Acquired: Pet store
California, United States
Posted Jan 15, 2012
I wouldn't recommend any lizard for children under the age of say 8-10. Younger children may be tempted to yank on their tails, despite being told not to, forcing the lizard's natural defense to kick in, making it lose its tail. But you would have to gauge the maturity and listening level of the child you might be considering a lizard for, in order to make that determination for yourself.
We started out feeding Bucky live worms (as recommended at the time), acquired from the pet store. But my mother couldn't handle that, so she switched him to wet cat food. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, she didn't have to handle worms anymore, his health did not suffer, and he always had fairly cheap, easy to find nutrition at hand.
They do have claws, which tend to be thin and rather sharp, so it's recommended that you have some kind of barrier between your skin and the lizard, when you wish to handle it. My mother and I didn't worry about that. Any scratches received were light. Our hands didn't look too pretty after we were done feeding him, but it wasn't painful and it was nicer to hold him without having to worry about gloves.
He was a very healthy lizard who lived quite a long time, even though his ability to smell left him after he went a little crazy due to the Northridge quake. The quake freaked him out so badly that he started bashing his face into the side of his aquarium. This turned into a kind of tick, so he kept tearing open the front of his face by doing this -- we couldn't get him to stop until it was too late to save his sniffer. As a result, he lost the ability to smell very well, too much scar tissue around his nose. From that point on, we had to get creative at feeding time. With the cat food on a plastic spoon, we had to pry his mouth open gently and rub the food along his lips and nose, in order to get him to attack the food and get something to eat. Obviously, that wouldn't be all Chinese Water Dragons, but apparently lizards can and do lose it -- something to take into consideration.
Other things to keep in mind, health-wise... There's the tail thing of course, it's very easy to get a lizard to "drop" its tail, so you have to be extremely careful with that part of their body especially. You also have to be careful not to squeeze the torso too hard while you're handling, or feeding, them. They have small, thin ribs and not a lot of protection against overly rough handling, or too much pressure.
Also, because lizards are cold-blooded creatures, you have to make sure they have what they need in order to stay warm. We had a heat rock for Bucky, which he loved. We also had a lamp, but the rock was his favorite.
We had to change Bucky's water out a LOT, because he loved lounging in it. That water bowl was like his own little swimming pool. Hey, you knew the name "water dragon" had some kind of significance, right? We also sprayed him with water a couple times a day. Warmth + water = happy dragon.
This is a relatively low-cost animal to own. They don't require regular veterinary visits. They don't eat a whole lot. And there's only the initial investment on their habitat, which there are many many options available for. You also don't have to worry about nip training. Bucky never even tried to bite anyone.
Fair warning - cats will try to eat this kind of animal. So, if you own cats, you may consider how you could ensure they stay away from the lizard.