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Reptiles/My water dragons skin, humidity, and temperature


Frank,  last week
Frank, last week  
QUESTION: I have a water dragon, and he has problems. I don't know exactly how old he is but his crest is finally appearing so I know that he is a male. He is always brown and I know that's bad but I don't know why. He's only shed once in my presence,(I am a first time reptile owner and I've had him for 17 days) and that was the only time I've seen him his correct color. His tail and legs haven't shed and he has only a small green streak through the middle of his body. I've hypothesized that it's due to his humidity. It's recommended that he should have around 80% humidity at all times, and it's never been up to 80%, it's rare to see it at 70%. It's usually 20% through 60% humidity, and I can help it. I'm away for school a lot, and I have wrestling practice after school until 6, so I'm not around much. I have an Exo-Terra Monsoon misting system or something like that. And with it, I either get too much water and it floods his cage, or I get too little and I come home to 20% humidity. Please help?

ANSWER: Hi Daniel,

Frank is still quite new to the environment that you have provided which means he is still likely experiencing re-location stress. Stress is one of the main factors that will cause darker colouration in CWD's. The only cure for that is time but lots of foliage will also help him feel more secure. Avoid unnecessary handling  for the first few weeks that he lives with you.

You mentioned that he has some retained skin on the legs and tail. That can cause discomfort and stress as well. Does he have a container large enough to allow him to soak?  

The second main factor that can make CWD's dark is cool temperatures. Frank should have an easily accessible basking area that is around 95F, while the ambient temperature of the cage is in the mid to high 80'sF

It is really difficult to maintain high humidity inside an enclosure during this time of year when the outside room air is so dry. You can try covering just part of the screen lid (if there is one) but you also need to maintain ventilation or other problems like bacterial and fungal growth can occur. It sounds like you are getting spikes of humidity however, I really doubt humidity is the reason for dark colour though.

If you can't resolve the issue with the mister you can also just try a simple aquarium pump with an air stone in his soaking container. The movement increases evaporation which increases humidity.

Frank looks good in the photo, bright eyed and good body shape and tone. Young dragons tend to be a bit darker too with the brighter, lighter green developing later.

Give him some more time to settle in and check his temps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: He has a bowl that is maybe 2/5ths the size of his whole cage. He loves going inside of it and I see him in there frequently. His temperature is always between 80-95 degrees fairenheight. And what would unnescasary handling be? I bring him out every day that I can(which is usually every day) and let him roam around my room. I always turn a heater on ten minutes before I let him out to make sure he has heat, but humidity I can't control. Otherwise, your advice makes a good bit of sense to me so thank you for the help.

Hi Daniel,

Being handled is not something that is natural to reptiles. Some species tolerate it very well while others do not. Some individual animals can grow to tolerate it over time, CWD's are preyed upon in the wild by snakes and birds. In captivity anything swooping in from above (like human hands) can also trigger that instinctual fear.

If you have to pursue and grab Frank at all to get him out or return him to his enclosure then coming out may be causing more harm (stress) then good. If he remains quite calm about being picked up and moved then it is probably fine. You will have to judge that. Unnecessary handling is handling that is not benefitting the animal but more for the entertainment or pleasure of the owner.


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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