Chinese Water Dragon Enclosure Size and Setup Guide

Chinese water dragon enclosure size and set up

Chinese water dragons make fantastic pets, but they are also very resource intensive; enclosure space is among the more considerable resources they require. Chinese water dragons require large vertical enclosures that are typically custom built. But just how big does a Chinese water dragon enclosure need to be? 

The enclosure size for a Chinese water dragon should measure out to be about 6 feet tall, 6 feet long, and about 4 feet wide. Chinese water dragons are climbers and require tall enclosures. Though juvenile water dragons can be housed in much smaller tanks, you will likely need a custom-built enclosure to house adult Chinese water dragons.  

Even though the enclosure size and setup of a Chinese water dragon can be a bit complicated, these are lizards awesome. There is also a lot of cool stuff you can do to make a beautiful setup for your dragon. I had a Chinese water dragon named Bruce and he was maybe my favorite pet reptile.

Chinese water dragons are great for handling and in my opinion, are the perfect sized lizard. Chinese water dragons grow anywhere from 2-3 feet long. This to me is the perfect balance between the smaller-sized lizards and the enormous lizard such as tegus, monitors, and iguanas.

That said, Chinese water dragons do come with their share of problems. Most Chinese water dragons are farmed instead of being captive bred like many other pet lizards. This increases the likely hood that you will get a water dragon with health issues. There is a chance you can find a captive-bred dragon but it is hard to come by.

Continue reading for more information on Chinese water dragons, their habitats, and some of their specific needs. 

What Size Enclosure Do You Need For A Chinese Water Dragon?

The enclosure size requirements recommended for Chinese water dragons vary, but you should expect to buy or build a tank that is somewhat large. Chinese water dragons are known to love to climb, so a tank that is taller than it is wide makes the dragon’s ideal desired living environment.

Providing at least 5-6 feet of verticality is what you should aim for. The tank’s width isn’t as crucial as length and height but should still be 3-4 feet wide. The length will need to be about 4-6 feet long. Because you have to provide different environments for your water dragon, you can situate your tank in several compositions. 

You just have to ensure that you give your dragon a swimming space and a separate area for climbing and living. If your living situation doesn’t afford you the space for such a tall terrarium, then the length of your tank is even more crucial.

Remember, if you adopt your water dragon as a baby, you’ll want to think about its living environment for its future size, not its current size. It will grow, and you don’t want to have to replace its tank continually. 

Should You Build a Custom Sized Water Dragon Enclosure?

Building a custom enclosure for your Chinese water dragon can be a great solution if you’re having difficulty finding something prebuilt that fits your needs and size requirements. Even if you can find something the right size, a custom-built enclosure still might be the more ideal option. 

Chinese water dragons need tall enclosures that are capable of holding the correct humidity. Because of this screened enclosures are not the best option for a water dragon.

In addition, Chinese water dragons do not do great in most glass tanks either. This is because they are known to bump and rub their faces into the glass because they have a difficult time seeing or sensing the glass.

The best thing to do to alleviate this problem is to build a custom-built sized enclosure for your water dragon. You can still use glass but I would recommend that the bottom foot or two of the enclosure is made with wood or something else that is not see-through.

As we’ve already discussed, Chinese water dragons require a unique set of living conditions. 

Not only will your dragon need a large enough tank, but it will also need a certain amount of verticality to climb, water to swim, and a traditional terrarium setup. 

While there is an ample supply of enclosures that will satisfy these needs, there are a limited number of places within your house that pet dragons can live. 

Chinese Water Dragon Enclosure Checklist

You need to ensure that your Chinese water dragon: 

  • Receives adequate light 
  • Is observable for yourself and guests 
  • That you have easy access to clean its tank when necessary 
  • Has Proper Sizing
  • Has a large water bowl

These caveats dramatically decrease the areas in your home that are viable options. Once you find the best location, you may not find a suitable tank on the market that fits that space.

Space is one of the primary reasons that building your tank is such a great housing option. You can ensure that you craft a tank that: 

  • Fits your house
  • Lifestyle
  • Pet’s needs 

Building your own terrarium also provides you the opportunity to add some fun custom features that you may not widely find on the market. If you want to provide your dragon with a larger swimming area or vertical climbing shafts, the only limit is your imagination.

Do Chinese Water Dragons Need a Pool In Their Enclosure

The enclosure for your Chinese water dragon isn’t merely a terrarium; it’s also an aquarium. An essential feature of every terrarium for water dragons is a water bowl. This bowl needs to be large enough that your dragon can fully fit its body into it, and deep enough that the water partially covers its body while standing. 

As the name suggests, Chinese water dragons like being in the water. The water in the bowl will need to be kept clean on a daily basis, which can be a bit of a pain.

Thankfully, there is another option that you could do that can help. My suggestion would be that you invest in a good quality water filter. This way you can ensure great water quality for your Chinese water dragon.

With their enclosure remaining somewhat hot and dry, their water bowl keeps them moist. You may even need to spritz them with water throughout the day if they aren’t spending enough time in their bowls. You can also invest in a humidifier/fogger for your dragon. This will help with the humidity and will make your life easier. 

What Water Should You Use In Your Water Dragon Enclosure?

Make sure you don’t use tap water to fill their bowl. Tap water contains chlorine, and even when filtered, this chlorine isn’t completely removed. 

Instead, you should fill your dragon’s bowls with bottled drinking water. Bottled water contains no chlorine but does include some of the typical minerals that your dragons will need to stay healthy. 

Distilled water also should not be used because it lacks the minerals mentioned above. Without these minerals, your pet may develop medical issues.

If you don’t have a water filtration system built into your tank, you will have to change the water bowl often. Ideally, you should change this water daily. 

You should also make sure that your dragon hasn’t used their water bowl as their bathroom throughout the day. Every once in a while, this can happen. The last thing you want is your dragon to bathe or drink from a bowl with their excrement. 

If you hope to make a more naturalistic environment, where you’re not continually removing and replacing the water in their bowl, you can opt for an aquarium style pool. In this case, a filter would clear the contaminants in the water, acting as a natural habitat. 

Chinese Water Dragon Enclosure Set Up

There are a few other things you will need to consider when getting a Chinese water dragon. This would include both decoration and equipment needed for their health.

Climbing Limbs

Since Chinese water dragons love to climb, you will need to provide branches for them to climb on. You need to purchase these branches online or through a pet store.

It is not a good idea to go outside to find branches for a Chinese water dragon enclosure. This is because they could contain parasites and other things that could be harmful to your dragon.

You can also decorate your water dragon enclosure with greenery such as live and artificial plants. If you are going to use live plants make sure they are safe for your dragon first. Some plants would be harmful to your dragon so you must be careful here.

Pothos and spider plants are popular options that are ok for Chinese water dragons.


You will also need a good substrate for your chinese water dragon’s enclosure. You will want something that is both safe and also holds humidity well. I would go with something like cypress mulch or sphagnum moss.

Cypress mulch is great for holding humidity and can double as a light cushion in case your dragon takes a fall. Remember they are climbers.

Heating And Lighting

The other thing that you need to consider for your Chinese water dragon’s enclosure in heating and lighting. You will need a proper heating lamp as well as UVB lighting for your enclosure.

Enclosure Sizing and Setup For Multiple Chinese Water Dragons

As we briefly touched on earlier, there is the option for you to own multiple Chinese water dragons and to keep them in the same aquarium. However, there are limitations. You can’t simply put any two water dragons together. 

Housing Two Female Chinese Water Dragons

If you do plan to own more than one, two females are ideal for pairing together. Female water dragons cohabitate well without territorial issues, becoming a problem.

Multiple female water dragons can live together with one male in the wild, so the fit is a natural combination without any animosity or jealousy. You just need to ensure that you provide plenty of living space, so they aren’t right on top of each other.

For housing multiple Chinese water dragons you will need and even larger enclosure. Adding a foot or two on all sides would be a good place to start for two dragons.

Housing A Male And Female Water Dragon

You can pair a male and a female together in a single enclosure, and they should live together quite harmoniously. The only issue is the likelihood of procreation. 

If you don’t want your female water dragon pregnant, then this combination isn’t ideal. These reptiles will do what comes naturally to them. 

Never House Two Male Chinese Water Dragons In One Enclosure

One combination that you should never attempt is housing two males together. While Chinese water dragons make great pets and are generally docile, they can become territorial and violent if you introduce another male into the environment. 

For obvious reasons, you don’t want your pets in an environment where they are continually fighting. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made the exciting decision to get a Chinese water dragon as a pet, there are a few basics you’ll want to keep in mind. Chinese water dragons require large enclosures. 

Remember that the more room you can provide for your dragons, the happier they’ll be. An enclosure needs to be roughly 6 feet tall, 6 feet long, and 3-4 feet wide. They love to climb and swim so provide plenty of branches and a very large watering bowl. Most likely you will want to custom build your water dragon enclosure. 

Finally, if you can make your own terrarium for your Chinese water dragons, it can be a great solution to provide them with everything they may need, or you may want from an aesthetic point of view. 

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