Chinese Water Dragon Lifespan | How Long Do They Live In Captivity?

how long do Chinese water dragons live?

Chinese water dragons can make great pets. However, Chinese water dragons have been known to have short lifespans in captivity. Thankfully, there is actually a good explanation for that. Healthy Chinese water dragons can actually live long lives in captivity. 

Chinese water dragons can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years. However, will optimal care, some water dragons in captivity can live even longer. However, many Chinese water dragons suffer premature deaths when they are not captive-bred or well cared for. 

Though it takes work to care for them properly, they will reward you with their beauty and personality.  With proper habitat and diet, your water dragon will be with you for many years to come. 

In this article, we will give you all the information you need on a Chinese water dragon’s lifespan. Not only will we give you the average length of life, but we will go into ways you can give your water dragon a longer, happier life. 

How Long Do Chinese Water Dragons Live In Captivity?

Many if not most Chinese water dragons do not live as long as they should. The main reason for this is that so most Chinese water dragons are imported rather than captive-bred.

If they are imported, that essentially means they are farmed, loaded up with many other Chinese Water Dragons, and then shipped off. Through this process, they come in contact with:

  • parasites and diseases
  • aggressiveness through other Chinese Water Dragons
  • lack of hydration and food
  • other environmental-based issues that hurt their health

For these reasons, many people suffer the disappointment of their Chinese water dragons living very short lifespans. This is also one of the reasons that many Chinese water dragons are so cheap.

Thankfully, there are still good breeders, but you might have to do a little work to find a good one. If you can these lizards can make some of the greatest pets you can ask for.

Chinese Water Dragon Lifespan: Most Common Health Issues

With a caring owner, Chinese water dragons have been known to live up to 20 years. That’s a long time. However, this doesn’t happen by accident.

There are several health issues your water dragon might face to live a long life. Here’s a list below. 

  • Facial injuries from banging their face into the glass 
  • Metabolic Bone Disease 
  • Respiratory illness 
  • Parasites 

Mouth Rot From Running Into Glass

Chinese water dragons of all ages don’t always understand glass. They don’t know why the air is hitting them in the face, so they keep trying to get where they want to go.

As a result, their nose and mouth can become raw and swollen. With an open sore on the face, there is an increased likelihood that they will develop an infection. 

First, it’s always a good idea to take your Chinese water dragon to a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals.

They might tell you to clean their face with a special solution or apply topical antibiotics. Also, to prevent your water dragon from developing mouth rot in the first place, there are several things you can do. 

Make sure they have a large enough enclosure. If their space is too small, they will continuously be trying to get out.

You can also line the glass’s edges with padded material to keep the dragon from thrashing its snout on the hard glass. 

Of course, the best thing you can do is build a custom enclosure that will help prevent this from happening. I go into more detail on this in my article: What size enclosure do you need for a Chinese water dragon?

Metabolic Bone Disease

You may notice your water dragon has bulging joints, difficulty walking or acting generally unwell. 

Metabolic bone disease can be caused when your water dragon doesn’t get enough calcium or absorb enough UVB or UVA light.

In the wild, your Chinese water dragon would have a natural source of ultraviolet light – the sun. But, in captivity, your dragon needs this to be supplemented artificially with the proper lamp. 

Metabolic bone disease is specifically caused by a lack of vitamin D3, which is aided by UVB light. Be sure to supply your dragon with the proper light source. 

Respiratory Ailments

If you see your Chinese water dragon having trouble breathing or making odd raspy sounds, it may have a respiratory infection. 

Like many issues, this one can be caused by an inadequate heat source. If your water dragon gets too cold, they will have a much greater propensity to develop a breathing problem. 

Be sure your water dragon’s habitat is getting warm enough during the day, and that the dragon is maintaining a good sleep schedule. This means turning down the light at night


There is a high likelihood that your Chinese water dragon could carry a parasite. If you notice your dragon has less energy, or they seem bloated, suspect this issue. 

To prevent this, be sure to take your water dragon to the vet if you suspect a parasite. Be especially vigilant if your dragon was imported directly from a foreign country.

Your vet will be able to give your water dragon a deworming medication to help them clear the parasite. 

Many of these problems can be prevented with proper care and purchasing a health dragon for the start. 

Male Vs. Female Chinese Water Dragon Lifespan

There is no significant difference known in the lifespan among males and females. However, there are several differentiating features.

To start, the males will grow to be larger than the females. If there are too many males and females in the same enclosure, there could be a more significant threat to the females if there is a fight. 

Also, females can continuously lay eggs. This continuous production of shells will cause the females to lose valuable calcium stores. Also, in the process of passing the eggs, females can sometimes develop a complication called dystocia.

Dystocia is a problem where the female is unable to pass her eggs. This can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical care. 

There might be a case to be made that females face more adversity and higher risk. However, with modern veterinarian care, many of these sex-related threats can be abated. 

Also, both male and female Chinese water dragons can face significant health problems. We will explain several of these issues in the next section. 

Chinese Water Dragon Lifespan and Diet

Nutrition is important. It’s not hard, but there a few things to keep in mind. If you forget or neglect to give your water dragon proper food and supplements, they will be subject to diseases and risk being malnourished. 

You want to give your Chinese water dragon mostly insects with a few plants mixed in. Mainly you’ll feed them insects, such as gut-loaded crickets. You can also mix in some vegetables.

However, be sure you thoroughly clean the veggies so that your dragon isn’t exposed to harmful pesticides. Many water dragons will not eat much vegetation if any at all. This is especially true for younger dragons. 

Check out my complete diet guide for a Chinese Water Dragon here! 

Temperature and Lighting Is Important Long Term Health

You want to keep a daytime temperature around eighty 85-88 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and no less than seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit at night.

If your Chinese water dragon gets too cold, it can develop many health issues, including respiratory ailments. You should also provide a basking area that reaches temperatures of around 95 degrees. 

For proper health, you will also need to provide good UVB lighting as well. Purchase a good fluorescent UVB light that is specifically designed for water dragons or other similar reptiles.

Getting the proper humidity levels can also be challenging for a water dragon enclosure. However, humidity can affect the lifespan of your Chinese water dragon. The ideal humidity level is around 80%.

To achieve this you will need to build the right enclosure that will hold humidity well. You will also need to mist daily or invest in a misting system. Lastly, you will want to find a good substrate that holds humidity well.

When starting to handle your water dragon, be gentle, and don’t scare them. You want to warm up to them, and they need to warm up to you.

If you frighten them initially, they will have a hard time trusting you. Also, Chinese water dragons are known to run off, so be careful where you place them outside their enclosure. 

How Long Does It Take For A Chinese Water Dragon To Reach Adulthood?

Chinese water dragons will reach adulthood at one to two years of age. Sometimes, it can take a little bit longer for the water dragons to reach sexual maturity.

However, the rate at which they develop will depend on their nutrition and habitat. 

A water dragon that does not receive the proper amount of proteins, vitamins, and minerals is apt to lag behind those who have their needs met. 

Also, when a water dragon reaches adulthood depends more on size than it does on age. An 18-month-old water dragon should be between 16 and 18 inches from the head to the tail.

At about two years old, a fully grown water dragon will be over 22-26 inches for the females and up to 28 inches for the males.

However, your water dragon can continue to grow after this, though slowly, to become greater than 36 inches in length. 

Chinese Water Dragons Can Live Long Happy Lives In Captivity

There are a few things that will determine the lifespan of a Chinese water dragon. The first step is to make sure you buy a healthy dragon from the right person or business.

Most water dragons are imported and can be shipped in with health problems. Find a captive-bred dragon if you can.

Next, you simply want to make sure you take the best care of your dragon as possible. Hopefully, you will find a healthy dragon to live a long and happy life.

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