Species group: Water Dragons and Sailfin Lizards
Other common names: Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii); Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii howittii)
Scientific name: Intelligama lesueurii
The Australian Water Dragon is an arboreal, semi-aquatic lizard native to Eastern Australia (Queensland to Victoria) and South Australia. There are two subspecies: the Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii); and the Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii howittii). The Australian Water Dragon lives in open basking areas next to bodies of water like rivers, lakes and creeks.
Appearance / health:
The Australian Water Dragon grows to about 3 feet in length (including the tail) and about 2 lbs in weight. The female is slightly smaller than the male. The male also has a bigger head and bolder colors, which could range from gray to greenish brown. Adults show black bands across the back and tail, and a prominent horizontal black stripe behind the eye. The throat is cream to yellow, and the belly is typically reddish orange.
As a semi-aquatic lizard, it has a long, muscular, and laterally compressed tail for swimming. As an arboreal reptile, it has long and powerful legs and sharp claws for climbing. A characteristic feature is the nuchal crest or a row of spikes along its spine running from the back of the head to the base of the tail.
Behavior / temperament:
Australian Water Dragons are active and alert but tend to be shy. When threatened, they scamper into the thicket, or, if up on a branch overhanging a body of water, will jump into the water and swim away very quickly, or submerge and remain underwater for an hour. With regular handling and gentle interaction, Australian Water Dragons can become accustomed to human presence.
Because of their relatively large size, Australian Water Dragons are best kept in roomy enclosures (at least 4 ft. across) that will allow them to climb. A water vessel in the enclosure will mimic their natural habitat. The cage should be provided with sturdy branches and ledges for the lizard to climb and bask on. The recommended substrate is aspen shavings, 4-6 inches deep to allow the lizard to dig. Temperature range should be 68-102F.
Fresh water should always be provided. The enclosure should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
The standard diet for Australian Water Dragons are insects (crickets, mealworms, wax worms) and fruits (bananas, peaches, grapes). Adults may be attracted to pinky mice.
Australian Water Dragons are egg layers. After hibernating in the winter, the female digs a burrow in sandy or soft soil to lay 10-20 eggs that hatch after 67 days. The female kicks sand and debris to cover the burrow, which becomes the home of the juveniles until they are mature enough to forage.
striking looking lizard, fascinating behaviors., playful little things, prominent scales, zoo exhibits
beginner reptile keeper, highlyvaried diet, large arboreal enclosure, large pool
outdoor enclosure, small river beds, Self sustaining foliage, stocky lizard, regulated humidity
In taking a break from animals I have specifically owned, I am brought back to a pair of water dragons owned by a friend. These water dragons were both some of the most beautiful expressions of how delightful the simplicity of nature can be. Although they are not the most colorful of lizards, the greens they display are so magnificently eye catching. They are also playful little things that have quite the propensity for shy and curious behavior. A combination that is often lost on other animals available in the pet trade. Truthfully I can say that very few other experiences of keeping reptile can compare to this, and that is probably due to the sheer scale of their enclosure as it takes of the equivalent of a bedroom in the basement of his house.
Without going into every secret detail of his setup I will say that it is fantastic. It has a re-circulating flow of water and its own regulated humidity. Self sustaining foliage, and a marvelous job for the landscaping. Sorry, no pictures, he doesn't like anything of his being posted on the internet, perhaps a touch of paranoia, perhaps a valid one. I would also recommend this type of setup to anyone with the space as it is quite literally like going to a zoo every time I see the enclosure. Just do some utility cost estimations to see if it is something you can reasonably afford first.
But what about the dragons themselves? Well, firstly, I can say the term dragon is a rather good description as they do resonate some found childhood memories of the fantastical creatures. The shapes of their heads and the coloration as well as the unique hunting and hiding habits make these animals a true joy to own. To that note, a fun fact about these animals; they can actually stay submerged at the bottom of small river beds in order to hide from potential predators for up to 90 minutes, truly fascinating indeed.
So what about ownership? Well, I would tell you that they are handle able, as most reptiles can become, but it may be in your interest to let them live on their own with less interaction, especially since they can be rather skittish. Still, they can be handle, and they are definitely on my list of new reptiles to acquire..
From ManoftheNorth Apr 18 2014 11:20AM
Great for more experienced keepers
Water Dragons - both Chinese and Australian are definitely not for the beginner reptile keeper, yet both can be rewarding to keep.
Australians are a striking looking lizard that reminds me of a dinosaur, with their black, whites, greys and prominent scales. They grow quite big, up to 2ft with tail and are quite a stocky lizard. They do need quite a large arboreal enclosure - the larger the better, ideally fully equipped with a pond area for swimming and an absolute ton of branches. This can make designing an enclosure, heating and lighting quite challenging, unless you happen to be lucky enough to live in a climate that allows you to make an outdoor enclosure, sadly I don't.
Unlike Chinese Water Dragons, Australians are all captive bred as it's illegal to export them, so things makes life a little easier when it comes to taming them. I've found mine to be quite chilled and happy to be handled, and willing to hand feed. You do have to watch out for the long claws though as they will climb up and scratch without intending to - especially if they decide they want to sit on your head, ouch!.
From Athravan Jun 17 2015 11:12AM
Iggy the Iguana - Sort Of
Water dragons are not my idea of a great pet. You really can't interact with them too much. They look good and can be fun at feeding time, but you can't play ball or sit them on your lap while watching TV. Set-up costs and licences can be expensive too..
From gazza Dec 7 2012 5:57PM