Chinese Water Dragon Care: The Complete Guide

Chinese Water Dragons are one of the friendliest lizards reptile owners can own. But before you bring your new pet home, it’s important to be mindful that these dragons have very specific requirements that need to be met in order to keep them healthy and happy. So how do you properly care for a Chinese water dragon?

Chinese water dragons require very specific care and conditions in order to stay healthy and comfortable in their environment. Factors like housing, handling, cleaning, and health should all be thoroughly looked into before you bring your new pet home. Chinese water dragon care is complicated by mistreatment during their importation process, which often causes them to die young.

In this article, we’ll be going in-depth into the specific care requirements that Chinese water dragons need, as well as any other factors you should be aware of before bringing your new friend home.

The first tip starts before you buy your Chinese Water Dragon. If possible, seek out and purchase a local captive bred CWD. Most of them are imported from China and other countries, and the importation process puts an incredible strain on their health.

Buying a captive bred CWD eliminates this concern. It may be a bit more expensive up front, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Chinese water dragon care is important to their longevity.
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Have Proper Housing for Your Dragon

Creating an environment that will give your dragon plenty of space to move and grow is the first step to keeping them comfortable and happy.

Investing In the Correct Tank

Your Chinese water dragon is going to need a very large enclosure, and it’s likely that tanks of this size will be costly. For adult Chinese water dragons, a tank such as this Repti Zoo 67 Gallon Terrarium would be a great fit for your growing dragon.

This product offers you a great view of your animal, as well as easy to assemble materials that will make it simple to create the ideal space for your dragon. This terrarium is also ideal because it does well in damp and humid climates, which is great for your reptile as they love humid conditions.

Put Decor Your Pet Can Engage With in Their Tank

Just as important as the tank itself, the items and decor you put inside your terrarium will make a big difference as well. Plenty of branches should be provided to your reptile in order for them to act our natural behaviors such as climbing and basking.

If you’re looking for the perfect basking platform for your pet, this Zilla Reptile Basking Platform will give your reptile friend space to bask in all the healthy UV light they’ll be soaking up. This product also gives your pet the opportunity to burrow and hide underneath, which they will enjoy when they wish to cool down.

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Using the Correct Substrate for Your Pet’s Tank

Not only is proper decor important for your dragon, but finding the correct substrate that won’t harm your animal is another key factor in creating your reptile’s ideal environment. Using the wrong substrate can really hurt your pet, so it’s important to know what to use first before you head to the store.

This Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil is a safe option for your Chinese water dragon, and won’t hurt your reptile like other forms of substrate might.

As we mentioned above, these dragons require very specific conditions, and for good reason. If you were to use substrate like newspapers or ceramic tiles in your pet’s tank, this could cause serious injury to your pet, so it’s best to avoid them.

As you can see, housing is just one of the many important factors you’ll need to get right in order to keep your Chinese water dragon happy and healthy under your care.

Properly Handling Your Chinese Water Dragon

Chinese water dragons enjoy being held and handled by their owners, and it’s recommended you handle them often to avoid them becoming aggressive.

Wait a Few Weeks Before Handling Your Dragon

It’s important to remember you shouldn’t begin handling your dragon the second you bring it home. You should give your pet time to become accustomed to their new surroundings before you start handling them.

Let your dragon settle in for about 2-3 weeks before taking them out of the enclosure to bond with them. Once that time has passed and your reptile seems to be more comfortable with their new surroundings, you can begin short handling sessions.

Start with 5 minutes of handling a day, and you can progressively build up to 10 minutes, and then eventually to 20 minutes as time goes on and your dragon grows more comfortable with you. The best thing you can do when you begin handling your water dragon is to handle it inside its tank at first.

This is the best way to begin handling sessions that will keep your dragon feeling safe and not overwhelmed or threatened. If your dragon were to feel threatened, they would express that through actions such as whipping their tails or biting.

How to Properly Hold Your Dragon

When handling your dragon, make sure to support their full body.

It’s also recommended that you handle your Chinese water dragon close to the floor or near a table, as your reptile friend might become startled or excited and jump to the floor.

It’s also important to be mindful of the area where you’re handling your dragon. If the surrounding area is not safe for your water dragon to run or jump, you should probably relocate to a different area to handle your reptile.

Another factor to be mindful of when handling your dragon is their tail. Many reptiles can easily suffer from tail drop if owners are not careful, so it’s vital to never drag your dragon by their tail or hold them by their tail.

It’s clear to see that many of the behaviors we’ve explored will give you telltale signs that your Chinese water dragon is stressed or overwhelmed. It’s important to pay attention to how your dragon responds to you as well as any other stimuli they come into contact with.

Your reptile’s behavior will give you a clear indication of how they’re feeling.

Have Proper Heat and Light Fixtures for Your Dragon

In order to keep your reptile as comfortable as possible in their tank, you’ll need adequate heating and lighting.

Using the Correct Heat and Light Bulbs

Your Chinese water dragon originally hails from a tropical climate, so it’s important to give them a basking area, as well as a cooler section within the confines of their tank.

During the day, you should keep one side of your reptile’s tank at around 90-95°F, (32.2-35°C), and you can achieve this ideal temperature when you use a heat bulb. If you’re looking for the perfect light fixture that will keep one side of your reptile’s tank nice and toasty, look no further than the Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp.

This product is ideal as it will successfully emit heat into your dragon’s tank while also allowing them to absorb healthy UVA rays, which promote feeding and overall health.

You should keep the cooler side of your tank around 75-80°F (24-27°C) and it’s important to monitor this side of your tank, as you want your dragon to have a place to successfully cool down in order to maintain their body temperature.

At night, you’ll want to turn off the basking light and turn on your night heat lamp in order to keep the tank’s temperature regulated throughout the night. This Exo Terra Night Heat Bulb Reptile Lamp will help your dragon maintain their day and night schedule, while also keeping your tank at an ideal temperature, which should sit around 65-70°F (18.3-21.1°C) during the night.

You’ll also want to give your dragon access to UVB light for at least 12 hours during the day. This Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini UVB Lamp is a great choice that allows your Chinese water dragon to soak up all the benefits that UVB light emits.

Monitor Your Tank’s Temperature With a Thermostat

As we stated above, it’s important to ensure that your reptile’s tank stays at a consistent temperature throughout the day, as well as throughout certain parts of the tank.

With the proper thermostat, you can keep track of the temperature of your tank and make adjustments if need be. An ideal thermostat for your water dragon’s tank would be this BN- LINK Digital Heat Thermostat For Reptiles, which allows you to not only track temperature, make adjusts as well.

It’s essential to have a thermostat for your dragon’s tank for multiple reasons. It’s very dangerous to not know the exact temperature your reptile is exposed to. If their environment becomes too warm or too cold, you would have no way of knowing without a thermostat, and this could be detrimental to their health.

With the product listed above, not only can you track the conditions of your water dragon’s tank, but you can make adjustments yourself within seconds.

Supply Your Dragon With Proper Food

It’s important to feed your Chinese water dragon the correct foods in order for them to stay healthy. Below, we’ll explore some of the most common foods you can feed your dragon, as well as what a normal eating schedule for your dragon should look like.

What Your Dragon Loves to Eat

Your Chinese water dragon can regularly consume things such as crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, locust, and even small feeder fish.

Your reptile will also thoroughly enjoy fruits just as strawberries, raspberries, and cantaloupe, as well as vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, green beans, and squash. It’s important to remember that your dragon’s diet should only contain around 10-15% fruits and vegetables.

It’s also recommended that you avoid feeding your dragon wild-caught insects, as there is a chance they could contain pesticides and be harmful to your reptile. If you’re looking for a safe and ideal food source to feed your Chinese water dragon, many reptile owners highly recommend the JurassiPet EasiCricket Crickets.

Photo 41283782 ©

This product contains soft and moist farm-raised crickets that your dragon will thoroughly enjoy, as well as get plenty of nutrients from.

Your dragon will also enjoy mealworms, and they are even high in protein, which will keep your pet happy and healthy at the end of the day. This Fluker’s Gourmet-Style Mealworms is a great option for your reptile, as it offers a delicious meal for your dragon, as well as all the vitamins and nutrients they need to continue thriving.

These are just a few of the main options your Chinese water dragon has in terms of healthy and delicious foods they can consume that will keep them happy, as well as active.


As we stated above, many of the foods your water dragon will consume will naturally contain healthy vitamins and minerals that will keep your dragon strong and active.

But it’s vital that you invest in the correct kind of supplements for your reptile in order to ensure that they consume a balance of all these healthy nutrients they need in order to survive.

The most common supplement for Chinese water dragons is calcium. It’s extremely important that your dragon consume enough calcium because if their diet lacks nutrients like calcium, it can lead to health problems such as metabolic bone disease.

To avoid health problems such as these, you can easily sprinkle calcium supplements onto your dragon’s regular diet at least 2 to 3 times a week.

This Zoo Med Repti Calcium is a popular choice and will help your reptile consume all the calcium they need in order to continue thriving in their environment. This product also contains Vitamin D3, which will be beneficial to your indoor dragon’s health in the long run.

Properly Cleaning Your Dragon’s Environment

Similar to most other pets, your Chinese water dragon will require a clean environment to thrive.

It’s recommended that you perform a spot clean of your reptile’s environment at least once a day, and a full clean every four weeks. When cleaning your dragon’s tank, you should remove your animal, as well as all forms of bedding and decorations.

Once you have successfully removed all the materials from your dragon’s tank, you can begin applying a reptile safe disinfectant to the inside of your dragon’s tank. If you’re looking for the ideal cleaner that will keep your dragon, as well as other materials safe from harsh chemicals, this Zoo Med Wipe Out Cage Cleaner is a great option.

This product doesn’t contain any harsh chemical or potent smells and will keep your dragon, as well as all your other materials safe. Cleaners like these usually work quickly, and you don’t have to leave it on for long.

It’s recommended that you let your cleaner sit for about 30 seconds before wiping it off with a paper towel, and you should be cleaning the items that you removed from your tank in a similar way.

Simply apply the disinfectant to your items and then proceed to wash them off with water after you’ve allowed them to sit for about a minute. After you’ve rinsed your item off, you can dry them off with a paper towel to remove any excess product.

It’s also recommended that you do any kind of cleaning during the day. That way, your dragon will have a warm terrarium to go back to after it’s been removed from its habitat. Having a consistent cleaning schedule is your best bet to keeping your dragon happy, as well as their environment in the best shape it can possibly be.

Common Health Issues

To properly care for your Chinese water dragon, you should be aware of some of the common health problems these animals can face. Below, we’ll explore some of the most common health concerns your dragon can face and what you can do.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot is a very common health issue that Chinese water dragons face and can be the result of one of two things. For one, mouth rot can occur when a secondary infection is not treated properly or can be caused by any kind of injury that goes untreated.

Injuries can easily occur within the tank when your dragon bangs it’s nose or head against the glass terrarium. This is why it’s so important to invest in a large enough tank for your reptile friend, to avoid any kind of injury such as this.

Signs that your dragon is suffering from mouth rot include swelling around the mouth, open ulcers on or near the face, and white curd-like secretions around the mouth. If you begin to notice any one of these symptoms, you should visit your local reptile vet immediately.

Nutritional and Metabolic Disorders

We mentioned earlier how your dragon could potentially suffer from a metabolic disorder if they aren’t consuming enough calcium. MBD can also occur if your dragon isn’t absorbing enough UVB light.

Signs that your reptile may be suffering from one of these disorders include muscle spasms, fractured bones, and swollen back and/or legs.

The best way to avoid these kinds of disorders is to ensure that your pet is consuming an adequate amount of calcium in their diet, as well as enough UVB light exposure in their habitat.

If you feel your reptile has begun showing signs of a metabolic disorder, it’s very important that you see your local reptile vet immediately.

Summary: Chinese Water Dragon Care

So now you know everything there is to know about properly caring for your Chinese water dragon. It’s important to provide your reptile with things like a clean environment and a balanced and healthy diet in order for them to live a happy and healthy life.

So when you bring your Chinese water dragon home, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to give your new pet the love and care they deserve.