Chinese Water Dragon Enclosure Setup

Buying a Chinese water dragon is exciting, but before you bring your new reptile pet home, you need to set up the enclosure to ensure everything is ready for the arrival of your new pet.

There are a number of important considerations to factor into your Chinese water dragon enclosure setup decision, ensuring you create a natural and comfortable habitat for your new reptile pet.


An adult Chinese water dragon should be housed in a tank of no less than fifty-five gallons. The tank will need a screen lid that reduces the risk of escape. Dragons grow fast and should be housed in an adult enclosure by the time they reach one year of age.

Baby dragons can live in tanks smaller than fifty-five gallons, but as an adult, you want a large enclosure where your dragon can move with ease.

The Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium is a glass terrarium that measures 36” x 18” x 24” with a large ground surface for your Chinese water dragon to enjoy. It comes with a raised waterproof base offering ample space for your thick layer of substrate. The dual doors ensure you can decorate your tank, while also ensuring your dragon doesn’t escape. There are closable inlets for wiring and tubing. The mesh lid is made from durable stainless steel to allow ample light and UVB filtration into the enclosure.

If you choose to keep a pair of Chinese water dragons, then you will need a minimum of six feet of enclosure, with six feet in height and four feet in depth. The bigger the enclosure the better.

When Chinese water dragons reach maturity, female dragons are usually smaller than males. Therefore, a female Chinese water dragon can live in a smaller enclosure.

Glass enclosures are not recommended when it comes to these reptiles as they tend to injure themselves, hitting their heads and nose against the side of the tank.

If you do decide on glass, cover three sides with background and plants, which can help reduce the risk of your dragon rubbing their nose.

Most Chinese water dragon owners will put their new dragon in their adult enclosure from the start, which can save money and ensure you create the perfect natural habitat for your pet with confidence.

Further reading: How to tell if my Chinese water dragon is male or female?


Chinese water dragons are ectothermic, which means they need a warm habitat in order to maintain their body temperatures. These dragons require humid enclosures.

Lighting and heating requirements include:

  • Warm side of tank – 90 to 95ºF (32 to 35ºC)
  • Cool side of tank – 75 to 85ºF (24 tp 29ºC)
  • Nighttime temperatures – 65 to 75ºF (18 to 24ºC)
  • Simulated sunlight – UVA / UVB – 12 hours per day

Lighting and heat are essential to the overall health of your Chinese water dragon. These reptiles enjoy shady areas, where they can hide from the direct sunlight, which reduces the risk of your dragon spending too much time basking in the sun.

These reptiles are active during the day, so your daylight lighting and temperature are essential to their overall health.

Further reading: Wrong temperature can result in Chinese water dragons turning brown. Learn more about why is my Chinese water dragon brown here.

Use a good quality thermometer to monitor your temperatures to ensure optimum levels for your reptile.

Zoo Med manufactures the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer, which is ideal for humid terrariums, offering the temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius with a sensor probe for added accuracy. Mount the display outside the enclosure for easy reading. The LR44 battery is included for added convenience.

NOTE: It is recommended that you do not use heat rocks with Chinese water dragons. These are unstable and could be fatal to your reptilian pet.


Chinese water dragons love humidity. They come from a humid climate in southern China and Southeastern China, including Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

They live in the forests and are usually found along rivers, streams, and lakes. The dragon enjoys a humidity of 80%.

It’s essential you maintain humidity, monitoring it regularly with a hygrometer. The Exo Terra Digital Hygrometer offers accurate humidity readings with a remote sensor. It offers a single button operation for ease of use.

You can also add live plants and mist regularly to keep humidity levels at optimum.

You can mist the enclosure up to three times daily, but be very careful of mold. It’s not uncommon to see white mold if you have recently added new plants or a new substrate.

In order to boost humidity levels, you can incorporate a swimming area into your enclosure.

You can also add sphagnum moss and carefully selected substrates to ensure your humidity levels are maintained with confidence.

Further reading: wrong humidity levels, temperature, and substrate can cause some serious infections in Chinese water dragons. Learn about common infections before it’s too late.


The substrate you use in the enclosure setup can be determined by the age of your Chinese water dragon.

Baby dragons can do perfectly well with a layer of reptile carpet to cover the bottom of the enclosure. It’s recommended to keep baby dragons off lose substrate until they are about eighteen months of age and are around eighteen inches in length.

As the dragon ages, the substrate you introduce can be used to help maintain high humidity levels.

Substrate should be up to five inches or thirteen centimeters deep.

There are a number of high quality substrates you can use to boost humidity including Zoo Med Eco Earth Bricks and ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate. Both are soaked in water and then added to the enclosure, offering excellent humidity and a quality substrate.

NOTE: Chinese water dragons are prone to ingesting their substrate as they inspect their surroundings by licking, which can cause impaction, which will require veterinary treatment. Feed your dragon using a bowl or feed outside the enclosure to reduce the risk.



You will want to add at least two hides to your Chinese water dragon enclosure setup. This will provide your dragon with a hiding place, where they can feel secure while escaping the heat and light.

Hides can be placed anywhere in the enclosure, offering that additional privacy your dragon may require from time to time.

World 9.99 Mall Reptile Rock Hide Cave comes in various sizes to provide a comfortable hide and building block to create a warm basking area. This is a great design that comes with a one hundred percent customer satisfaction guarantee.

Branches/ Vines

Chines Water Dragons love to climb, which is why you want to choose an enclosure with a screen lid that is secure and can lock to reduce the risk of escape.

Your dragon will climb the branches to get closer to the UVB light when basking. Branches can also be used to hide when they want to feel secure or escape the UVB lights.

The EONMIR 8-Foot Reptile Vines are bendable vines that look lifelike and provide a natural feel. Have fun twisting them together to create a 3D habitat. Made from PU, they are flexible and are very easy to clean. Eight feet in length, these vines can be used for reptiles and amphibians.


Logs can be placed throughout the enclosure, offering a place to climb and explore.

These dragons need plenty of decorations and when it comes to keeping your enclosure natural and providing a comfortable habitat for your reptile pet, logs can be a wonderful addition that looks natural and helps to maintain good overall health.

The Zilla Reptile Habitat Décor Hideouts Bark Bends is a natural-looking bark that can be added to your Chinese water dragon enclosure with confidence. This is non-porous and resistant to bacteria growth while providing an easy to clean addition for your enclosure.


Live Plants

If you are thinking of providing your Chinese water dragon a bioactive enclosure setup, you will want to introduce some real plants.

Live plants can help maintain humidity levels. Live plants that you can introduce with a Chinese water dragon, includes:

  • Dracaena plants (larger types, such as Dracaena fragrans)
  • Ficus benjamina (a weeping fig)
  • Hibiscus
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Mulberry
  • Pothos
  • Sansevieria trifasciata

If using live plants, you will want to replace them once they have been eaten or shredded due to the dragon’s claws.

Plastic Plants

Plastic plants offer a range of benefits and can be added on their own or combined with live plants to complete your natural Chinese water dragon enclosure.

Plastic plants are easy to clean and maintain, they are not at risk of being eaten and the plastic helps to boost humidity levels.

In addition to this, when it comes to plastic plants, you don’t need bioactive substrate, you can select the substrate that works best for you and still enjoy a beautifully designed enclosure.

Fluker’s Repta Vines-Pothos for Reptiles and Amphibians are lifelike hanging vines that look natural and provide ample place to hide. The vines come with two suction cups, making it easy for you to design your enclosure to provide the most comfortable habitat for your dragon.

Water Bowl

A large water bowl should always be readily available in your Chinese water dragon enclosure. The water bowl helps to boost humidity levels.

The dragon will prefer to drink from a shallow bowl. They will also use the bowl to soak in, which helps them remain hydrated.

MACGOAL Reptile Food and Water Bowl Dish is a large water bowl with a low height, ideal for your dragon to drink and soak. This is a sturdy bowl made from durable materials and easy to clean.

Feeding Dish

A feeding dish is encouraged in the Chinese water dragon enclosure due to the fact that it reduces the risk of your dragon eating their substrate by mistake, thereby reducing their risk of impaction.

This dish should be removed with any uneaten food and should be washed and disinfected after each feeding.

The Exo Terra Feeding Dish comes in three sizes, including extra-large. This is a natural feeding dish that can blend in with your terrarium and reduce the risk of your dragon ingesting the substrate, which leads to impaction. Made from food-grade resin, this non-porous dish is easy to clean.


Natural rocks can be included for climbing, but they should always be kept on the cooler side of the enclosure. Rocks can heat up and may get too hot for your dragon, increasing the risk of burns. Rocks are a great addition to create a natural habitat for your reptile pet.

Putting it All Together

Putting your Chinese water dragon enclosure together is relatively easy once you have all the products you need to complete your Chinese water dragon enclosure setup.

Starting with your enclosure, you are going to want to find a level area where your enclosure will be kept moving forward. This should be out of direct sunlight.

Using a reptile sanitizer clean out the enclosure thoroughly, before you start adding anything to the tank.

Prepare your substrate as per the instructions. Moss, coconut chips, and other substrates for high humidity often come in brick form, which you soak in a few liters of water.

As the brick soaks it absorbs the liquid to provide a high-quality substrate you can use with confidence.

Layer your substrate along the bottom of your enclosure, ensuring you create a thick layer to boost your humidity levels.

You will want to choose where to place your water dish. Remember water will create moisture inside the enclosure, adding to your humidity levels.

You may want to start with the water dish on the cooler side of the enclosure and if you struggle with humidity, you can bring it closer to the basking light to boost humidity levels.

Decide on a cold and warm side of the enclosure and starting preparing your electrics, this will include your UVB lighting.

With your lighting prepared you can continue the rest of your decorating, adding rocks, branches, and plants.

Focus on building up the basking side of the tank, under your UVB bulb. This will enable your dragon to climb up and soak up the UV rays that it needs.

Ensure you read the bulb instructions relating to the distance to reduce the risk of burning.

Don’t bring your new reptile pet home yet. You will want to place your thermometer and hygrometer in your tank and monitor your levels for at least 24 or 48 hours before you introduce your new pet.

Monitor your temperature and humidity on a regular basis to ensure your dragon remains healthy and happy.

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