Chinese Water Dragon Breeding: 5 Key things You Should Know

Supposedly you’re attempting to breed your beloved Chinese Water Dragons but want to do it safely, and successfully but don’t know what you need to do? Then we present to you the basics of Chinese Water Dragon Breeding!

In this article we’ll talk about how, and when Chinese Water Dragons start to breed, how to breed them, how to take care of the eggs, and the hatchlings. Also along with other things you need to know before breeding them!

Cute Reptiles as Pets x
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Overview of Chinese Water Dragon Breeding

Chinese Water Dragon usually breed at late winter to early spring once they reach full sexual maturity of 18 months. The males decide where the copulation will happen in both the wild, and in the enclosure.

Copulation is aggressive since Male Chinese Water Dragons are territorial and dominant species, and will fight other males in order to copulate with a mate.

When Can A Chinese Water Dragon Start Breeding?

The most basic sign that Chinese water dragons are ready for breeding is their age, they should be around 18-24 months old. During these ages, they’re physical characteristics are well-defined and ready to mate.

The physical characteristics of the female Chinese Water Dragon is exceptionally important as this gives the males something to grab onto during copulation. This is also why Chinese Water Dragons need to mature to at least 18 months to ensure that these body parts are developed.

The size of the male when they become sexually mature needs to be at least 2ft from snout to tip of the tail and weigh at least 1-2lbs or greater.

Mating Season of Chinese Water Dragons

The breeding season for Chinese Water Dragons typically starts in late winter to early spring, and is also usually after their hibernation season. This mating season lasts for 2-3 months regardless of in captivity or in the wild.

Both male and female Chinese Water Dragons exhibit aggressive behavior especially in the pre-mating season and both will fight other same sex specie to win and copulate with the opposite sex.

Find A Mate And Mating Behaviors

In the wild, Chinese Water Dragons prefer to live alone regardless of gender. So, mating naturally happens when a male Chinese Water Dragon stumbles upon a female during breeding season, then eventually mating begins.

In captivity, mating is more controlled. There is a process called cooling periods that healthy, and ready to mate Chinese water dragons go through to ensure the success of mating.

Male or Female Chinese Water Dragon behavior are similar whether in the wild or in captivity. They both prefer to be alone, and are aggressive towards the same sex and will compete for copulation.

Males have a huge tendency to fight other males in order to copulate with a female Chinese Water Dragon. Once copulation begins, the male exhibits aggressive behavior towards the female, but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal.

Male behavior in finding a mate includes head bobbing, push-ups, arm waves, and in some cases where there are other males, tail flicks, basically anything to show dominance. The males will fight over themselves to swoon over a female before copulation.

Copulation starts when the female starts to head bob as well, then a chase will happen between the male and female. Eventually the male will attempt copulation through biting the female’s lower part of the back of the head between his teeth, and spin her body to begin copulation.

Chinese Water Dragon Breeding
Two Chinese water dragons before mating

Note: Chinese Water Dragon copulation usually lasts from ten to twenty minutes

Given the aggressive behavior of males during copulation, owners should know that injury is likely for the females. The best thing you could do in captivity is to separate the pair after copulation so aggressive behavior is not repeated.

Signs Of Chinese Water Dragon Are Ready For Breeding

There are several signs to look out for if a Chinese Water Dragon is ready for breeding. But the most defining trait is being 18-24 months of age, being 2ft in length and weighing in 1-2 lbs or greater.

Sexually mature males also present brighter coloring in patches or stripes of yellow, orange or blue. This indicates that the male is ready to mate.

For females on the other hand, you will notice that they dig frequently or throw dirt in their pair’s way. This is a sign that they are ready to mate as well, but other signs also include slow head bobbing from the females.

Fun Fact: Head bobbing is something often seen in males compared to females. A female only head bobs when she accepts the male, and is ready for copulation.

During mating season, females also tend to become overly protective of where they’re going to lay their eggs (especially to other females). A female will show aggressive behavior even to mates during mating season when they approach the nesting site.

Gestation Of A Chinese Water Dragon

If copulation is successful between a pair, the usual Chinese Water Dragon Gestation is 45-65 days. These are the signs to look out for a Gestating Chinese Water Dragon:

  1. Weight Gain
  2. Less activity (but not to the point of lethargy)
  3. Midbody swelling especially after a couple of weeks
  4. Less eating due to lack of space within their abdomen
  5. Digs frequently in preparation for egg laying.
  6. Their bodies get rounder

Be careful as she reaches the 40th day mark as she can lay eggs anytime and any improper handling could cause problems not only for the eggs, but also for the mother. After laying eggs, the mother will cover the eggs by pressing her snout on the ground.

Captive Chinese water dragons in copulation [Source: Pkandcm]

Chinese Water Dragon Care During Breeding

A cooling period is needed to ensure the success of Chinese Water Dragon Breeding. This is usually done by lowering the temperatures and light of the tank for around 1.5 months.

This is done at the onset of December where you should slowly lower the amount of light in the cage of your Chinese Water Dragons. In the span of one week, make sure that it is 10 hours of light, then 14 hours of darkness.

Darkness refers to the lowering of temperature and not totally shutting off the lights. The temperature is set to 75-78°F (24-25.5°C) and the basking spot of  82-84°F (28-29°C), during the night, the ideal temperature is 70-74°F (21.1-23.3°C) during the cooling period.

A soaking water bowl at 80°F (26.6°C), and a water bowl should be available at all times during this period as well. Then their eating time should be once a day early in the morning for easier digestion later on.

The cooling method can also be done by separating the pair during winter and reintroducing them in early spring. This is also recommended especially if you can’t adjust the light and temperature in your cage.

Remember that only healthy, and sexually mature can undergo the cooling period, this is why it is recommended to take them to the vet before the cooling period starts. 

After laying eggs, give the female Chinese Water Dragon time to rest, provide gut-load insects, and dusts of calcium daily for two weeks for her to recover her strength.

Female Chinese Water Dragons Lay Eggs

After the gestation period of 45-65 days, the female will lay her eggs on the nest that she dug up during her gestation. After laying her eggs, she will work her hardest to make sure that the eggs are all covered up by soil again.

Even without copulation, a female Chinese Water Dragon will still lay eggs but the eggs here do not develop and will not hatch. It is important for the health of the Chinese Water Dragon to lay these eggs as if not, this can cause different health problems.

If this does happen, please go see a vet immediately to avoid any health risks and for potential surgery.

The Habit Of Laying Eggs 

Whether in the wild or in captivity, gestating Chinese Water Dragons need to have an egg-laying site to lay their eggs. The females will still look for a location to dig where she will use as a nesting site after the gestation period.

Egg laying is in the first parts or half of November that could last until the end of December, where two clutches of eggs are produced that’s a month apart from each other. Late summer to early fall is when the hatchlings usually emerge from the eggs.

Chinese Water Dragons usually lay a clutch of eggs that has approximately 6 to 20 eggs, but oftentimes they lay only 7-10 eggs. And each egg is around 3.5g-4g.

In the wild, Chinese Water Dragons lay eggs near bodies of water that receive direct sunlight, because the soil is easy to dig up, so it’s easy to cover them back for the female. The average depth of a nest is 10 inches whether in captivity or in the wild.

Chinese water dragon eggs in a nest in the wild
Chinese water dragon eggs in a nest in the wild

So it is important to have at least a similar type of soil as substrate for the female. It is also recommended that there should be a dedicated area as a nesting site for the females to lay her eggs that’s hidden, and quiet.

Note: Please do not use sand as substrate. Even if sand is the usual nesting site in the wild, using this in captivity can cause impaction that is dangerous to the health of the mother.

Meanwhile it is also notable that a mother’s instinct is present whether in the wild or in captivity, as she checks on her eggs every several days. 

Even if a female Chinese Water Dragon does not have copulation in the wild or in captivity, she will still lay her eggs, and they will be infertile. The appearance of infertile eggs look damaged, flat, and deflated.

A female might retain the sperm from the male only then will she lay to fertile eggs or to eggs that become hatchlings.

Hatching Chinese Water Dragon Eggs In The Wild

The female Chinese Water Dragon checks back her eggs once every several days, but does not incubate them like a hen does. What she does is cover her eggs, allowing the right amount of humidity, the correct temperature, and the right ventilation for the eggs.

In the wild, the eggs usually take around 60 days to hatch. Successful hatchlings are outright independent immediately.

Usual predators of Chinese Water Dragons, especially as hatchlings or eggs are snakes and wild birds. But in urban areas, where you thought it might be safe, other predators also include dogs, cats, and the number one predator of all animals, humans. 

This is why it is important to take care of Chinese Water Dragons whether they’re eggs, hatchlings or fully mature, as predators are present whether in captivity or in the wild.

How female Chinese water dragon lays eggs in the wild [Source: Alex’s Agamids]

Chinese Water Dragon Eggs Care

Chinese Water Dragon Eggs are as fragile as any other eggs and have specific requirements to ensure the success of hatchlings. The general environment of the tank should mimic their natural environment for higher success rate or the use of an incubator is recommended as well.

The owner must help take care of the eggs, as well as the mother to ensure that mothers are healthy before, during, and after laying the eggs. This is  to avoid any health issues such as egg-binding (dystocia) and to ensure that a safe delivery is made by the mother as well.

Prepare an egg-laying site For Your Chinese Water Dragon

When female Chinese Water Dragons reach 18-24 months of age, owners must prepare an egg-laying site. Regardless of having copulation, or not, an egg-laying site is still needed as a female still lays eggs which is important for their health. 

To prepare egg-laying sites, owners must first choose a location that’s hidden, and quiet on the tank, then fill up with substrate. The recommended substrate is moist vermiculite, with moss that’s 10-inches as the female will dig frantically to make her egg-laying site.

Other substrates that can be used are coconut coir, or loam soil so the female doesn’t have trouble digging her nest, as wella s covering them up too. Do not cover up any hole that’s dug by the female, this is a natural attribute of gestating Chinese Water Dragons.

A large plastic container or tub can also serve as an egg-laying site as long as the female can enter, and exit and have no difficulty in moving inside the tub. This container should have a size of 10 inches wide x 10 inches long x 18 inches tall.

Incubating Chinese Water Dragon Eggs

Move the newly hatched eggs after a day upon laying, but if the females are protective towards her eggs, then it can be moved the day after. Just be careful to place the eggs in the incubator in the same position that you found them.

This is why it’s important to mark or label the position of the eggs on how you found them as failure to do so could suffocate the embryo, killing the hatchling. 

Place the eggs 2-3 inches away from each other within a plastic shoebox, or an egg tray that’s made for incubation. Fill the container with 50% vermiculite to allow proper ventilation, and moisture.

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Temperatures should be at 84-86°F (28.8-30°C) place a thermometer to monitor the temperature. If you are using a shoebox or any other container, only open once every 2 weeks to decrease excess humidity and temperature exposure.

In captivity, eggs usually hatch around 60-90 days, this is especially the case if the owner has an incubator for the eggs. The reason why is that the incubator provides more nutrients for the eggs before they hatch allowing the development of a healthier hatchling afterwards.

Remove any yellow eggs, deflated, dented, and eggs that have mold, this could contaminate the other eggs, and could result in health problems or even death of the embryos.

Lastly, create a tank that’s separate from the Chinese Water Dragon’s tank where you will place the newly born hatchlings. 

Hatching Chinese Water Dragon Eggs In Captivity

After 60-90 days, the hatchlings will start to come out usually at the same time. Be careful in dealing with them and do not pull them out completely, as this can cause injury for them.

Once fully emerged, place the hatchlings in the tank that you have set up ahead of time with all the necessary factors such as temperature at 83-86°F (28.3-30°C), and humidity at 75 to 80%. Basking temperatures should be at 95-101°F (35-38.3°C) and a cool side of 77-82°F (25-27°C).

Temperature at night should go as low as 73-75°F (21-23°C). Be careful of the temperature and humidity as too cold can cause respiratory problems.

Hatchlings will eat in a few days time, offer them easy to digest insects without hard exoskeletons, go for pinhead crickets, and skip mealworms, or superworms for the meantime.

This is only until they reach the juvenile stage of 3 to 5 months old.

Provide a water bowl that is cleaned regularly, Chinese Water Dragons defecate in their water bowls so it is important to clean these regularly.

Gender And Appearance Of Baby Chinese Water Dragon

The temperature decides the gender of baby Chinese Water Dragons, in cooler temperatures (26-28°F), males are developed. For warmer temperatures such as 28°F and above, females develop instead.

It is unable to identify the gender of Chinese Water Dragons when they’re newly hatched. The gender of most Chinese Water Dragons are identifiable after 18 months, or if they reach 41-43cm or 14-17 inches. 

Fun Fact: They usually look like females until they reach that certain age.

The appearance of hatchlings are dark green once they come out of their shells, with their eyes closed. But gradually their “armpits” turn to orange-yellow in time, and they portray a bright green color as they grow older.

The crest on the head or the roost, and spikes along the back will start to become more prominent in males. Females have roosts and spikes too, but they appear smaller, and duller when compared to males.

The dark luster beneath the eyes and along the throat of males gradually become darker with age too, but this is in relative with genetics.

Are Chinese Water Dragons Easy To Breed In Captivity?

In the wild, breeding happens naturally, and the wonders of giving offspring is as raw as it could be, but in terms of captivity, it’s a different story. We could say it’s both easy and not at the same time for the given reasons.

First, it’s easy since they require no sort of special materials for breeding, you can make your own incubator if you want to. This happens naturally between a male and female pair of Chinese Water Dragons.

Second, it may not be that easy for beginners, since Chinese Water Dragons are for intermediate level pet owners. They may not breed successfully as they have certain and specific requirements in terms of temperature, and exposure to light to breed successfully.

Third, since males are aggressive and will try to copulate with a female for more than one time, injury is possible for both the female and the owner so be careful in handling them.

FAQs

Can Chinese water dragons reproduce asexually?

Females lay infertile eggs without copulation. There is one case in history where a female laid a fertile egg without a matein the reptile discovery center, this event only happened once.

How long are water dragons pregnant for?

Gestation period lasts 45-60 days and gives birth from mid November until December.

How long does it take for a water dragon to become full grown?

They usually reach adult sizes after 1 or 2 years but only become sexually mature after 18 months.

How can you tell if a eastern water dragon is male or female?

Males are generally bigger than females, and have bigger crests, and spikes. In males, a pinkish color streak appears on the throat of males, while it’s not present in females.

Last Sentences

Breeding Chinese Water Dragons is fun and complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have your own family of Dragons! These reptiles are not for beginners, but through proper research, one can prepare for breeding these amazing reptiles.

We hope that this article has helped you know better or answered some of your questions, in breeding Chinese Water Dragons. They’re always a sight to see growing up in full colors!