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Do Australian Water Dragons Make Good Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

Australian Water Dragons are compared to Bearded Dragons for their suitability as pets. They are not only tolerant of human handling but enjoy time with their owner. They do require quite a lot of space but they are also relatively easy to care for as long as you maintain appropriate humidity levels. These hardy reptiles are suitable for novice and experienced owners. Read on to see whether they are the right choice of pet for you and your circumstances.

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About Australian Water Dragons

Australian Water Dragons come from the wooded areas of eastern Australia, where they tend to live by lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.

They are omnivores, although prefer meat to plant-based foods, eating insects, fish, and some small mammals.

They live up to 20 years in the wild and have a similar lifespan in captivity, too. They can grow to around 40 inches in length, with half to two-thirds of this being their tail. Strong legs and sharp claws enable effective climbing and swimming, both of which are useful when trying to escape predators that include birds of prey, snakes, foxes, and other wildlife.

They do brumate if they live in cooler climates, but owners do not need to replicate or force this with pets.

australian water dragon up close
Image Credit: Pixabay

Handling

Friendly by nature, an Australian Water Dragon will quickly take to being handled. To handle them safely and properly, hold the lizard from underneath and around its belly, allowing the tail to hang loosely.

Young Water Dragons may take some time to become accustomed to being handled, but if you encourage them when young, they will quickly enjoy the process. Some owners report that their pets scratch at the cage to be taken out and will happily sit on an arm or shoulder for long periods. The only real difficulty with handling is that they do have sharp claws. The claws aren’t an issue when the Water Dragon is sat calmly, but they may dig in when the Water Dragon is climbing or if startled.

When you adopt or buy a new Australian Water Dragon, do give it time to settle in before you try picking it up. Give the reptile a week to ten days in their enclosure. Talk to them and show your face, but don’t try picking them up during this time. This will enable them to get used to the smell and the look of the enclosure as well as its surrounding.

Eat Well

Some lizards can be picky eaters and no matter the selection or quantity of insects given, it can become a daily chore to convince them to eat. Although appetite depends on a lot of different factors, and some individual lizards simply don’t enjoy eating much, the Australian Water Dragon is considered a good eater and is not too picky.

australian water dragon in the water
Image Credit: Pixabay

Insect Diet

With that said, these omnivores thrive on a diet that is made up primarily of live insects and if you aren’t comfortable with dubia roaches, black and brown crickets, and locusts, then it is not the right choice of pet for you.

Because this species is bigger than most dragon species, it can be given pinkies. These frozen baby mice need to be thawed before being fed and offer real variety to your lizard’s daily diet.

Feeder insects are readily available in pet stores and reptile specialist stores, but not all potential owners are keen on having them in their home, or feeding them.

Space Requirements

A major obstacle to owning an Australian Water Dragon is the amount of space they require. The Water Dragon is larger than a Bearded Dragon, which means that you need more space to keep its enclosure.

It’s recommended that you provide a wooden tank because these enable you to control humidity while offering the security and privacy of three solid walls. In terms of size, a minimum requirement is 48” x 36” x 24” but if you can provide a little more space, your lizard will appreciate it.

Although juveniles can live in a smaller enclosure, they will need their full space by the time they reach 18 months, so it is cost-effective and more convenient to buy the adult-sized tank and fill it with decorations and hides to minimize the space when young, and then remove some of these extra items as your lizard gets older.

australian water dragon inide tank
Image Credit: Pixabay

Temperature and humidity

When putting in lighting and heaters, you must try and replicate as much of the Water Dragon’s wild habitat and conditions as possible. They are basking lizards, semi-aquatic, and arboreal. They live in humid wooded areas and most of them are used to high temperatures.

Provide a gradient of heat in the tank from 80°F in the cold end to 105°F at the hot end of the tank. This can be done by placing a basking lamp at one end of the tank, with a basking rock underneath. If you need additional temperature at the cold end, add a heat lamp or attach a heat mat.

Maintaining humidity can be challenging. Although the Australian Water Dragon can adapt to live in 40% humidity, it prefers and will benefit from something closer to 70%. Offer a water feature: this will help with humidity and your semi-aquatic lizard will appreciate the water. Use a peat and soil combination as a substrate if you need further control over humidity, and always use a hygrometer to monitor levels.

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Do Australian Water Dragons Make Good Pets?

When most people think of the best pet lizard species, they think of the Bearded Dragon. It is friendly and easy to care for, by reptilian standards.

The Australian Water Dragon may not be as popular, but it has the features and requirements that make it a great pet choice, too. It is very friendly, and because it is a little larger than the Bearded Dragon it is less fragile and easier to handle.

However, it does require a large enclosure, you will need to feed it insects everyday, and it has sharp claws that can hurt when it tries climbing your leg or if it gets startled.

Although the Australian Water Dragon is considered a suitable pet even for beginners, it is a little more challenging than keeping a Bearded Dragon so it might be considered better for intermediate-level owners.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.