.This article is compiled from a care sheet on Water Dragons by Reuben Anderson on the Aquarium World forums.
Australian or Eastern water dragons
Intellagama lesueurii, formerly Physignathus lesueurii And Intellagama lesueurii howittii Gippsland Water Dragon subspecies
.This article is compiled from a care sheet on Water Dragons by Reuben Anderson on the Aquarium World forums. https://aquariumworld.nz/forums/topic/41043-australianeastern-water-dragon-care-sheet/
Eastern water dragons
are stunning, prehistoric looking lizards that make great pets that are native to eastern Australia from Victoria northwards to Queensland, the ones we have in NZ are mostly leseurii .but some have genes from the subspecies howitii in them. They are the longest reptile available on the market with some males close to 1 metre long and a kg in weight, they have lots of personality and are very active lizards. They don't take much effort to care for, are easy to set up. With a lifespan between 15 and 28 years. Males generally have a much thicker and shorter head, a more dominant crest to and a red underside with the black/grey bar behind their eyes
Water dragons can be kept outside all year round in most places in New Zealand. An outdoor enclosure provides many advantages and you will probably get to see more of their natural behaviour. You are also usually able to build a much larger enclosure which makes a happier lizard. The size of an outdoor enclosure should ideally be a minimum of a 2m by 2m by 2m. This could happily house a small group and gives you lots of room to build ponds, plant shrubs etc. An outdoor enclosure enables you to build or purchase a much larger pond or similar. Just like the indoor enclosures you want to keep the water clean. Investing in a pond filter will save a lot of time cleaning. For substrate there are the indoor options or you could do a mixture of substrates to mimic their natural habitat. In an outdoor set up I would use bark or mulch as you don’t need to worry so much about the mess and it looks very natural. You want to still have many branches and hollow logs etc. You can create waterfalls and place large rocks here and there to help mimic their natural environment. Remember water dragons are an arboreal reptile and like to rest on high branches and bask so they will spend a fair bit of time perched up on branches and logs, a branch over hanging the water is also good.
It is usually advised that you keep your dragon indoors for the first and maybe second winter depending on size. Many experienced keepers keep them outside from the beginning as this can help with fertility and makes a much hardier lizard however it is good practice to leave your dragon inside for the first year or so. If you don’t, you may find he will freeze during the winter and not come back out of hibernation and die.
- Hatchlings (pair) an enclosure measuring 900mm by 450mm by 450mm (L,W,H)
- Yearlings from 1-2 years (pair) an enclosure measuring 1200mm by 600mm by 600mm (L,W,H)
- Adults 3 years plus (pair) an enclosure measuring 1800mm by 600mm by 800mm (L,W,H)
Water dragons being active lizards need lots of room to run around so these dimensions should ideally be the minimum. As they say, the bigger, the better.
Water dragons weren't given their names for nothing! They require a large pool of water to swim and soak in - the water should be deep enough for them to fully submerge themselves in as they retreat to the water if they feel threatened or scared. They may stay under the water for several minutes and adults even sometimes over an hour! Make sure they can get out of the water with ease if they need to, a piece of wood or a rock emerging from the water is perfect - its also somewhere they can cool off without actually entering the water. Make sure to either provide a filter for the water or regularly change the water as they defecate in it. It is important to not heat the water as if the water is too warm, you may find your dragon will spend too much time in there and may not hop out to bask. If they stay in the water too long they run the risk of fungal infections. It needs to be kept cool as the water
is their main way to thermo regulate, ie to cool off. The water area should be at least 1/4 of the enclosure floor. Adding an air stone or pump to the water may encourage them to enter the water if you find they don't like to go into the water.
Substrates- There are many substrates you can use in your vivarium.
Outdoor turf - This is a very common substrate used by many hobbyists. It is easy to clean, many different colours available, safe for your lizard, and it’s also quite appealing to the eye Tip: purchase two pieces that cover the entire floor so you can wash one while you use the other one. Paper towels can also be used but are a bit of an eye sore.
Sand - This is okay but can be very messy. You also run the risk of impaction if you feed on the substrate. If you use sand I would highly recommend you feed in either a large dish or separate feeding enclosure.
Bark/mulch/aspen - This looks quite effective and is cheap but can also be quite messy. Avoid products made of pine or cedar as it has a very strong smell which is not liked by the dragons at all!
Stones/pebbles - I would stay away from these as small pebbles can be ingested and can cause impaction. They are also very cold and hard.
Sterile potting soil - This can look really nice and you can grow live plants in it but is also very messy, you will be constantly changing the water dish and wiping the front glass etc.
These are the most popular substrates but there are more being used. My favourite is outdoor turf because of the above reasons.
You have the option of live or fake plants, fake plants can be easily cleaned and now look very realistic, they can be pricey though however once you have them they can be used for years. Live plants are more aesthetically pleasing but quite a few are toxic to reptiles and it can be hard to know which ones are and which aren't, of the ones to use a few examples are; bromeliads, types of ferns, grass, small shrubs and palms. These can be planted straight into the ground. It’s also beneficial to grow edible plants in the enclosure. You can grow strawberries, blue berries, dandelion etc., all parts of the dandelion and they are easy to grow.
Lighting and heating
This is a fairly simple aspect to the care of EWDs but many people are often confused about this topic. Water dragons are diurnal lizards so they need UVB/UVA light. A 10.0 UVB bulb is recommended but a 5.0 will do if there are branches close to the light. Tubes are usually preferred over compact bulbs but both do the job - make sure you follow the manufacturers directions as there is a fine line between too much UV and not enough! REMEMBER TO REPLACE THE UVB BULB EACH YEAR!
A basking spot is also required to keep the enclosure at a stable temperature and to create hot and cold ends withing the enclosure. There are many types of lighting to create basking spots. For example; basic spot lights, ceramic heat emitters, infrared bulbs, metal halide bulbs and many more. I prefer just basic spot lights as they are cheap and do the job while still providing light. Stay away from bulbs which claim to provide both heat and UVB as usually this is not the case. Using these bulbs by themselves can lead to lack in calcium absorption which can cause MBD or metabolic bone disease which can permanently damage your lizard and can leave it with major back problems and weak bones. Always purchase a safety cage to cover the bulbs as water dragons are excellent jumpers and can get burned if they touch the bulb. Heat mats are not needed as water dragons in the wild get all their heat from above. Don't use heat rocks as these have been known to cause serious burns to your reptiles. Temperatures in the enclosure should be: cool end - 20-25C, hot end 25-30C and basking spot 35-40C. Lighting and heating is not needed in an outdoor set up. A basking bulb can be used but not necessary. You may want to fix a UVB tube to the roof of the enclosure as if you have used clearlite or something that will reduce the amount of UVB rays that get in.
Water dragons should be offered a wide variety of foods for a healthy diet.
Some good foods are; - Mealworms, Crickets, Wax moths, Locusts, Low fat cat food - the casserole type, not pellets or jelly meat, avoid types with fish.
- Ox heart with fat and sinew removed.
- Shredded greens like dandelion - the whole plant can be used, not just the flowers, rocket and clover
- Fruits like strawberries, grated apple, raspberry, banana, and grated squash - a good and healthy way to bulk up salads
It is important to offer a mixture of fruit/vege and meat/insects at each meal time. A juveniles diet should be 60% meat/insects to 40% fruit/vege. An adults diet should be 60% fruit/vege to 40% meat/insects. It's a good idea to add vitamins and calcium to their food. You can purchase vitamin and calcium powder from pet stores. This helps them
get all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions. Too much can be harmful!