Care Sheet: Water Dragons



This care sheet is for beginners and covers the basic maintenance of the Eastern Water Dragons (Physignathus leseurii).

You should join your local herpetological society, where you can meet others and obtain more detailed information on keeping these lizards. Water dragons are very hardy animals and one of the best dragons for beginners to keep as long as a few important guidelines are followed. These cover cage size, lighting and diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 1: Size

hatchlings measure around 15cm in total length. They can grow up to 90cm long although more usually they range from 60 to 70 centimeters.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 2: Caging

Juveniles: Hatchling Water dragons can be kept in a large plastic tube, approximately 60cm long, 40cm wide and 40cm high. The lid of the tub should be placed outdoors to give the little dragons access to ultra violet light. It is very important not to put them out in the sun during the middle of the day. Glass fish tanks should not be used for this purpose as the temperature inside the tank will very quickly reach a level that will kill the dragons. Shade and water must be provided at all time and the dragons checked regularly.

Adults: To keep adult Water dragons in captivity a large outdoor enclosure is required with access to sunlight. Outdoor enclosures can take two forms -- converted aviary style enclosures, or the more typical reptile pits with walls made of sheet metal. It is essential that the walls of the pit are at least 1 metre high and preferably 1.2 metres, as Water dragons are excellent jumpers and will take advantage of any rock piles or or branches inside the enclosure that are placed too near the walls. The walls should extend at least 30cm underground to prevent the dragons from digging out. Alternatively, weld mesh can be sunk beneath the ground. If an aviary is used, it is important to use sheet metal to a height of 1 metre from the ground to prevent the dragons from rubbing their snouts on the wire. Both types of enclosures can be decorated with plants, logs, rock slabs, etc. A pond must be included to satisfy their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Some of the enclosure should be sheltered from the weather. To keep an adult pair of Water dragons, the enclosure must be at least 1.2 metres long and preferably more than 2 metres, with a width of 1 metre. the floor can be covered with bark chips or leaf litter. A pond or at least a water dish large enough for the dragons to submerge themselves is essential. There must be at least one hiding place for each dragon in the form of logs, sheets of bark pipes. Faeces and uneaten food must be removed promptly.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 3: Lighting and Heating

Water dragons require basking spots with high temperatures (up to 45 degrees Celsius) to be kept successfully. Your enclosure must get plenty of sunlight and be sheltered. It must also provide shady spots that the dragons can move to. Basking spots can be created by installing 100W - 150W floodlights at one end of the enclosure. These lizards need UV light to survive, which is why they are best kept outdoors in natural sunlight. If they are kept indoors special UV type fluorescent tubes need to be installed. Before attempting such a set up, you should discuss the placement of these lights with n experienced keeper.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 4: Feeding

water dragons are omnivorous, making them quite easy to feed. A suitable diet for adult dragons would include twice weekly feeding of canned pet food and mixed, chopped fruits and vegetables. They should also be fed a variety of insects such as crickets, cockroaches, meal worms and earth worms. Small mice can occasionally be offered but they should not form a major part of the diet. Once a week the food should be dusted with a calcium/vitamin D powder such as Rep-Cal®, and a multi-vitamin powder such as Herptivite®. Young dragons should be fed every day with as great a variety of insects as possible. Calcium and vitamin powders should be used every second feeding. In general, Water dragons will not accept pet food, fruit and vegetables until they have reached a total length of about 20cm. At this stage these foods can be gradually introduced into their diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 5: Diseases/Illnesses

These are outside the scope of this basic care sheet. Any unusual behaviour or signs of illnesses should be discussed with an experienced keeper or with a veterinary surgeon. If you suspect something is wrong, act immediately, don't leave it. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Further Reading on Water Dragons (Weigel, J (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers)

Eastern Bearded Dragons (Pogona Barbata)


Eastern Bearded Dragons Care Sheet prepared by Sue Davis

The most important thing to remember if keeping eastern bearded dragons outdoors, is to provide an escape-proof enclosure with plenty of high perches and basking spots, offer plenty of food and let lizards do the rest.

Eastern Bearded Dragons belong to the Agamidae family and average snout to vent length in adults is 25 centimeters. They have a well-developed "beard" and a strongly depressed body. The inside of their mouth is usually bright yellow. There are many colour variations from grey, yellowish-brown, brown, to reddish-brown etc. Mature males develop a dark grey to black beard and a pale green to blue tinge on the forehead.

Eastern bearded dragons are found in woodlands and dry sclerophyll forests extending into many urban areas in eastern Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to south eastern South Australia. Their habitat is mostly terrestrial and arboreal, preferring elevated perches such as sumps, fence posts, or rocks. they shelter in hollow logs, shallow depressions beneath vegetation or surface debris.

Eastern bearded dragons (Beardies) regularly display courtship or defense actions such as head bobbing, arm waving, head licking, push ups, pawing of substrate, biting, erection of beard, expanding their body and colour changes. Up to 75 separate display sequences have been observed.

In the wild, beardies forage for insects including ants, spiders, small lizards, flowers (especially low, daisy-like species and pansies or violas), fruits and green shoots.

Mating occurs in the spring and gravid females are found from October to February. Clutches of 8 to 35 (average) eggs are laid in shallow burrows and sometimes 2 clutches are laid per season. Eggs hatch at around 54 - 60 days at 30 degrees Celsius. Bearded dragons usually hibernate in the winter but in captivity it is often wise to maintain hatchlings at around 25 degrees and feed weekly to maintain healthy growth.

In captivity, eastern bearded dragons food should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements at least once per week. Good brands are Herptivite® or Rep-Cal®, available at most good pet stores.

Suggested insects to feed captive beardies include crickets, wood roaches, mealworms (only adults), grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, bettles, Garden worms, and pinkie mice are also favourites as well as most soft fruits such as melon, berries, grapes, strawberry, apple, and green vegetables and shredded carrot and sweet corn niblets. Flower favourites include hibiscus, dandelions, carnation, squash, clover, nasturtium and daisy.

Always chop fruit and vegetables into very small (finely diced) pieces.

As hatchlings, beardies will live happily in a 30cm x 30cm x 60cm aquarium with a mesh top but as adults, will require much more room as they like to climb and bask. Newspaper makes the most convenient and hygienic substrate for the floor of the enclosure and should be changed at least per week or more often if necessary.

UVB light is essential for most reptiles. Ordinary fluorescent tubes are useless as they provide light only - not UVB that is required for healthy bone development and assists in th digestion of food. The light will need to be within 30cm of the animals to effective.

Beardies also need to keep warm, especially after eating as they cannot digest their food properly without adequate warmth. Around 25 to 30 degrees through the day and from 20 to 15 degrees overnight.

Bearded dragons are diurnal (active during the day) so if you don't have timers fitted to your lights or thermostat, make sure that you manually switch on the UVB light first thing in the morning and turn it off again at dusk.

Beardies can make excellent pets and are easily "tamed". They respond well to lots of handling (often and short is best). Always support a reptile's belly from below.

Suggested reading:

"Keeping Bearded Dragons" - Warren Green and Ty Larson (Australian)
"The General Care and Maintenance of Bearded Dragons" - Philippe DeVosjoli and Robert Mailloux (American)

Eastern Bearded Dragons like a large, shallow water dish that they can "swim" in.

Care Sheet: Children's Python


Introduction on Childrens Python

This care sheet is for beginners and covers the basic maintenance of this group of pythons. You should join your local herpetological society, where you can meet others and obtain more detailed information on the keeping of these pythons.

The term "childrens python" is used to describe a group of small, rock dwelling pythons known as Childrens Python (Antaresia Childreni), Small Blotched Pythons (Antaresia Maculosa) and Large Blotched Pythons or Stimsons Python (Antaresia Stimsoni). Contrary to popular belief these pythons are not known as Children Python because it is the snake for children but because Antaresia Childreni was named after Mr. J.G. Children, an English naturalist. The Eastern Small Blotched Python and Childrens Python are most commonly bred by reptile keepers and hence most readily available, although Stimsons Python is also sometimes available.

Childrens Python: Caging

Childrens python need to be kept indoors. An aquarium with a close fitting and secure lid is the simplest type of cage. Wooden cages with glass fronts retain heat better and are preferred by some keepers. Remember that snakes are expert at escaping and can squeeze through very small spaces, so you must make quite sure there are no gaps or holes. Small snakes do not need big cages.

One or two adult Childrens Python can be housed in a 1 meter long cage which is 40 to 60 centimeter wide. Hatchlings can be kept in smaller cages or plastic containers 30cm x 20cm and be moved to larger cages as they grow.

The bottom of the cage can be covered with aquarium gravel, coarse sand, leaf litter or bark. Some keepers just put down newspaper or butchers paper. Whatever material is used must be kept dry and clear. Faeces must be removed promptly and the floor covering material replaced it it gets damp or soiled, and certainly completely changed every few months.

Cage furniture should be kept to minimum. A stable water dish is essential and should be of a type that the snake cannot push under and spill the water. A suitable hiding place for each snake is also essential. This can be a cardboard box which provides a snug fit for the snake. Even curled pieces of bark under which the snake can curl are suitable. Plants, rocks, logs, etc. are optional. They can be dangerous for the animal if not secure, and they can make it difficult to retrieve and remove the snake from the cage safely. The more the cage is cluttered up, the more it takes time to clean and the greater the risk of accidents.

Childrens Python: Lighting and Heating

Childrens pythons are nocturnal although they will come out during the day. If the cage is situated in a room that gets plenty of sunlight then the lighting in the cage is mainly to provide heat. A word of caution, do not place cage in direct sunlight as temperatures within the cage could reach lethal levels. It takes only a few minutes for a snake to die from overheating.

As incandescent globes give off heat, these can be used to raise the temperature in the cage which should provide a range of temperatures so that the snake can move to a warmer or cooler spot as it wishes. The temperature range should be from about 35 to 25 degree Celsius and can be accomplished by placing the light source at one end of the cage to create a hot spot and by the use of heating devices such as hot rocks, heating pads or heat strips. A thermometer must be used to check the temperature levels in the cage until these are stabilized. Don't try and guess the temperature.

Childrens Python: Feeding

Adults can be fed every 10 to 14 days. One fully grown mouse will usually be sufficient. Juveniles should be fed at least weekly starting off on one or two new born "pinkie" mice and progressing to larger mice as they grow.

Hatchlings that are reluctant to take mice can usually be encouraged to do so by washing and drying the mouse to reduce the mouse scent. Another method is to scent the mouse by rubbing it with a lizard. It is not necessary to feed live animals to snakes. Almost all snakes will take dead mice, either freshly killed or thawed frozen mice. It might be necessary for the first couple of feeds to wriggle the mouse around a bit to get the snakes attention.

Frozen mice must be completely thawed out before being offered to the snake and if not eaten must be discarded. Do not refreeze mice that have been defrosted.

Childrens Python: Diseases/Illnesses

These are outside the scope of this basic care sheet. Any unusual behaviour or signs of illnesses should be discussed with an experienced keeper or with a veterinary surgeon. If you suspect something is wrong, act immediately, don't leave it. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Weigel, J. (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers -

Further Reading on Childrens Python.