An enclosure for a Chinese water dragon needs to be fairly large if you want a happy water dragon,
and we all want happy water dragons, right! These guys are not the cheapest hobby, so I suggest you save your money
and put enough aside to care for them correctly.
The minium for one dragon is a 75 gallon, but bigger is always better, in my opinion.
Start out the biggest you can do, as it will be much less expensive if you build their permenant home, rather than upgrading
as they grow. You can use a tank if you want for this, although it wouldn't have the height on it that a water dragon
would enjoy. Like I mentioned before, water dragons love to be high up in the trees as they are arboreal creatures.
They feel safe and secure when they are higher. So the higher the better!
Besides using the tank, you can also build your own enclosure. You can get all the seperate
supplies to build it from scratch or you can transform a piece of old furniture to make a nice home. You will probably
want 3 sides wood and the front plexi-glass, real glass, or screen. Wood keeps the heat in, but can rot from the humidity
if not protected. You can seal the wood with multiple coats of water based polyurethane and seal the cracks with aquarium
After you do this, you will then have to let the enclosure air out as you don't want to subject
your dragons to the fumes. The best way to do this, is to set up the heat lamps and lights and let cure that way.
When is doesn't smell anymore, wait a couple more days and then you can move on making the enclosure.
You can use several different types of substrate. Do not use large loose substrate, as it
can cause impaction and possibly death.
-Reptile carpet: I use reptile carpet, or indoor/outdoor carpet,
in part of my enclosure, as I feel that it is easiest to clean. You can get this at the pet store, but it is very
expensive. The best place to get some of this, is at a home improvement store, such as Lowes or home depot. You will just
want to make sure there are no loose ends, because they can possibly become an impaction issue. For the loose or frayed
ends you can use a lighter and burn the edges. Please, only let a responsible adult do this. You can have a couple
pieces and wash and swap them out when they get soiled.
-Sterile dirt and sphagnum moss: This is another nice substrate.
You want sterile as you don't want any bugs or germs in your dragons enclosure. The moss is to cover over the dirt so
they won't drag it everywhere, like the water bowl. This is a more natural looking substrate and you can plant, plants
into the dirt.
-Eco-earth also works well for older dragons. I just started using it in the
bottom of my dragon's enclosure. Its looks more earthy and it gives them a nice place to dig to lay eggs. It holds moisture
well to help keep humidity up. Just don't let it get too wet or mold or fugus will grow. Give it time to dry out.
-Ceramic tile, paper towels, shelf liner are also usable.
Do NOT use:
-reptile bark, aquarium pebbles, sand and most pet store substrates.
You can use many plants in a water dragon's enclosure. Fake plants are always nice as they
are easy to keep. Just make sure there are no exposed wires where the dragon can get hurt. Water dragons don't
usually eat any plant matter, but you will want to make sure the plants that you use are non-toxic. I use pothos in my enclosure.
You can also use ferns, Dracaena, and Philodendrons. You can always google a safe list of plants to use. It is
hard to keep real plants, as your dragons will probably trash them. They like to hide and jump around in them.
Water dragons love water. They need a large water bowl where they can submerge at least 3/4
of their body in. The use this to help with shedding and they also like to swim. You can use anything you'd like
as long as they can submerge themselves. Kitty litter pans seem to be popular and easy to use. You can also use
rubbermaid containers. We got a black tub from Lowes that is supposed to be used as part of an outside waterfall.
We cut a hole in the bottom of our viv and fit the tub right in. They love their water and Stormie will sometimes spend
most of her day in there. You will want something that will allow them to climb in and out of the water. You can
use some stones as steps or a stick. You can use whatever, just as long as they are able to get in and out of their
water easily and safely.
Also, water dragons tend to potty in their water. This is normal and actually makes their
living area so much easier to clean! So in saying this, you can imagine that their water needs to be changed quite
frequently. If you have a small container, daily changes are needed. Bigger tubs of water can go maybe every other day.
You can also use a filter to filter out the waste, but an overall water change is needed at least weekly, even with a filter.
To keep the water warm you can use an aquarium heater, but just remember they get very hot.
You will need a cover over the heater so your dragon won't burn themselves. You don't have to use these, but if
you would like to make their water warmer for them, this is a nice way to do so.
Hides, Lights, and Basking areas
You will need places where your dragon can hide if they feel unsecure. If you have multiple
dragons you will need at least one for each dragon if not more. You can use real or fake plants, or pieces of wood.
Just make it so the dragon can safely hide if needed.
The same goes for basking areas. You will need multiple basking areas for multiple dragons.
At least one for each dragon.
You will also need multiple thermometers to measure how warm it is in each area. Digital
thermometers are the best and most accurate.
Along with heating lamps, you will need a UVB light. This is a must and can not be ignored.
Not giving UVB to your dragon can be life threatening. It can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease, which I will talk about
more on the disease page.
Other misc. things to put in your viv
Water dragons also need lots of things to climb on. You can use the fake vines, such as I
have in my viv, from a pet store, or you can get some braches from outside. Now if you decide to get some braches from
outside, you will have to clean them. You can do several ways. For smaller braches, you can stick them in an oven
at about 300-350 F for about 30 minuetes. This should kill the bugs. You can also put it in your bath tub
and scrub it with 10 parts water and 1 part bleach. You will want to then let it air out before you put it in the enclosure.
Grape vine branches work great. You just won't want to use any type of pine as they are toxic to our little green friends.
Here are a few pictures of my vivarium. It is quite simple, but my dragons seem to love it.
It is 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and 2.5 feet deep. I have several live plants in my enclosure but a few fake
potho vines also, along with a fake tree. These are great for your dragon to have a hiding spot. You can see their
pool in the lower right hand corner and the eco-earth on the bottom for a place to dig and lay eggs. I have several
light fixtures throughout their viv. Sometimes this doesn't work out for everyone. They will have a greater chances
of burns. I have them in places where my dragons never bother them. Just remember to keep them out of reach.
Sometimes covers over the lamps also help. I also have a humdifier pumping in humidity on the upper right hand side.
You can somewhat see the mist in both of the pictures. We used screen for the top of the viv for some airflow
and plexi-glass for the front. Plexi-glass is cheaper, but it does get scratched easily.