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Breeding Chinese Water Dragons



     Some water dragon owners find that they don't have to do anything to get their dragons to breed, but the dragons can be prepared for breeding by hibernating them. This is not hibernation in the true sense of the word but rather a cooling off period.

     To prepare your dragons for breeding season, the dragons must first be two years old and at least two feet in total length. This is about the standard size of mature breedable dragons- males of course will generally be larger than two feet but the stated size and age are a general indication that your dragons are old enough to breed.

     If you are preparing to hibernate and then breed your dragons you must first be sure that they are in good health and that they are a good weight.

     A vet checkup once a year is recommended and if you are seriously thinking about breeding your dragons a vet check up or consultation prior to breeding would be a great idea.


     During the late fall or early winter, you should reduce the dragons photoperiod from 12 to 14 hours of daylight, down to 10 hours of daylight and 14 hours of darkness. The temperature during the day should be reduced to 75 - 78 F, with a warmer area under an incandescent light that reaches 80-84 F. The night time temperature should be reduced to 68 -74 F. Instead of feeding your dragons everyday or every second day, the feeding schedule should be reduced to once per week. This period of lower temperatures and reduced light should last for approximately two months.

     At the end of the hibernation period, the water dragons should be place back on their normal photoperiod of at least 12 hours of light, temps of 84-88 F during the day and 75-80 F during the night. Feeding should once again be increased to daily, every second day or bi-weekly feedings depending upon the age of your dragon.

Mating Behaviour

      Males will exhibit breeding behaviour within a few weeks of being put back on their normal schedule.

     The male will begin to chase the female(s), head bob, and attempt copulation by grasping the females nuchal crest between his teeth, and twisting her body to insert the hemipenis. Copulation will last from ten to twenty minutes.

     Some keepers try to encourage breeding behaviour by separating the male from the female(s) for a week or so, and then re-introducing them during breeding season.

     Occasionally females will becomes stressed and or injured during the breeding season if the male is being persistent. If the female appears stressed or becomes injured it is a good idea to remove her to another enclosure for a while until she has either recovered or calmed down.

     I have seen female dragons with damaged, and or bruised crests. There is a female dragon at the Toronto Metro Zoo that is 15 years old. She has a badly scared, mostly missing crest. Her mate passed away this past summer but when they were together the caretakers would actually cover her crest area with adhesive tape (I'm assuming they mean the first aid adhesive cloth tape). They called this a helmet. This gave the male dragon something to bite and hang on to, and it also protected the females crest area from further damage.

The gravid dragon

     Female water dragons may produce, and lay eggs whether the have copulated with a male or not. The eggs wont be viable, of course, if they haven't been with a male, but the information below is very important if you have a female dragon.

     A gravid female's appetite will slowly decrease as her belly expands- she won't be able to eat much at all eventually since the eggs will be pressing on her digestive system, therefore she will probably lose weight in the legs, arms and tail, and you will likely get quite worried about her judging from what others have said about there gravid dragons!

      It is very important to make sure that a gravid female dragon gets adequate calcium supplements during this period. Many keepers of these lizards provide extra calcium supplements, over and above what they normally supplement, by either adding powdered calcium to their food or by giving liquid calcium drops to their lizards. Personally I believe water dragons should be given calcium supplements at least twice a week at all times, but gravid females may need extra calcium during this two month period to aid in egg development and to prevent depletion of the calcium levels in her own body.

Egg Laying

     Females lay eggs approximately two months after copulation has occurred. 2-3 weeks before she is ready to lay you may be able to gently palpate 2-4 eggs on either side of her belly, these eggs may actually become not just palpable, but visible on her sides as she gets closer to laying them. They will likely feel like jelly beans along her sides. Once you can feel the eggs (gently), prepare an area for her to lay the eggs.

     To prepare an area- You will need a space in the enclosure that has either soil or sandy peat moss that is about 8 to 10 inches deep. Make sure that the soil is slightly moist- but not too moist. You don't want it too dry either! When she starts digging you want the soil to pile up nicely for her, not cave back in on her. So make sure it is moist enough that when you dig in it, or hold it in your hand, it will pack and not fall loose and grainy. If you do not set up a proper area she may hold the eggs and become egg bound- This is a very serious condition! When she is just about ready to lay her eggs you may notice her digging on and off but not laying the eggs yet, keep an eye on her, she'll lay the eggs eventually! :)


     Once she has laid the eggs dig them up carefully, don't turn them, pick them up the way they are resting in the soil.

     The eggs should be placed in an incubator such as a herbavator in moistened vermiculite (equal amounts of vermiculite to water by weight, or 10 parts vermiculite to one part water by volume). Place the eggs an inch or more apart so that the hatchlings will not cause the still unhatched eggs any damage. The eggs should be placed so that two thirds of the egg is buried in the vermiculite, with one third exposed. Some people place a small amount of moss over the exposed part of the egg to ensure that it is moist. Maintain the eggs at 84-86 F. You may lightly mist the surface of the eggs every two days or so.

     You can make your own incubator by using a 20 gallon tank, adding 3 - 3.5 inches of water, place a 75 watt submersible aquarium heater in the water. Place a brick in the water so that a plastic storage container can be placed on top of it above the water level. Fill the box with the vermiculite water mixture as above, place a thermometer inside the storage box, and adjust the temperature on the heater until you achieve the proper temps for incubation. A lid should be place on the tank for at least an hour between each adjustment of the thermostat so that you can get the temp. right!

     The eggs will hatch approx. 65 days after being laid. Although people that write in to me state incubation periods from 55 days to 80 days or so. It all depends upon the incubation temps and I presume other conditions such as humidity. The lizards will hatch over a period of 24 to 48 hours. As hatching time approaches the eggs should be watched carefully and new hatchlings removed to a separate enclosure. Caution should be taken in case the new hatchlings drown in the water in the tank. Many people put a piece of bark or some other floatation device in the water for the hatchlings to climb on when they emerge from the egg and perhaps venture into the water. Other people have told me that they cover the actual egg box with some screen material so that the young dragons have no chance at all of getting into the water and accidentally drowning.

Care of Hatchlings

     Hatchlings should be removed from the incubator, and placed in a separate enclosure from the parents. It is possible that the parents will eat the young, I haven't heard of it happening, but then I've never heard of anyone putting the newly hatched young into the same enclosure as the parents. :)

     Hatchlings should be kept at the same temperatures as the adults 84-88 F during the day, and 75- 80 F at night. Fluorescent UVB lighting, incandescent lighting for basking, and water for bathing and drinking should also be provided.

      Hatchlings will accept crickets that are two to three weeks old, small mealworms may be offered as well. Finely chopped fruit and vegetables may also taken. As the young dragons grow they may be given correspondingly larger food items and more variety in the type of insects offered can be used.

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Water Dragon Books

Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks (General Care and Maintenance of Series) by Philippe De Vosjoli

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      Basic but detailed information about the care, diet, and health of green water dragons, sailfin lizards and basilisks.

Anoles, Basilisks, and Water Dragons Anoles, Basilisks and Water Dragons : A Complete Pet Care Manual (More Complete Pet Owner's Manuals) by Richard D. Bartlett, Patricia P. Bartlett (Contributor)

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     Discussion of the general care of many species of anole, basilisks and water dragons. Excellent information regarding enclosures, cage building, and insect care and breeding.

Eat this Bug Eat This Bug : A Guide to Invertebrate Live Foods for Reptiles and Amphibians by Lynn Davis

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      This book is a guide for owners of reptiles and amphibians who feed insects and other live foods to their pets. Advice is offered for selecting , ordering and raising your own supply of live invertebrate foods. More than a dozen species of live foods are discussed. The book includes instructions on keeping cultures of insects, and recipes & diets for insects.

Last updated
April, 10, 2012

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