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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Care Guides > Chinese Water Dragon Setup Steps

Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)

Experience Level: Intermediate

Chinese Water Dragon in terrarium

Chinese Water Dragons

Did you know? Chinese Water Dragons, similar to many other lizards, have a very small, round, shiny spot located at the top of the head between their eyes. This spot is often referred to as the third eye and is thought to help water dragons sense changes in light and possibly help control their body temperature.

Step 1Choosing a Terrarium

Chinese Water Dragons thrive near areas of water and require a warm, moist environment. They
should be housed alone.

(A) A 55-gallon (48" long) or larger terrarium for an adult Chinese Water Dragon (a smaller
terrarium may be used for dragons 6" or less, but will need to be replaced as your pet grows).

(B) Screened lid, if not included with habitat.

Step 2Heating and Lighting

Chinese Water Dragons require a habitat temperature gradient (cool side/warm side) to appropriately regulate their body temperature. Temperatures should also vary between daytime
and nighttime hours.

• Equip the habitat with (C) two thermometers (one on each side of the habitat) and (D) one hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels.

• The basking spot should be the warmest point in the habitat during the day. Heat is provided by a (E) high-wattage heat bulb placed directly above the basking spot. During the evening hours, the basking light should be turned off.

• Use a ceramic heat emitter or night heat lamp as needed to maintain nighttime temperatures.


Target Range
Humidity 50-80%
Day - Cool Side 75-85o F (24-29o C)
Day - Basking Spot 90-95o F (32-35o C)
Night 65-75o F (18-24o C)

• Dragons are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. Use a daytime (F) UVA/UVB (ultraviolet light) fluorescent bulb for about 12 hours per day.

• For night viewing, and to minimize visible light seen by your dragon, use a night-specific bulb.

Step 3Substrate and Decor

(G) Use a 2-3" (5-8 cm) layer of coconut fiber, bark bedding or reptile carpet for adults. For dragons under 6" use reptile carpet only; do not use fiber or other bedding materials.

• Clean out waste weekly and completely change bedding at least once a month.

(H) Include decor to elevate your dragon close to the heat source for basking.

(I) Provide decor large enough for hiding on the cool side of the habitat.

• Ensure decor is large and stable enough for the size of your Chinese Water Dragon as they are active climbers.

• Provide branches (artificial or live) for hiding and climbing.

Chinese Water Dragon in Terrarium

New surroundings and environments can be stressful for pets. Prior to handling your pet, give
him 3-4 days to adjust to his new surroundings while monitoring his behavior for any signs of stress or illness. Shortly after purchase, have a veterinarian familiar with reptiles examine your pet.

Things To Watch For
• Runny droppings for more than two days
• Eating or drinking less; weight loss
• Swollen joints
• Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
• Shedding problems; discolored skin
• Avoidance of the basking area; more time spent hiding

If you notice any of the above signs, speak with a PetSmart store associate or reptile veterinarian with questions about the health of your pet.

PetSmart Cares
Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program; a program
designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well-being of our pets.

The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.

• Specific standards for in-store pet care.

• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.

Other Reminders

Use caution when handling reptiles. All pets may bite or scratch especially when stressed. Always handle your turtle by the mid section and not by the limbs. Supervise children around pets.

Pets may transmit disease to humans; be sure to wash your hands before and after handling your pet, the aquarium water or cleaning its home.