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Reptiles/Juvenile Water Dragon digging


Margo\'s tank
Margo's tank  
QUESTION: I have a water dragon, not sure how old since I got her from PetSmart, she looks like a juvenile, less than 15" long head to tail. She was in a 24 gallon tank for about a week and then we moved her to a 55 gal tank as soon as we could get a hold of one. Se has 2 heat lamps, a UVB light, giant water pool (at least 4liters) her tank temperatures range from 80 to 100 daytime and 70 to 80 night. She eats normal (3 to 5 crickets per day) and some mealworms or waxworms whenever she's up for it. She has been s Heidi g her head and tail these past few days. Now here's my concern, she has been digging lately, at the font of the tank and next to her pool. Last night she fell asleep in the water which I e never seen her do (she usually perches on a stick or rock). I read digging may mean she's getting ready to lay eggs, but she's so little! Also read that the enclosure may be too small, but its at least 3 times her length and fairly deep. She never dug in the 24 gallon tank. We try and hold her at least 4 times/week as well. Sometimes she'll engage in staring contests with my cat, but nothing harmful. Any idea what could cause her to dig? It looks adorable, but if she's trying to tell me something, I'd like to know. Thank you!

ANSWER: Hi Anna,
I have a good feeling that she is digging and staying in the water due to her temperatures being too high. She is trying to cool off. They only need a high temperature of 86-88 degrees in one area...the basking area.  The rest of the daytime temperatures are in the mid 80's. At night 75-80 degrees.
Also, the tank really is too small as they do need height to climb.  
In looking at your set up it looks like you have a lot of heat lamps.  Also, what type/brand and exactly what does your uvb light say?  Is is a screw in bulb?  
If it is one of the spiral ones, then it is not giving your dragon the needed uvb.
You want the uvb light to be in the warmest area of the tank..the basking area.  
Remember, you don't want the entire tank to be hot... Work on getting the temperatures right and I am sure she will stop laying in her water and digging all the time.
She really should be eating A lot more than she is.  Once you get the temperatures correct and possibly change the uvb(if you don't have the right kind), she should start eating more. Also, do plan on a larger cage real soon.  If you have someone can can build a cage, you can just build a top part that can sit on top of the tank you have to give more a short time she will also need more length and width to her cage.
A good site for water dragon care can be found at
Here is my info I offer on uvb lighting:

Supplying uvb can be done in a few ways. By special lights that come in fluorescent tubes or special screw in bulbs (mercury vapor)that are designed to produce uvb and heat. The tubes do not produce heat. UVB is needed by the water dragon to be able to absorb the calcium in the foods they eat. With out the uvb, they will develop metabolic bone disease. There are tubes that say ''full spectrum'' but they do not produce any uvb.
With the correct tubes, they must say that they produce BOTH uvb and uva. The uvb needs to be 5% or higher. Repti Sun 10.0 and the Repti Glo 8.0's are a great source for uvb. The old "favorites" are the repti sun 5.0 or the Iguana light..which are the same tube, just different package. These need to be positioned 6-8 inches over the water dragon for the 5% and 8% and 8-10 inches for the 10% so that they get the uvb that is needed.  The tubes need to be replaced every 6-9 months as that they stop producing UVB long before they stop producing light.Using a fixture that holds two uvb tubes of at least 3 feet in length will provide adequate uvb for your water dragon. On the mercury vapor , they also produce heat. They also produce the uvb and uva. The best on the market now are the Mega Rays.( The distance from these are greater than the uvb tubes and the directions must be followed that are listed for the light. When using the mercury vapor lights, you don't need to have one light for uvb and one for heat. The Mercury vapor lights provide both.

For daytime heat, if using the tube uvb, regular household incandescent light bulbs produce heat. I like the halogen bulbs as they produce a nice bright light for your water dragon. The wattage will depend on the size of your water dragons enclosure and the room temperature.Of course, the best uvb is from the sun and if you are in an area that you are able to take your water dragon outside in a proper enclosure, (Never a tank or enclosed, solid cage)

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QUESTION: Thank you for replying so quickly, we have 2 75 watt heat daytime lamps, the double is for day/night, we got an extra day light thinking the first one wasn't getting the job done. The taller looking one is the UVB lamp, it's definitely the spiral twisty kind, exoterra glo 5.0. So take away 1 heat lamp, reposition sun light and a bigger tank?. We are currently working on building a live vivarium, I've seen people use old showers with the opening doors as a base....any suggestions for materials or dimensions? Also, I've been getting tons of different answers from online, pet stores and reptile owners on feeding. I try and keep a log of what she eats, what is "the norm" for growing females?

Hi Anna,
You will have to check the temperatures to see what you need to keep for heat.  
As you know, the spiral uvb light isn't good for your dragon so do plan on getting one of the recommended ones.
If you want to go with the screw in type, there is another brand that is called POWER SUN.
It will provide uvb and also heat.  So.... until you figure out what uvb light you are going to go with, most likely one 75 watt in the basking area should be fine..but monitor the temps in the other parts of the tank as well and make any needed adjustments with adding another heat source or changing wattage, etc.Make sure that you have darkness at white lights. They need the darkness to wind down and sleep.  Constant light will stress them out.
As to how much she should eat..hard to answer...but you may want to offer her food more than once a day... offer a few crickets a few times a day and see if she will eat more that way. Maybe offer smaller crickets... try offering some finely chopped fruits/veggies... some  like earthworms.. feeder goldfish...just make use that all foods are properly sized for her.
Once you get all her care correct, hopefully she will start to eat more.
That is very good to keep a log!!! Everyone should do that!!
Cage size... at least 4 ft high, and 5-6 ft long if I remember correctly... do check out the link I sent you earlier for more on cage size.
Actually, two of my iguanas have patio doors as their cage fronts.. work very well.  They were used doors. The other walls in their habitats are the waterproof drywall that is painted with a good paint.  ( I use Behr from home depot)
Old showers/bathtub  and the doors would work wonderfully for a dragon.
With a cage, you need to remember to  have air circulation via two vents..generally one up high and one lower. Here is a great link for tons of cage sure to check out all the links on the page.


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I am well versed in all aspects of the care and keeping of green iguanas, leopard geckos and bearded dragons. This includes all husbandry issues pertaining to the above species. I am not a vet so I cannot answer medical questions. I research other reptiles and am able to give general information on other species of lizards. I prefer not to answer snake questions as that I have not researched them enough.


I own 3 green iguanas, two of which are rescues. I own two leopard geckos, both rescues. I've had my reptiles for 11 years. I spend many hours researching the care of my reptiles to keep up to date on all information pertaining to keeping reptiles that I have. I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas.

Scales and Tails Exotic Pet Rescue (one of the founding members)

One of the Co Authors of the Book "The Iguana Dens Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas"

I was a Vet Tech for 6 years. Research, experience and learning from the experience of others that have raised reptiles for many years.

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