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REPTILE / new pets

A Set-up Guide for New Chinese Water Dragon Parents

Chinese water dragon 101


6 things to know about Chinese water dragons

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size: They grow to be 3 feet (91 cm) long
  • Lifespan: Chinese water dragons live about 15 years
  • Origin: They come from tropical climates
  • Behavior: They spend most of their time in branches and trees that are in or around water
  • Did You Know: They have a “third eye” — actually, a spot between their eyes that can sense changes in light

How do I set up my Chinese water dragon’s habitat?

Chinese water dragons are loner-lizards; they’re happiest living solo. They also need a warm, humid environment in order to thrive.

  • An adult Chinese water dragon should live in a terrarium that’s at least 55 gallons. Make sure the terrarium has a screened lid that fits tightly, so your pet can’t escape.
  • When your Chinese water dragon is less than 6 inches (15 cm) long, line the terrarium with reptile carpet. Once it grows longer than 6 inches, these lizards are big enough not to be overwhelmed by a thicker layer of bedding; replace the carpet with 2 to 3 (5-8 cm) inches of coconut fiber or bark.
  • Remove droppings frequently and change the bedding completely every month.
  • Add rocks or logs to the terrarium so the dragon can climb closer to the heat lamp, and real or artificial plants for shade.
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Heat & light

Like all reptiles, Chinese water dragons are ectothermus and must have a warm habitat in order to maintain their body temperature. They also need moist, humid air.

  • During the day, use a heat bulb to warm one side of the terrarium to 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 35 Celsius). Keep the other end of the tank at about 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C). Monitor the temperature with a thermometer at each end of the terrarium.
  • At night, turn the basking light off and use a ceramic heater or night heat lamp to keep the entire habitat between 65 and 75 F (18 to 24 C).
  • Chinese water dragons are diurnal (active during the day) and need simulated sunlight. Install a UVA/UVB bulb in the terrarium and keep it on for 12 hours.
  • At night, switch off the UVA/UVB bulb and use a night-specific bulb so you can watch your pet with a minimum of disturbance.
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What do Chinese water dragons eat?

Chinese water dragons are omnivores, meaning that their diet consists of a combination of insects, fruits and vegetables.

  • Chinese water dragons’ primary food source is crickets, but variety is important for a balanced diet. Alternate the kinds of insects, fruits and vegetables you feed your pet.
  • Insects and vegetables should be dusted with a calcium supplement twice weekly and a reptile multivitamin once weekly.
  • Chinese water dragons should be fed during the daytime.
  • Put food on a dish so the dragon doesn’t accidentally eat its bedding. Remove any uneaten food and clean the dish after feeding.
  • Chinese water dragons will drink from a large, shallow dish and soak in the water to maintain hydration.
  • Remember to clean and refill your pet’s water dish daily.
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How do I keep my Chinese water dragon healthy?

Give new Chinese water dragons 3 or 4 days to get used to their new surroundings before you handle them. When your lizard is settled in, contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms of distress:

  • More time spent hiding
  • Eating or drinking less
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen joints
  • Shedding problems; discolored skin
  • Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
  • Runny droppings for more than 2 days


  • Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite (especially when stressed).
  • Supervise children around pets.
  • ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
  • Adults should assist children with hand washing after contact with a pet, its habitat or aquarium water.


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Our vendors meet a high standard in caring for pets and screening them for common illnesses. This program also includes specific standards for in-store pet care.


If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.