be slow and gentle but confident. To pick up your water dragon place one hand under the shoulders and support the underside with your other hand.
Reptiles can carry a form of Salmonella, which can be transferred to humans via ingestion. Good hygiene and washing your hands after handling your water dragon should be sufficient to prevent any risk of infection.
· Heat mat/spotlight
· UVB tube/UVB heat lamp
· Thermometers x 2
· Silver reflector for tubes
· Dome reflector
· Thermostat and gauge
· Food and water bowl
· Insects and chopped fruit and veg
· Calcium supplement
· Vitamin supplement
· Cage furnishings/branches
· Bath/ waterfall
· Pet safe disinfectant
· Water dragon care book