How to Care for Your New Australian Water Dragon
Aqualand Info on Physignathus leseurrii
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Origin: Aussies find these guys lounging about their billabongs, tanks, and streams. River strollers walking along their banks can hear these guys plopping into the water like bullfrogs do here. Australian water dragons are quite common in their home environs. However, since nobody but smugglers can "export" them from Australia, all the Australian water dragons you see are captive bred. You get a better product, but they do cost more than wild caught specimens.
Multi-Talented: Australian water dragons can climb like a squirrel, swim like a water snake, and eat like a pot-bellied pig. They can also burrow like a turtle during cold snaps. They do quite well outdoors in our southern states. Not so much during Iowa's below zero deep freezes.
Little Guy Foods: Australian water dragon babies eat anything one of our American anoles would eat -- small crickets, house flies, Phoenix worms, wax worms, and fruit flies. Theoretically they also eat soft fruits and vegetables. This never happened while I was watching, but the crickets certainly enjoyed their last meals.
water dragons, like most lizards, love to dig. In the wild
they dig hiding places. They also dig to protect themselves
against weather extremes (too hot as well as too cold). The
females dig burrows to hide and incubate their eggs. We kept
the little guys over paper towels. As they grew, we put them
over aspen. They continually kick their substrate into their
water bowl. Aspen makes less mess than most substrates.
I also like aspen because it comes in huge bales, and it keeps the
dark critters from disappearing into the woodwork.
All the lizard litters would work. Most are messier in the
Excellent Claws: Australian water dragons use their claws to scrabble (the verb, not the game) over rocks and wood and even up trees. They're not considered as much of a tree lizards as the green iguanas, but if you take your dragon to the park on a hot day he will likely revert to his arboreal roots. They also have less of a tendency to slash your wrists than a thrashing iguana yearning to breed free.
Temperature: Australian water dragons, like all lizards, prefer warm temperatures. However, they seem to do just fine (eat, run around, look wise, and defecate in their water) at room temperature. They reputedly survive near freezing weather by burrowing into the ground. They probably need a period of brumation to trigger their breeding juices.
Food Again: My Australian water dragons turn up their noses at fruits and vegetables. The above mini-buffet contained frozen mixed vegetables (thawed, of course), blanched zucchini, strawberry yogurt, and sliced purple grapes. He ignored the entire menu, so I put the dish in with our blue-tongue skink. The skink ate the whole selection with relish -- except the zucchini, which I don't like either..
Sexing: Australian water dragon males grow a foot longer than the two foot long females. However, rather than measure them, look at their chests. Males have a red chest. Little ones all look alike.
Lighting: Australian water dragons undoubtedly need full-spectrum bulbs to give them the vitamin D3 they need to assimilate calcium. Since they eat many foods that contain bones, they may not need dusted crickets. However, good lights and occasional powdered supplements on their crickets were part of their normal lizard regimen.
April Egg: We found this egg in their water dish. It undoubtedly drowned but we took it out and saved it anyway.
Breeding Box: On average, Australian water dragon females produce 30 eggs per clutch. So she should have more eggs in her. We put some moistened coconut fiber in the bottom of this foot-long plastic container. When we started moving stuff around to make room, she jumped into the breeding box. Maybe she'll figure it out.
Last Words: Australian water dragons make perfect (but pricey) lizards. They're easy to care for, friendly, and darn good looking. LA
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