Asian Water Dragon, Chinese Water Dragon, Green Water Dragon, Thai Water Dragon: Physignathus sp.
©1995 Melissa Kaplan
Species, Range and Description
Eastern and southeastern Thailand, eastern Indochina,
Water dragons are native to the Southeast Asian mainland and Indo-Australian archipelago. Most imports arrive from Thailand or southern China.
Males typically reach 3 feet; females are somewhat smaller. Males develop larger heads, jowls and crest on the back of the neck, and their femoral pores are somewhat larger than on the female.
Always have new animals checked by a vet for internal and external parasites (bring a fresh fecal sample if you can - or get one to the vet at the soonest opportunity), hydration, nutritional status and overall health.
Water dragons can be kept together, with one to three males in a room-sized enclosure. Some females can be domineering and may not want any other females around...others can co-habit with 3-4 females. You must monitor them all the time to assure all are feeding and basking properly throughout the year. If any aren't, you are most likely seeing the results of intimidation and will need to increase the number of basking and feeding areas and/or increase enclosure size or separate them.
Water dragons are semi-arboreal but also need enough water to submerge and swim comfortably in, as well as branches for climbing, and plenty of ground area for roosting and feeding. They also need the appropriate thermal gradients, photoperiods, and a UVB light.
Miscellaneous Care Issues
Claw tips may be clipped. For how to do it, read the document claw trimming in the iguana page.
Water dragons, like sailfin lizards, can be held but they do not like to be clasped. Hold gently with your hand held loosely cupped around them.
Common Ailments in Captivity - caused by captive environment
Parasitic and Protozoan Infections
Protozoan infections due to amoebæ is a problem world-wide and can cause serious health complications and mortality, including in captive reptiles. The cysts are ingested either through eating an infected reptile's feces or that of some other infected animal, such as wastes from feeder animals. Once in the gastrointestinal tract, the amoebæ become active (trophozoites), and start reproducing by binary fusion. They start invading the mucosal lining of the GI tract, get into the blood, and spread through out the body through tissues and organs. Some trophozoitesr are transformed into cysts which are then excreted in the feces, awaiting to be ingested by another host. Fecal smears are required to visualize cysts and trophozoites; cysts can be found using fecal flotation, with fecal samples containing mucous or blood being the most likely to contain the cysts.
An interesting note... The most common - and pathogenic - amoeba in reptiles is Entamoeba invadens. Some reptiles (crocodiles, box turtles, garter snake, Northern black racer) may serve as a reservoir for this protozoan, carrying it and spreading cysts through their feces but not themselves showing any signs of illness. Certain reptile families seem to be particularly susceptible to dysentery from E. invadens infections (boids, crotalids, elapids, viperids, varanids), with giant tortoises as water snakes being most susceptible. This can be a problem in captive collections where enclosures are set up to house aquatic or terrestrial turtles and semi-aquatic or terrestrial lizards, such as sliders and water dragons. Accurate amoeba identification is essential as other amoebæ are not pathogenic in reptiles. If a fecal sample is not available, a colonic wash may be used to acquire a specimen for testing.
Postmortem exams of reptiles killed by E. invadens and other pathogenic amoebæ reveal inflammation, ulceration, or necrosis of the gastrointestinal tract or colon. The intestinal wall may be thickened with necrotic membranes. The bowel may be so involved that it is apparent that ingesta was not passed through in some time, which would be consistent with antemortem wasting, anorexia, and bloating. If spread through the blood stream, the liver, kidneys and other organs may contain abscesses, necrotic areas, and evidence general inflammation.
Amoebic infections are treatable once they are identified as such and the infection is detected and treatment started before tissue and organ damage is advanced. Maintaining proper environmental temperatures, exercising proper hygiene and quarantine procedures, and ensuring the infected reptiles are adequately hydrated will help increase survival rates.
De Vosjoli, P. 1992. The General Care and Maintenance of Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks. Advanced Vivarium Systems, Lakeside CA.
TIGR Reptile Database: Agamidae
Kaplan, Melissa. 1997. Reptile Rehabilitation. In, The Biology Husbandry, and Health Care of Reptiles. Lowell Ackerman, DVM, ed. Vol. III, pp. 898-941. TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ.
Lane, TJ and Mader DR. 1996. Parasitology. In, Reptile Medicine and Surgery. D.R. Mader, editor. WB Saunders, NY.
Obst, Fritz et al. 1988. The Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ.
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