Acquired: Pet store
Posted Apr 20, 2015
When I was in middle school, my mother took me to the pet store and let me get a lovely Chinese Water dragon which, faithful Harry Potter fan that I was (and still am!), I promptly named Norbert. I had already owned two green iguanas, so I was familiar with taking care of reptiles, but looking back on my experience I now see that I was young and naïve when it came to caring for reptiles.
Norbert was a very vibrant blue-green color, and had some really beautiful markings. When he was small he was pretty calm when being handled, but as he got older (and larger), he started getting a little more anxious so I handled him less often. Unlike my green iguanas, he squirmed when I walked anywhere while holding him, which made it a little unsafe to take him out of the cage for any reason other than to clean.
Even though I didn’t get to hold Norbert a lot, I still got to see him in the cage, and he was definitely interesting to watch. He had a little cave, but he could most often be found chilling under the fake greenery or taking a bath in his pool. When he took a bath, he did an adorable little pinwheel motion with his arm to get himself wet, and splashed around like he was having a grand ol’ time. It was also really fun to watch him chase crickets, almost like watching a tiny little dinosaur hunt.
Norbert seemed to enjoy the setup of his cage, but I would have liked to give him something bigger. One of the downsides to larger lizards like iguanas or water dragons is that they grow to be pretty large. Chinese water dragons grow to be about 3’ long including their tail, so you’re eventually going to need an 80-100 gallon tank (or similarly sized enclosure) with a substantial pool of water to keep your pet comfortable. I was lucky that we lived in Florida and didn’t have to worry too much about temperature and humidity control, but if you don’t happen to live in a place that is naturally hot and humid, or if you keep your house extremely cold, you will need to make sure your setup is as close to a rainforest-like environment as possible. As an added note: never get a heat rock, only a heat lamp! Otherwise, your little Chinese water dragon will burn his tummy.
I fed Norbert fruit and crickets, but remember that as Chinese water dragons get larger they should really be eating larger bugs like earthworms, or even pinkies. If you go the pinkies route, I recommend that they’re dead since live pinkies might hurt your water dragon while trying to defend themselves. This whole concept was never something I was thrilled about, so be sure you’re ready for not only the feeding process but also any ensuing cleanup, and if you go with the whole prey option, impaction is a risk. To my knowledge, Chinese water dragons are not particularly prone to illness, but if yours were to get sick you would need to take him to a vet that knows how to take care of reptiles.
Because of the added element of a water pool (a must for Chinese water dragons), cleaning the cage is a little harder than it would be with a different lizard. Mold and algae were definitely concerns, and Norbert’s nifty bath time habits sometimes got water all over the cage. Unless you get lucky and find a particularly neat Chinese water dragon, I would recommend cleaning the cage at least once a week. We had fake greenery in the cage, but if you hope to go a more natural route, remember that plants will require more routine care, and that you will need to be sure to get the right kind of plants for your water dragon, otherwise he might get sick.
Overall, Norbert was not the greatest fit as a pet for me, but I loved him very much and would like the opportunity to take care of a Chinese water dragon again someday.