|Common Name||Australian Water Dragon|
|Life Span||25 to 28 years in captivity|
|Size||2 to 3.5 feet as adults|
|Habitat||Forests near a consistent body of water|
|Country of Origin||Eastern Australia|
When you think about dragons, you might be imagining the ones that you see in movies and in books. Or maybe you might be thinking about the bigger and more popular Komodo Dragon. However, the Australian Water Dragon really is not the large kind of a drag,on you might think it is if you do not know what this reptile is. It is not as large or as scary-looking as the Komodo Dragon but it does have the dragon-like features that the classic kind of dragon has.
The Australian Water Dragon can be identified by the spiny scales that line up to look like crests on the head of this reptile. The head is also deeply angled from the top of the head down to the tip of the snout. Meanwhile, going back to the spines, the scales on the head will join the vertebral crest, which extends all the way down to the long tail of the dragon. Speaking of the tail, like a lot of different lizards, the Australian Water Dragon can regenerate its tail when it is severed.
Formerly known by a different scientific name, which was Physignathuscocincinus, the Australian Water Dragon was actually called as such primarily because of its puffy appearance as “Physignathus” can actually be translated as puffy cheeks. That said, this dragon can also be differentiated compared to other reptiles by looking at its puffy cheeks.
The Australian Water Dragon’s ears are also exposed, which is another one of its unique traits. Its eyes are also almost just as big as its ears. Its large ears allow it to stay alert and hear well anything that comes its way.
When it comes to the Australian Water Dragon’s color, this dragon is predominantly greenish in color but also patterns of white. Most of the time, these lizards have a black stripe on their back, and this stripe reaches all the way down to the tail, where it changes from being a horizontal stripe to different vertical stripes that line the tail. However, it is also observed that the color of an Australian Water Dragon largely depends on the subspecies of lizard you have. There are some that are predominantly brownish and black. Meanwhile, there are also those that are closer to olive green and light brown.
Australian Water Dragons might not be the biggest lizards, but they have large and strong legs that all have claws that allow them to climb. Their tails are also quite strong as well since having strong tails allow them to swim better.
The Australian Water Dragon is usually somewhere near 2 to 3 feet in length. That means that this lizard is not particularly big and is more on the smaller side of things when it comes to pet lizards. Females also tend to be smaller than males.
Speaking of females, sex plays a role in the appearance of these lizards. The male Australian Water Dragon is not only bigger but also has a bigger head and a white or black pattern on its head. Males also have a reddish mark on their bellies. On the other hand, the female has a smaller head and has belly marks that are closer to pink than red.
Australian Water Dragons are actually pretty hardy and resilient reptiles that live longer than most other lizards of the same size. The usual Australian Water Dragon will get to live for at least 20 years so long as it gets the proper care and nutrition it needs to thrive well in captivity. However, if you happen to have a particularly healthy lizard and as long as you give it maximum care, there is no reason why it will not be able to live past 25 years. Some captive-bred and raised Australian Water Dragons actually get to live for about 28 years. Meanwhile, those who live in the wild understandably live shorter lives than those grown and kept in captivity.
Australian Water Dragons are actually really similar to most other types of lizards or reptiles in the sense that they are primarily carnivores. However, what makes this type of reptile stand out is that it also has omnivorous tendencies because of how it can also eat different types of vegetation alongside the meat that should be a regular part of its diet. In that regard, you can say the Australian Water Dragon is more like an omnivore than a carnivore because of the wide variety of food it eats.
The wild, however, Australian Water Dragons rarely eat vegetation and would almost always want to hunt for meat. Even if you place them in a wild environment with an abundance of vegetation, you can expect them to seek out different types of meat-based prey that include small mammals or rodents, invertebrates, fish, or even birds (at times). However, if you have one that has been bred in captivity, you can expect your dragon to eat vegetation as well and will most likely be as true an omnivore as any omnivore can be.
For your captive-bred Australian Water Dragon, the best type of food to feed it on a regular basis are insects because they are easy to get and you can expect to have a constant supply of insects for a really affordable price. You may opt for live crickets and mealworms as the regular source of food for your Australian Water-Dragon. However, it is recommended that you go for live brown crickets because of how affordable they are for you and how easy to hunt they are for the dragon. Other insects such as black crickets are also just as nutritious as brown crickets. But if you want to provide your lizard food that they really love but are a bit more expensive, you can opt to give them cockroaches, mealworms, waxworms, and beetles every now and then so long as they are readily available for you. But, since worms tend to be fattier than other types of insects, you may want to feed your Australian Water Dragon these treats about once or twice a week only. Stick to a more balanced and healthier supply of food for your dragon.
To improve the nutrition and vitamin content of the meals for your Australian Water Dragon, you may want to gut-feed the crickets by allowing them to feast on healthy greens such as lettuce just before feeding them to your dragon. This allows your lizard to absorb the nutrients that the insects got from the greens you fed them. Also, to make sure you balance out the phosphorus (which crickets are abundant) levels of your Australian Water Dragon, you may want to dust the crickets with a calcium supplement. This prevents the risk of your lizard suffering from metabolic bone disease, which is quite common in many reptiles.
Since Australian Water Dragons also like to feed on vegetation because of their omnivorous tendencies, you can leave a constant supply of shredded greens like collards in their enclosure. You can also regularly feed them with other types of vegetables such as carrots, squash, and beans. Australian Water Dragons also eat fruits. In that regard, you may want to give these lizards fruits such as blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and melons. This allows the lizards to have a more diverse diet compared to other reptiles, which only feed on meat.
For Juveniles, you may want to feed them with smaller insects because they probably are still too small to be feeding on crickets. That is why giving them flies or mosquitoes may be a good idea even though it might be a bit difficult for you to get your hands on a regular supply of such insects.
Australian Water Dragons are diurnal reptiles. That means that they are mostly active during the day to hunt and do their different activities. At night, you can expect them to rest and stay asleep. They will most likely stay up for about 12 hours and then use the rest of the day to sleep. When the climate is dry, you may see these reptiles sleeping in the water but with their nostrils exposed so that they can breathe while asleep. The same can be said during the winter. When the season is too cold, they love sleeping in the water because of how warm it usually is compared to sleeping out in the open.
Australian Water Dragons are not only heavy water drinkers but also love dwelling in the water to soak their bodies to hydrate and moisten their skin. Having a large water bowl in their enclosure allows them to have a good supply of water to drink. It will also allow the dragon to soak its entire body in the water and even spend an entire day or evening there. Depending on the season and on the temperature, Australian Water Dragons may spend an entire night sleeping in their water bowls but with their snouts exposed for breathing. This is common when the climate is extra dry or when the season is colder than usual.
Development and Reproduction
Australian Water Dragons will reach sexual maturity when they reach about 4 to 5 years of age. But, at that time, they might not be at their peak size for reproduction. As such, when you have a female, you may want to wait an extra year or so until your dragon reaches about a foot long before trying to let it reproduce. Males may be ready for reproduction when they are about 9 inches long. It is said that females can almost indefinitely reproduce as some of these dragons were found to still successfully breed at the age of 27.Males can reach maturity in captivity in as early as 2 years compared to the 5 years they have to wait for in the wild because of how they are quicker to grow when left to thrive in a healthy environment.
How to Breed
Sexing your Australian Water Dragons should be the first thing you need to do. Comparing dragons that are quite close to one another in terms of age makes it easier for you to sex them because a male dragon will always be bigger than a female one. However, even dragons that are not of the same age are easy to sex. Males are not only larger than the females but also have heads that are bigger than the females, which tend to have smaller heads. Males also have distinct patterns of black and white on their heads and have bellies that have a reddish marking. Meanwhile, the female Australian Water Dragon has a belly that has a pattern that is closer to pink in color.
In the wild, it will be common for one male to be fighting with others for the right to reproduce with the female. Some males will not be too physically aggressive and would instead try to intimidate their opponents by puffing their cheeks to their maximum size. Usually, the male with the largest puffed cheek is deemed the more dominant dragon and will win the right to reproduce with the female. However, it will be more common to see the male actually engaging in combat with another male.
In captivity, there is a chance that reproduction in Australian water dragons happens year-round. However, as in the wild, reproduction might happen more commonly during the spring when it is warmer in areas such as Queensland. However, in the other regions of Australia, breeding commonly happens during September. This entire process may conclude sometime during the start of the next calendar year. In all other places, they will most likely breed upon waking up from their regular winter hibernation.
Introducing a male to a female should be the start of the breeding process. After doing so, you almost do not have to do anything to induce reproduction as long as the season is right, the conditions are good, and both reptiles are healthy and thriving. Breeding may last for a few months until the female is impregnated. A pregnant female may be able to lay up to 18 eggs at a time. If you do not have a nesting box for your female, it will most likely dig up a burrow where it would lay its eggs.
Common Health Problems
As hardy and as resilient as the Australian Water Dragon is, it is still normal for such a healthy reptile to suffer from different sorts of health problems when it is not taken care of properly and is not given the proper type of diet and environment it needs to thrive well. As such, there are certain illnesses that will shorten its lifespan and may actually lead it to an early death before it could even reach half of the 25 years it is expected to live. Knowing the illnesses it often suffers from is ideal when it comes to minimizing the risks associated with such health problems.
Australian Water Dragons will eat almost anything and are quite active eaters. It will not be a problem to feed them with insects and vegetation as they are not picky when it comes to feeding time. That means that there is a good chance that you will overfeed these dragons so long as you are not careful with their diet. Obesity is merely a precursor to riskier and more dangerous diseases. As such, it is best to avoid overfeeding your dragon.
Metabolic bone disease
A lot of different reptiles and lizards suffer from metabolic bone disease. This illness is a product of low calcium levels in the Australian Water Dragon’s bloodstream and is also the cause of higher phosphorus levels as this mineral is abundant in insects. Metabolic bone disease can seriously weaken your dragon’s bones and may cause deformities, fractures, and general muscle weakness. If you notice that your dragon is not as strong as some other similar reptiles, there is a chance that it is suffering from metabolic bone disease.
Different kinds of reptiles commonly suffer from respiratory illnesses especially if they live in environments that are either too cold or too damp for them. Respiratory illnesses are infections that can lead to weakness, loss of appetite, and difficulty in breathing for your reptile. If the mucus is present and if your Australian Water Dragon is often wheezing, there is a good chance that it is suffering from a respiratory infection.
The best way to prevent illnesses in your Australian Water Dragon is to arm yourself with knowledge. Knowing the illnesses and the common health problems are the first step for you to minimize the risk of your reptile suffering from such illnesses. The next step is to actually know how to prevent them. Providing a healthy and balanced diet for your dragon is paramount. Australian Water Dragons are omnivores that will feed on almost anything when they are kept in captivity. That means that it will be quite easy for you to give them a balanced and nutritious diet that is full of different kinds of vitamins and minerals that all work to improve the health of your reptile. Insects should be their primary food but it is good to supplement their meals with fruits and vegetables because of their vitamin contents. A well-balanced meal is also a good way of preventing obesity.
Another way of making sure your Australian Water Dragon is healthy is to house it in an environment that is actually suitable for it. Make sure that the temperature and the humidity levels are just right so that your reptile will not suffer from any sort of illness due to the buildup of harmful bacteria and molds in their enclosure. It is also important that you regularly clean their habitat to make sure that it is free from anything that can potentially infect and cause illnesses in your reptile.
Both in the wild and in captivity, the Australian Water Dragon is a pretty shy reptile. It is particularly shy in the wild and is rarely seen even if they are quite abundant in many regions in Australia. That is because they are very cautious creatures that will immediately try to hide if they detect any sort of threat. The moment they feel that danger is incoming, they will hide in a nearby body of water. It may stay fully submerge underwater for about an hour or so. When they are not near any body of water, they will cover themselves in thick vegetation to avoid getting detected. One of the reasons for this shy behavior is that they are small enough to easily comprise of the regular diet of larger predators such as tree snakes and other bigger types of carnivorous reptiles, birds, or even mammals.
While the Australian Water Dragon is shy in captivity, it is much more receptive to human interaction than those in the wild. As long as they are used to you already, they will readily play and socialize with humans. In that sense, dragons that have already adjusted to human interaction can be quite playful and are great pets. They almost are never aggressive towards humans and are not as dangerous as some other pet reptiles are.
Australian Water Dragons are both good climbers and strong swimmers. They use their strong limbs and sharp claws for climbing and can be arboreal at times because of how they love to stay on tree branches or any elevated place. At times, they also like spending time in water and are pretty good swimmers especially because of how their strong tails allow them to swim pretty quickly.
These dragons, at times wave their arms to show two different signals. When they are waving their arms in a fast manner, they are trying to assert their dominance. Meanwhile, slow arm-waving is a signal that they are willing to submit themselves to a more dominant animal.
Hibernation is not always observed in Australian Water Dragons because these reptiles live in different parts of Australia, where the climate can be pretty unpredictable. In colder regions of Australia, this dragon will normally hibernate during the winter season. However, those that are used to warmer regions may not hibernate unless the season or the climate gets really cold for them. There will be times when they will completely hibernate in the water because the temperature there seems to be warmer than it is out in the open during the winter season.
Australian Water Dragons need to be in a good environment so that you can get to maximize their lifespan. As such, always see to it that you provide them with a habitat that is suitable both in terms of size and conditions so that they can actually enjoy their daily life and get to live longer than most other lizards and reptiles.
For starters, you can use any aquarium of a suitable size for the habitat of your Australian Water-Dragon. Because Australian Water Dragons are not really big lizards, a good aquarium of about 3 to 4 feet long may be enough. Also, if you want to put plants in the enclosure, you may want to go for an aquarium that is about 4 feet high as well so that the dragon can have plants it can climb and stay on. If you want to accommodate two or more adults (for breeding purposes), you should go for a bigger enclosure that is about 6 feet long and 4 feet wide.
If you prefer to do so, you may construct your own enclosure out of plywood and glass. The plywood should make up the majority of the enclosure while the glass should be there to be made into an observation window for your Australian Water-Dragon. Like most aquariums, you may want to construct a top opening but make sure that it is sealed and locked well to prevent the dragon from trying to escape its habitat.
Furnishings for your Australian Water Dragon’s enclosure may include plants that can be climbed on, rocks and vegetation that are big and thick enough to be used as hiding spots for your lizard. Rocks are also good at maintaining the heat that comes from your heat source. It is suggested to put more decorations when your dragon is still in its juvenile years because they tend to be extra shy. Remove the decorations as your Australian Water Dragon grows both in terms of size and confidence.
Lighting and Humidity
Australian Water Dragons are used to the sunny regions of Australia and need a lot of light to thrive well. When providing your dragon with light, the first thing you need to do is to supply them with an ultraviolet B lamp because UVB lights provide your reptile with vitamin D3, which allows them to metabolize calcium more efficiently. During the day, you should also provide your Australian Water Dragon with a stronger light source such as an incandescent lamp because UVB lights are not particularly strong sources of light.
As much as possible, keep humidity levels a bit high so as to prevent your dragon from suffering from dehydration. A water dish that is big enough not only keeps humidity levels up but it also allows your dragon to have a place it can use for soaking itself when environmental conditions get a bit dry. You may also mist the enclosure with water from time to time to make sure that the substrate does not dry out.
Australian Water Dragons are commonly found in places and regions that are quite warm. In that sense, it is best to keep the entire enclosure warm enough by providing a good heat source such as a strong lamp or a heating pad. It is important to keep the temperatures up at around 84 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. The temperatures may safely drop to about 75 to 80 degrees at night.
Because these dragons love to bask, you should have an area where temperatures can go higher than 90 degrees. Australian Water Dragons and many other different types of reptiles bask under a heat source to aid in their metabolism. The basking area should be the hottest portion of the enclosure and should ideally be under a good heat lamp. You may want to use an incandescent bulb in conjunction with the UVB lamp to provide both heat and UVB lights in your dragon’s enclosure.
As with most pets, Australian Water Dragons need to be in an environment or an enclosure that is as clean as possible. Spot cleaning the enclosure on a regular basis is a good way of keeping everything clean. Ou may want to do this every day or every other day. Meanwhile, you may also want to clean the entire enclosure by removing everything and then sanitizing it once a month. Keep an eye on the water dish as your dragon may defecate in the water. Always see to it that you replace the dragon’s water as soon as you see anything dirty in it. Sanitize the entire dish so as to prevent any sort of bacteria from propagating.
Natural Environment – Substrate
Provide the entire enclosure with a substrate that is as close to natural as possible. You may want the substrate to be about half a foot deep because there are instances where the Australian Water Dragon might want to dig. Cypress mulch is a good choice because it holds moisture really well. You can also opt for other types of substrates such as clean potting soil that is free of chemicals. For younger ones, paper napkins may do just fine.
Australian Water Dragons are not only heavy water drinkers but are also water dwellers as well (as the name suggests). That said, see to it that you put a water dish that is big enough for these water dwellers so that they can soak in the water from time to time. They love to hydrate their entire bodies by staying in the water for extended periods of time especially when the conditions are dry or too cold for them.
Availability – Where to Get One?
Australian Water Dragons are available for purchase in many online reptile specialty stores. Go for the most reputable stores if you want a healthy captive-bred dragon that is free from infections. Most of these dragons will cost you somewhere between 70$ to 100$. However, some breeders sell juveniles that are close to the $400 price range.
How to Care for an Australian Water Dragon?
Here are some tips on how to care for an Australian Water Dragon:
- They are omnivores that lean more towards a carnivorous eating habit. As such, feed them with insects but you should also provide them with fruits and vegetables for the added vitamins and minerals.
- Australian Water Dragons need a lot of water both for drinking and soaking purposes.
- You should be patient when trying to handle an Australian Water Dragon because these reptiles usually start out very shy.
- Male Australian Water Dragons are quite territorial and should be kept away from their fellow males.
Are Australian Water Dragons venomous?
Australian Water Dragons do not carry any kind of venom in their bites.
Are Australian Water Dragons good for beginner owners?
A lot of people love having Australian Water Dragons because they are easy to handle and are not very difficult pets to take care of. In that sense, they may be good for beginner owners.
Do Australian Water Dragons bite humans?
As shy reptiles, the Australian Water Dragon rarely bites humans and is quite friendly towards people when they are already confident enough.
Can Australian Water Dragons eat vegetables?
Australian Water Dragons are omnivores and can be fed with a healthy and balanced diet that is comprised of a good mix of meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Should I house my Australian Water Dragon with another male?
Probably not a good idea because male Australian Water Dragons are quite territorial towards other males.
Are Australian Water Dragons safe for handling?
Yes, they are. While shy Australian Water Dragons may try to escape from time to time, they will eventually become playful and submissive towards their handlers.
Why does my Australian Water Dragon spend so much time in the water?
Australian Water Dragons spend a lot of time in water and even sleep in it from time to time if the conditions are too hot, too dry, or too cold for them.
Why does my Australian Water Dragon do so much body signals?
Australian Water Dragons like to communicate using their bodies. It is often their way of telling another animal that they are either asserting dominance or perhaps submitting to the dominance of the other reptile or animal.