Australian Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) - Caresheet  (ESPANHOL )


The Australian Water Dragon is also known as the Brown Water Dragon, or in its native homeland, the Eastern Water Dragon.  It is found on the eastern coast of Australia from Cairns, Queensland in the north to Eastern Victoria in the south. It is a very hardy lizard that makes an excellent pet, both for new and more experienced reptile keepers. This species needs a large sized cage to give it a decent quality of life. Despite what you may read elsewhere on the internet, the care of Australian Water dragons is not the same as that for Green Water Dragons. They are very different lizards.


Indoors it can be housed in vivaria from 150cm long by 60cm deep by 60cm high, as a minimum for an adult pair. The sides of the cage should be opaque except for the front glass to give the dragon some sense of security. The dragon is likely to be very nervous and damage itself in cages made entirely of glass. In Northern European countries such as the UK, Holland and Germany, it will do well in an outdoor, mesh topped cage, in the summer months. In Southern European countries it may do well outdoors for six months of the year or more. When kept outdoors it is essential they have access to an underground hide to avoid the extremes of both hot and cold weather.


Baby dragons can be fed daily on crickets, hopper locusts, mealworms and small cockroaches. I find larger dragons especially love Morio worms, Blaptica dubia roaches, well grown hopper locusts, and adult crickets.  At around one year old they may start to consume some leafy greens such as dandelion, rocket, and clover leaves. This is good for them. But they will only eat vegetation, if they are fed insects less frequently. By around a year old insects need only be fed to the dragons around three times a week. It’s very important to ensure any insects used are first fed for 24 hours on a variety of green leafy matter, other vegetables or fruits.


Live food should be dusted every third meal with a combined multivitamin/mineral supplement such as Nutrobal. When the dragons are exposed to high output ultraviolet tubes (i.e. 10% UVB rated tubes) or mercury vapour bulbs, it is probably a good idea to use instead a 50/50 mix of nutrobal and calcium carbonate powder. Otherwise you risk overdosing vitamin D3.


As water dragons like to defecate in the water container, the water will normally need to be changed on a daily basis. To calculate of the size of the water container to use, you need to measure the full length including the tail of the largest dragon. The length of the Water container should be at least ¾’s the length of this largest dragon. But bigger is better. The water level should be at least deep enough to allow the dragons to totally immerse their bodies under the water. While it is a good idea to provide as big a water container as possible, it is worth remembering that if the water is very difficult to change, because the container or the water volume is very large, then it may not get changed as frequently as it should.  It is vitally important that the dragons can easily enter and exit the water. Failure to provide the correct conditions could result in drowning. Paint roller trays provide an ideal pool for young dragons. Not only do they provide a sloped entrance/exit but also a good cool hide also. Add a decent rough rock into the water section to help the dragons leave the water easily. The water temperature should be around 15-24°C.


Day time temperatures should be at the cool end between 20-25°C, at the hot end between 25-30°C, and at the hot spot 40°C.
Night time temperatures should be between 15-22°C.  


The vivarium should contain thick branches that enable the dragons to get off the ground, and bask near a heat source. This could be either a ceramic heater with thermostatic control, or a mercury vapour combined heat and UV light bulb. The later cannot be regulated with a thermostat and are only suitable in very large vivaria.  Old fashioned tungsten light bulbs are now difficult to obtain with a sufficiently high enough wattage to be effective stand alone heaters. Generally any heat source needs to be placed at one end of the vivarium to ensure there is a ‘hot end’ and a ‘cool end’. Reptiles need to be able to move easily between different temperature zones to enable them to control their own body temperature.  Very good quality digital ‘in/out’ style thermometers are now available at very reasonable prices. I would consider these an essential part of any vivarium set up. 


Lighting should be bright. Specialist reptile tubes should be used, rated at least 5% UVB (ultraviolet B range light), but preferably 10% UVB output. In large cages it is definitely worth considering two tubes. One should be a high output UVB tube, the other should be a tube designed to replicate natural daylight conditions. When using UV tube lighting, branches should be positioned so the dragons can choose to bask within 20cm of the light, whether near they are near the heat source or not.

Lights should be on for around 12 hours per day, and the use of a timer switch is highly recommended.


It’s perfectly fine for humidity to range from 40-70 %. Certainly Australian Water Dragons do not need the continuous high humidity required by Green Water Dragons (Physignathus cocincinus). It’s a very good idea to ensure that young water dragons have a cool damp hide in the vivarium.

General Care and Notes

One of the great things about Australian Water Dragons is that they are very hardy lizards. It’s extremely rare if they are kept in the correct conditions for them to become sick. I have never, despite having kept many hundreds of these lizards, seen any evidence of ill health, caused by the internal parasitic infections, that are very common in other lizards, such as bearded Dragons.  They are never exported from the wild, so any Australian Water Dragon you see for sale outside of Australia, you can pretty much guarantee will be captive bred.

I personally have no interest in routine handling of my dragons, so I have no experience of ‘taming’ Australian Water Dragons. Mine are only handled when strictly necessary, usually around once per year. Other keepers have told me though that with frequent and gentle handling, Australian Water Dragons can become quite tame. Certainly mine generally will appear to ignore me when I enter their vivaria to dig up eggs or perform other routine chores. Australian Water Dragons very rarely suffer from damaged snouts like Green Water Dragons, and are generally much less nervous lizards.  Normally mine will only move away from me if I attempt to pick them up.  It’s extremely important though that when you acquire a dragon of any age, or move it to a new cage, you leave it alone to allow it to settle into its new home for a few weeks before handling it. Certainly you should not handle it until you are sure it is eating well in it’s new home.

Immature Australian Water Dragons can be difficult to sex. Normally it becomes easier at around 1 year of age. Mature female dragons will have either white, or pink bellies and chests. Mature males will have a strong red blood colouration instead. Also males have more prominent nuchal crests at the top of the neck, just behind the head. On a mature male you will see a stronger black stripe on the head, as well as more obvious silver coloured lips. Examples showing the different belly colours can be seen in the Australian Water Dragon gallery pictures.

Written by Mark Harris © 2011.

Not to be copied in part, or in it’s entirety, without the authors permission.