Chinese water dragon by generalstussner on Flickr.

Did you know that in it’s natural environment, Physignathus cocincinus is quite shy and always prepared to take flight. Quite often it rests on branches overhanging the water. When startled it drops from the branches into the bodies of water and can remain submerged for longer time periods, but it may also run into the dense riparian undergrowth on its hind legs. They are good swimmers and divers and can even catch fish. Physignathus cocincinus has a „third eye“. Actually it’s a small round spot located at the top of the head, between the eyes and is really known as the parietal.



Since I’ve mentioned him a few times recently, I thought maybe it was time I reposted photos of my Chinese water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus), Jazz. He died November 1st, 2013, about a week after surgery meant to remove the infection in his mouth and jaw (mandibular osteomyelitis). 

In some of the more recent photos here, you can see the lumps on either side of his jaw where the infection left bony scar tissue. The missing/deformed scales on his left lip (5th pic) were an old injury he had since I bought him as a baby. The first two pictures are from before he got sick.

What I want to stress most to other reptile owners is to take your pet to the vet at the slightest sign that something is wrong, and if it’s a bacterial infection, get a culture done immediately so you know what bacteria you’re dealing with and can get the right antibiotics. It was years before my vet did this, and I think it left Jazz with colonies of antiobiotic-resistant bacteria in his system that ultimately overwhelmed him.

Jazz was the sweetest, most patient lizard ever and I still miss him terribly. Don’t buy pets from pet shops, especially if they’re a species that is frequently wild caught and imported, like this one. More than likely they will arrive sick and may never live a long, healthy life.

Just a Chinese Water Dragon at the local Big Al’s :) I briefly considered getting one until I realized there was NO WAY I was gonna be able to fit his giant terrarium in my childhood bedroom -.- 
(excuse my nails they look AWFUL)

Chinese Water Dragon
Physignathus cocincinus

Order: Squamata
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Physignathus


It can be stressful trying to make sure your husbandry is perfect for your new chinese water dragon and even more stressful when you go to buy the dragon! Here are some tips on how to pick a healthy water dragon and what to avoid! Many of these tips work for any other reptiles you may be interested in purchasing. 

- View the enclosure (if possible), does it appear to be clean, have fresh water, suitable space, correct lighting? If the dragon is living in horrible conditions than most likely the owner or breeder doesn’t care about the animal and this can reflect the health of the animal in question. 

-Ask the current owner or breeder if the dragon is WC (wild caught) or CB (captive bred) this will make a huge impact on your decision and the current health of the dragon. I would advise only buying CB because overall you will have a healthier dragon with better temperament compared to a WC individual which may be riddled with parasites, come from very stressful experiences and have a horrible temperament. It may be hard finding a CWD that is captive bred but it’s definitely worth it! Check online for other reputable owners of CWD and ask them where they had originally bought their babies.

-If you are buying from a breeder, whether it’s a company or a sole individual, check out their name or company name on the Fauna BOI. This way, if the breeder is on the BOI you can check others’ experiences with him or her and get a quick idea of what kind of person and breeder this individual is.  

- Ask the owner/breeder if the animal is eating well and is active in the enclosure. Never be afraid to ask a bunch of questions, if the owner doesn’t know much about the dragon in question, then you shouldn’t buy from them.

 Hold the lizard. Never buy the animal without current pictures or personally looking at the animal before purchase. 

- Is the dragon an appropriate weight? Does the animal look emaciated? If the animal is underweight or appears very skinny, this is a quick warning sign that this isn’t a healthy CWD and you should move on.

- View the dragon’s body, check for any blemishes, scars, burns, cuts, blisters, opened wounds, missing toes or obvious injuries. In most cases, these are caused by incorrect husbandry or overcrowded enclosures and is a very obvious sign of bad husbandry and an injured dragon.

-Check the dragon’s vent, nostrils and eyes. The vent and nostrils should be clean and be free of any obstructions. The eyes should be bright, open, alert and not sunken in.

-Take a closer look at the CWD’s scales, armpits and joints for mites.

-Finally, take a quick look at the bone structure of the animal, do you see any obvious kinks or breaks? Let the dragon back into the enclosure and view it’s movements. If the CWD is having a hard time moving around you may want to pass on that individual.

Always be prepared!

-Have an enclosure set up prior to buying and bringing home a CWD, check the humidity and the ambient/basking temps and make sure everything is ready for the new occupant.

-Study various care-sheets (check a variety)!

-Ask other CWD owners questions about the up-keep of their dragons, personalities and husbandry. Is a CWD the right lizard for you?

-Find a herp vet that is near your home; you will want to know where the closest vet is ahead of time in case of an emergency.

-Print out a care-sheet and a picture of a healthy CWD, you can bring this with you when you check out other CWDs, this way, if you don’t have the best memory you can always refer back to the picture and sheet. 

Lastly, always ask questions! Never be afraid to reach out to your fellow herp enthusiasts, breeders or veterinarians. Make sure to do your research ahead of time, have an enclosure set up and know where the closest vet is!