Caring for Your New Tree Dragon The inside scoop from Aqualand on Calotes whatever
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When we first wrote this info, calotes versicolor were more available (and cheap). We haven't
had the little varmints lately, so we'll show different calotes. Top ones called Japalura or sometimes tree dragons. Bottom one called mountain horned lizard.
Origins: We get our calotes from Viet Nam and China. Due to their low price, we figure most are wild caught. As a result, we occasionally get other than the versicolor species mixed in. Usually, we receive small ones with little color. On the plus side, young Calotes versicolor adapt to captivity more readily than the larger adults.
Name Note: You’ll see these lizards under a variety of names. One place calls calotes bloodsuckers. You’ll also see other lizards sold as tree dragons. Since they run wild where they come from, various suppliers like to give lizards different names. (That was the calotes running wild, not the suppliers. Although ...)
Arboreal: As their name implies, these guys live in trees. They need limbs to climb on and plenty of room.
Appeal: Low price and bright colors (blues, bright greens, reds, purples on the versicolors) combine to make these an appealing lizard. The dragon-like crests on the males add to their appeal.
Maximum Size: Most of these guys top out under a foot in length. It will take a few years before yours reaches its theoretical maximum size.
Housing: Give your calotes plenty of room. They need elbow room. Wood branches with hanging vines will make them feel at home.
Foods: In the wild, this species eats lots of ants. (They’re one of the few lizards that will eat ants. The horned lizard eats harvester ants.) In captivity calotes adapt easily to crickets. An occasional pinkie will provide the calcium they need.
Temperature: Provide a tropical temperature for them – at least 80o. Higher works even better. Tropical lizards fare very poorly at cooler temperatures. Low temps slow their digestion and metabolism. This makes them susceptible to disease. Healthy lizards usually fight off the effects of internal parasites and invading bacteria.
Temperament: Not exactly as “handleable” as water dragons, you’ll need to move slowly around these guys – particularly at first. Don’t expect them to sit calmly on your shoulder (except in cold weather).
High Humidity: Calotes need a great deal of humidity. Mist them daily at a minimum. A water bowl with a bubbling airstone works better as does a burbling waterfall. Some fairly economical waterfalls now exist on the market. You no longer need to build your own.
Plants: Feel free to add live plants to their tank. Calotes do not destroy vegetation.
Water: Provide plenty of clean water. Dirty, unchanged water causes stress and eventual death.
Lighting: You’ll need a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb. Diurnal lizards (those that work the day shift) need UVA and UVB light to make the vitamin D3 they use to build their bones.
Supplements: You increase your chances of success when you dust their crickets with a calcium and vitamin supplement on a weekly or twice a week basis.
Last Word: You can mix calotes with similar-sized, non-aggressive lizards, IF you give them plenty of room and keep them well fed. Hungry lizards often eat other lizards. LA.
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