Of all of the lizards you could choose as a pet, few are as awesome looking as the frilled dragon. They are also known in some circles as the frilled neck lizard. Though these lizards do look really cool they are not the best pet for everyone. That said, for many people they are the perfect fit.
This frilled dragon care guide will help you to understand how to care for a frilled dragon. In addition, this guide will help you to understand whether or not the frilled dragon is the right choice for you.
Frilled Dragon Size And Appearance
The frilled dragon is a lizard that is known for frilly skin that they can puff up around their face. They look like a miniature dinosaur that you would see in a Jurassic Park movie. These frills are not only cool looking but they serve a purpose in the wild. The reason a frilled dragon would stick out its frills is to warn or intimidate other animals.
These frills make the frilled dragon appear to be much larger and intimidating than they actually are. Though a frilled dragon is a decently sized lizard many people mistake them for being very large lizards like monitors or tegus. This might make you wonder just how big a frilled dragon actually gets.
Frilled dragons are found in the South of New Guinea and in northern Australia. The Australian frilled dragons get significantly larger than the ones found in New Guinea. Australian frilled dragons typically reach lengths of 2-3 feet long. Whereas the species from New Guinea is typically a bit smaller.
Male frilled dragons get larger than females do. In addition, it should be noted that the tail will cover the majority of the length of their bodies. That said, I would consider the frilled dragon to be somewhere between a large and medium-sized lizard. They are larger than lizards such as the bearded dragon but nowhere near the size of tegus, most monitor lizards, and iguanas.
Typically a frilled dragon will take two to three years to grow to its peak size. This is of course assuming that they get proper nutrition and are healthy. Other factors that could affect this include proper temperatures, humidity levels, lighting, and much more. These factors can also heavily influence the lifespan of a frilled dragon and are the foundation of proper frilled dragon care.
Frilled Dragon Lifespan
One of the biggest considerations people need to take into consideration when caring for a frilled dragon is its lifespan. On average a frilled dragon will live to about 10 years old in captivity. That said, there have been numerous reports of frilled dragons having a lifespan of up to 20 years in captivity.
There is, of course, a pretty large disparity between these two numbers that is hard to figure out. The truth of the matter is that I can only speculate on the reasoning behind this big disparity. If I had to guess I would say it boils down to proper frilled dragon care and stress factors.
Frilled dragons are not the easiest lizards in the world to care for. Much of this is due to the fact that is a large number of frilled dragons do not love being held like many other pet lizards. So if you are looking for a lizard that will hang on your shoulder while you watch TV then you are probably better off with a bearded dragon.
I think that their high stress might be one of the main things that make frilled dragon care more difficult. In turn, I think the stress might also have something to do with their shorter lifespan. With proper care, however, your chances of increasing their lifespan greatly improves. Another factor that can help you increase lifespan is picking a healthy frilled dragon from the start.
Picking A Healthy Frilled Dragon
The first thing you need to consider before caring for a frilled dragon is knowing how to pick a healthy dragon from the start. You definitely need to do your best to purchase a frilled dragon from a good breeder. CBreptile.com is a great resource if you are looking to purchase a reptile online.
Of course, you can also purchase a frilled dragon from your local pet shop. However, they not as common to come by as many other pet lizards. If you are purchasing your frilled dragon from a local store then you will want to make sure to go and examine the frilled dragon for yourself.
The store should also be able to tell you where they source their frilled dragons from. Look up the breeder online to see what information you can find on them. They be a small breeder with little information or a large company with many reviews.
When you go to examine the frilled dragon they should be alert and physically active. A sluggish looking frilled dragon is not a good sign. Make sure to examine every inch of the frilled dragon. Check to see that they have clear eyes and that there is no sign of build-up or runoff. You also want to check their vent ( AKA their private parts ) to make sure there is no build-up or any other signs of bad health.
Another tip is to ask the store owner if you can watch the frilled dragon eat. Though they are often shyer than many other lizards, however, a baby or juvenile frilled dragon should be happy to eat. Don’t rush this process if you have the opportunity to spend some time examining the frilled dragon. After all, picking a healthy one from the start is the first step in frilled dragon care.
Frilled Dragon Temperament
This is the part of the care guide that often turns people away from purchasing a frilled dragon. The fact of the matter is that frilled dragons are not the friendliest pet lizards. However, this is is not to say that they are aggressive or mean. It is merely that frilled dragons get stressed out easily and do not typically like to be held.
Though some people have reported that their frilled dragon enjoys being held this is not something that is very common. Though they can be intimidating to look at they are more likely to try and run away instead of biting. This is not to say that they won’t bite you, however.
If you are more or so looking to get a lizard that does not need daily handling and is simply cool to observe, then the frilled dragon might just be the perfect pet. On the other hand, if you are looking for a companion that will hang out on your shoulder then you should probably look elsewhere.
My suggestion would be a bearded dragon. They do not get quite as large but they are still awesome-looking lizards. Unlike frilled dragons, however, the bearded dragon is a much better option if you are looking to regularly handle your pet lizard. Generally speaking, bearded dragons like daily handling. They are also a better option for kids and first-time reptile owners.
Handling Your Frilled Dragon
Though frilled dragons do not enjoy handling you will still need to know how to do so properly. The less familiar your dragon is with you the harder it will be to handle. Once a frilled dragon is used to being handled it will comfortably sit in your hand. You can gently rest your fingers around is body but do not apply too much pressure.
There are three important guidelines you should follow when handling a Frilled Dragon:
- Keep handling to a minimum when you first bring home your Frilled Dragon. Slowly increase handling as your Frillie gets used to you.
- If your Frilled Dragon seems stressed, you should return it to its enclosure as soon as possible. Too much stress is dangerous for any lizard.
- Never squeeze a Frilled Dragon. You could hurt it, and it will almost certainly bite you.
How to Tell if a Frilled Dragon is Stressed?
Once you get to know your Frilled Dragon, you learn all its little way of communicating its displeasure with you. Because of their frilled neck, it can be easy to tell when a Frilled Dragon is very stressed out.
Here are the signs that you should put your Frilled Dragon back in its enclosure:
- Open mouth: If it is just sitting there with its mouth open, it’s stressed. Usually, the frill will begin to puff out or already be puffed out when it does this.
- Puffed out frill: Frillies puff out their frill to scare predators in the wild. If it is puffed out while you’re handling it, it means it is scared or stressed.
- Hissing: Yes, lizards hiss, and you should take it as a warning.
- Snapping at you: If you’re lucky, a Frilled Dragon will snap at you as a warning before actually biting you. Because they aren’t naturally aggressive, this is a sure sign that your lizard is stressed and may be ready to resort to a real bite soon.
- Sulking: If a Frilled dragon is just lethargic or not eating, it may be that it is stressed. This can also be a sign of other issues, so you may need a vet visit.
Frilled Dragon Diet
One of the most important aspects of frilled dragon care is providing the proper diet. Though frilled dragons are omnivores, the majority of their diet should consist of insects such as crickets and Dubia roaches. Some frilled dragons will also eat a small number of fruits and veggies as well. That said, the majority of their diet should come from live prey.
Best Live Prey For Frilled Dragons
- Dubia Roaches
- Pinky Mice
These food items should make up the vast majority of your frilled dragon’s diet. You will want to make sure you are feeding them appropriately sized prey. For example, a baby or juvenile frilled dragon would not be large enough to eat a pinky mouse.
My advice is that most of their diet should come from insects. This would include the crickets, Dubia roaches, and locust to name a few. Followed up next would be to feed them a good amount of worms and grubs. Something like a pinky mouse on the other hand should be thought of as an occasional treat.
Note: You should never feed your frilled dragon wild-caught insects. They can carry illnesses and can be very harmful to your dragon.
Best Fruits and Veggies For Frilled Dragons
- Collard Greens
- Mustard Greens
The number of fruits and veggies your frilled dragon will eat can vary from dragon to dragon. Some will eat a decent amount of vegetation whereas others will hardly touch it. Between fruits and veggies, you should offer veggies the majority of the time. Think of fruits as more of an occasional treat.
Since you don’t know how your frilled dragon reacts to fruits and veggies I would suggest offering them chopped veggies often to see how they react. Try throwing a few mealworms on top to encourage them to eat.
It is important to note that dietary habits might change with time. It is not uncommon that a young frilled dragon does not take well to fruits and veggies but then enjoys them more often in adulthood.
A simple rule of thumb is that if you are not sure fruit or vegetable is safe for a frilled dragon then simply avoid feeding it to them.
Juvenile and baby frilled dragons need to eat a lot of food. In fact, you should probably be feeding them upwards of three times per day. Simply add food until they are done eating. As they grow larger you can reduce the frequency of thier eating. You will probably be feeding them daily until they reach full adulthood.
A fully grown adult whose body weight is filled out nicely can be fed every other day as long as they are maintaining their proper weight and appearance. The size of their food should about two-thirds the width of their head or smaller.
Frilled Dragons can be picky eaters so it is important that their diet has a lot of variety, otherwise, they can become easily bored with their choices.
How To Water A Frilled Dragon
One of the most interesting things about frilled dragons is how they consume water. Since these lizards come from arid desert regions in Australia and New Guinea, they might not ever see a large body of water in the wild. For that reason, a dish of water alone doesn’t work too well for Frilled Dragons.
It will most likely become a soaking tub or a toilet more often than a watering bowl. For a frilled dragon, you simply need to mist their enclosure with a spray bottle whenever you feed them. Frilled Dragons get their hydration this way, by lapping up droplets in their habitat. In the wild, they would find dewdrops of water collected in the branches of the trees where they make their homes.
That said, I do recommend keeping a water bowl around just in case they need some water as well as a place for them to soak if they need to. Of course, make sure that you clean it out on a daily basis. You will also want to use dechlorinated water when spraying and watering. Many reptile keepers will also look into a misting system to help keep them hydrated and to avoid having to mist the cage multiple times per day.
Vitamins and Supplements
Of all of the reptile supplements you should worry about calcium is the most important for frilled dragons. Calcium is important for all reptiles, but it is vitally important for frilled dragons because they eat so many insects. This is because the exoskeletons of many insects are high in phosphorus.
In order for a frilled dragon to metabolize a high amount of phosphorus, it will need plenty of calcium. Look for high-quality reptile calcium with added vitamin D that does not add phosphorus. Dust your insects with calcium before feeding them to your frilled dragon. You might also consider a good reptile multivitamin as well.
Enclosure Requirments For Frilled Dragons
The main thing you will need to consider when it comes to housing a frilled dragon is the size of the enclosure. Frilled dragons are medium to large-sized lizards and will require large enclosures. Juvenile frilled dragons can be housed in tanks that are 50-100 gallons.
However, adult frilled dragons will require much larger cages. The most important thing to consider at all ages is that frilled dragons like to climb. Because of this, the height of the enclosure is very important. They will require an enclosure that is at least 6 feet high, 4-5 feet long, and 4 feet wide. Getting the proper enclosure is essential for proper frilled dragon care.
Custom Built Enclosures
The truth of the matter is that finding a reptile enclosure that fits these requirements are hard to come by. Because of this, you might need to build your own enclosure or get one custom built for you. If you are looking to outsource this project I would recommend checking out the company Custom Reptile Habitats.
They have many pre-built enclosures that are very high quality. On top of that, they can build you an enclosure that is perfectly fitted to your needs. Since frilled dragons love to climb there enclosures require certain dimensions that might need to be custom made.
I would also recommend a visual barrier for the back and sides of the enclosure. Of course, you will want to leave the front clear so that you can enjoy watching your frilled dragon. However, they will feel more secure if the other sides of the enclosure have a visual barrier.
Otherwise, they will feel the need to keep watch on every side of the cage. Frilled dragons are easily stressed so it’s good to do all we can to keep this to a minimum.
Branches For Climbing
Frilled dragons are active reptiles that love to climb. So to go along with their tall enclosures they will need plenty of branches to climb on. Place climbing branches vertically, horizontally, and diagonally across the enclosure.
When installing, attach a branch to the wall in the top corner of the back. On top of that, make sure that the branches are as wide as the lizard itself. This will ensure that they have plenty of space to climb and bask.
Make sure to purchase your climbing branches from a good source. You should never go outside to find climbing branches yourself. This is simply because they might be contaminated with parasites and other things that could be harmful to your frilled dragon.
Best Substrate For Frilled Dragons
One of the best substrates to use for a frilled dragon is cypress mulch. A good example of this would be Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding. Cypress mulch is great not only for appearances but also for keeping good humidity levels.
You could also go with a mix such as Zilla Jungle Mix or even make your own custom mix. Just make sure that you are using safe ingredients and that the mix holds humidity levels well. Some common mixes are Coconut fiber, sand, and organic potting soil. Just make sure you are getting ingredients safe for frilled dragons.
Temperature and Humidity For Frilled Dragons
Another crucial aspect of caring for a frilled dragon is that its enclosure maintains proper temperatures and humidity levels. There are three temperatures you will want to monitor. That is the basking temperature, the common area temperature, and the nighttime temperatures.
Frilled dragons need a spot during the daytime to bask in the heat. The proper basking spot temperatures for a frilled dragon should be between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be placed at the top of the enclosure with a branch or basking platform placed below for them to bask on.
However, you do need to create some space between the light bulb and your frilled dragon. They have been known to get too close to their basking lamp and even burn thier frills.
The next area to consider is the temperature of the rest of the enclosure during the day. This area should be anywhere from 85-90 degrees. I would suggest putting the basking lamp on one side of the enclosure so that one side is slightly cooler than the other side.
Lastly is the nighttime temperatures. The temperature at night can drop down to as low as 75 degrees but should not reach temperatures colder than that. Try keeping the temperatures between 75-80 degrees.
Proper humidity levels for frilled dragons are about 70 percent. You will need a humidity gauge to ensure you are hitting the correct levels. Proper substrate and proper misting procedures are essential for getting the right humidity levels. Since this can be quite the task I might recommend looking into a misting system or reptile fogger.
Frilled Dragon Lighting Requirments
Frilled dragons will also need proper UVB lighting. Since they are not going to be getting the nutrients straight from the sun they will need to get UVB light from a bulb. This is very important for them to get their calcium and vitamin D requirements. The UVB light allows them to synthesize Vitamin D and that in turn helps them to absorb calcium
A good choice would include the Power Sun Mercury Vapor UVB Lamp. If you are in a tall enclosure you might need a lamp with some extra wattage. Just make sure that it is not placed too close to where your lizard can get to or close to any small branches or decor that could overheat.
Is The Frilled Dragon Right For You?
The truth of the matter is that frilled dragons make good pets for the right owner. On the other hand, they might not be the right fit for you if you are looking for something that is going to hang out on your shoulder while you watch tv. If you are looking for a cool-looking lizard that likes attention then I would suggest that you purchase something like a bearded dragon instead.
Though I do love frilled dragons I also would put them at the intermediate to advanced level of care. This is probably not the first reptile I would suggest if you have never owned one before. That said, for the right owner the frilled dragon is the perfect pet.
They are very pleasing to watch and are some of the coolest looking lizards that you can buy. Just make sure that you do your homework before bringing one home. That said, frilled dragon care is a hard but rewarding experience. They truly are amazing lizards.
Recommended Equipment For Frilled Dragon Care
- Enclosure For Baby or Juvenile Frilled Dragon: Repti Zoo Large Glass 100 Gallon Reptile Tank
- Custom Built Enclosure: Customreptilehabitats.com
- Calcium: Repashy Supercal HYD
- Substrate: Zoo Med Forest Floor Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding
- Humidity and Temp Guage: Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermo Humidity Gauge
- UVB Heat Lamp: Power Sun-Mercury Vapor UVB Lamp
- Misting System: Exo Terra Monsoon Solo System