How to Care for Your New Frilled Dragon

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Frilled Dragon Factoids

Origin

Northern Australia and southern New Guinea

Maximum Size

2.5 to 3 feet.  Males larger than females.
Longevity 20 years in captivity

Housing

Needs a tall cage

Security

Inhabits the upper layers.  Runs on hind legs.
Water Large water bowl plus daily misting
Foods Insects and small critters

Temperature

70 F nights.  About 90 days.  Add a basking light.
Supplements Gut load their crickets
Lighting Full spectrum needed

Attitude

Arboreal.  Mellow. Easy to train.
Threats Raptors, dingoes, monitors, pythons, and feral cats.

Prologue:  I don't see many frilled dragons on the regular wholesale lists these days.  Perhaps because they're fairly pricy.  They were more populous in 2006 when I took most of the pictures below.  During all the time and a half that passed, I've never had an adult.  The youngsters are fairly mellow so none of mine felt threatened enough to flare their frills at me.  Luckily,  Keith Davis sent me some pictures of his frilled dragons frilling and gave me the okay to use them.  Thanks, Keith.

Keith Davis, Ankeny, IA, October 16, 2010
No problem, you can use any of the pics. I no longer have the Frilly.
Had her for 4+ years.  We happened to be in a pet store in Omaha when we saw her and had to have her!  She loved to eat crickets and super mealworms.

KD
Excellent pic of a ticked off frilled dragon in full flare. Scary, eh?

LA
Best flare I could get.  Mine were more interest in eating.

Where do They Come from?  Frilled dragons originally came from northern Australia and southern New Guinea.  I don't think you'll see any wild caught ones on the market.  Australia has some strict restrictions on the export of their wildlife.  I have no clue about New Guinea.  Now frilled dragons are mostly bred in captivity.  That's why they're so darned expensive these days.

KD
Frilled dragon with relaxed frill.

Why the Frill?  Frilled dragons flare when they feel threatened.  It makes them look larger and more formidable.  Many predators -- Aborigines, dingoes, monitors, pythons, feral cats, and birds of prey --  consider them a tasty addition to their menu so they flare when threatened.  If the flare fails, they rear up on their hind legs and head for the hills (or the trees).  They don't spend much time on the ground because of those same predators.  They mostly while away their hours in the trees and venture onto the ground in search of food.   

KD
Using the frills for whatever reason.

Another Use for the Frill:  Reptiles are pretty much ectothermic.  They get their body temperature from their ambient surroundings.  Snakes on the asphalt highway at night are a good example.  As are basking turtles taking a quick dip in the pool to cool off.. Flaring by frilled dragons can help them regulate their temperature.  If they need more body heat, they can gather more warmth when they flare in the sun.  On the other side of the coin, the frills may also help them cool off much like rabbit ears cool off the little leporids.

LA
Living the high life at the top of the cage.

LA
Frilled dragons like to climb.

LA
Climbing the walls.

LA
Up on the roof.

LA
Not always a picture of gracefulness.

Cage Parameters:  Since these guys (and gals) prefer to live in the trees, frilled dragons prefer a tall cage.  Give them some sturdy branches to climb on (sturdiness machts nichts when they're still small) and some vines.  Just make sure you keep it easy to clean with no hiding places for crickets.  One of those Reptarium cages with mesh walls would give them even more elbow room.

LA
Little guys will eat hand-fed crickets.

LA
They love crickets.

LA
And they love mealworms.

LA
Little guys will eat pinkies.

LA

LA

LA

LA
Big guys will eat adult mice

LA
Best not to offer them live mice.

LA
Once they start eating from your fingers, they'll eat an occasional goldfish.

What do They Eat?  Think of frilled dragons as omnivores that skip the salad bar.  In the wild they eat spiders, ants, termites, smaller lizards, small mammals (basically anything that can't outrun them).  In captivity they like crickets (gut loaded of course), mealworms, superworms, hornworms, waxworms, roaches, mice, and an occasional goldfish. 

LA
Little guys are fairly easy to handle.

LA
the little guys do not fear humans.

LA

LA
Bigger guys may not cooperate at first.

LA
You may want to take the sharp ends off their toenails when they grow larger.


How Big do They Get? 
Reputedly frilled dragons grow to three feet (probably males).  The females don't get as big.  And since they live about 20 years in captivity, you'll probably see them attain full size.

LA
Delicately slurping water from his water bowl.

KD
Bigger the better.  They like an occasional dip in the pool.

Water Bowl:  Like most lizards, your frilled dragon prefers to defecate in his water bowl.  This may require daily water changes.  However, this also makes his cage easier to clean.  You need a large water bowl.  Don't fill it to the top or it will slop over.  Slopping over is not necessarily bad if you have the right substrate.  In fact, you'll probably want to mist your dragon once or twice a day.

LA
Make sure they can't reach the overhead basking bulb.

Temperature Requirements:  Since frilled dragons come from a tropical environment, you know they need tropical temps -- up to 90F days and as low as 70F at night.  A basking bulb where they can't reach it offers them a choice of hot spots.  Warmer at the top.  Cooler at the bottom.

Special Lights and Supplements:  Lizards need vitamin D to help them absorb calcium which builds their bones.  Ditto frilled dragons.  A full-spectrum fluorescent bulb works fine.  And/or you can gut load their crickets to provide calcium and miscellaneous vitamins.  Dusting crickets only works when your lizard snarfs them up fast.  Crickets start shucking off that powder as soon as you release them.  You can also give them calcium by feeding them mice or goldfish.  They much prefer the mice.  Don't just throw your mouse in your dragon's cage. Whack the mouse first then hold it by the tail and move it in front of your dragon.  Chomp.  Use tongs if you're a sissy.

LA
Frilled dragons make an excellent but pricy pet dragon.

Last Words:  If you have the cash, you can't beat a friendly frilled dragon.  LA

Outtakes ...

KD

KD

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LA
Not much help around the office.

 

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