Frilled Dragons or Frilled Neck Lizards are a striking and iconic reptile with a colorful membrane that encircles its head to warn off predators. They instantly give us that Jurassic Park vibe when we see pictures of them in their defensive posture. They aren’t too popular of a pet in the hobby, though they can make for very interesting pets. Many people are curious about the lifespan of a frilled dragon. Which best the question: How long do frilled dragons live in captivity?
Frilled Dragons, in captivity, live for about 10 years. It isn’t exactly known how long they live in the wild due to a lack of research on the subject. While 10 years is their average life expectancy in captivity, some of these lizards do live upwards of 20 years with excellent care in place.
The frilled lizard may not be one of the longer-lived pet reptiles, but it makes up for that with a bevy of very interesting qualities and behaviors. Frilled dragons are beautiful reptiles that grow to roughly 2-3 feet in length and are known for their frilled necks.
They are great pet reptiles to observe but are not the best for handling. If you are curious whether or not a frilled dragon would be a good fit for your check out my article: Do frilled dragons make good pets?
In this article, we will look at the life cycle of the Frilled Dragon and some of the things that make them so unique.
How Long Do Frilled Dragons Live In Captivity?
The Frilled Dragon begins its life in an egg. They develop in those eggs for around 2 to 3 months. Females lay clutches of up to 18 eggs at a time in an underground burrow. The baby lizards are left to their own as soon as they are born and must fend for themselves once they’ve left their eggs. Even as hatchlings, they already possess the ability to hunt and the ability to use their trademark frill for defense from predators.
Juvenile Dragons reach sexual maturity fairly quickly, at around 18 – 20 months which is shorter than the average of most small to medium-sized lizards. Similarly, sized reptiles can take 2 years or more to reach the same stage in growth. In captivity, they frequently live up to 10 years old, but some keepers have successfully kept members of the species happy and healthy for 20 years.
About The Frills: Not Just For Show
One thing that is important to consider when you are thinking of getting a Frilled Dragon for a pet, is that the use of their frill might not be what you think. When these fearless lizards erect their colorful membrane and open their mouths wide, they are saying “Hey, back off. Don’t eat me. I’ll mess you up.”
This makes them appear aggressive and dangerous, which is exactly what it is supposed to do. It is a bluff. They puff out their membranous frills to make themselves appear larger than they are so that a predator will find them too dangerous of a prey animal to attempt to eat.
Frilled Dragons use their frills to ward off rival male Dragons that have wandered onto their territory. When they unfurl their frills they accompany the action with a loud hissing sound and the baring of their many sharp teeth.
Additionally, they use the same frilly action to attract females when it comes time to mate, puffing up to look as large, strong, and desirable as possible. In that way, they are sort of the peacock of the lizard world.
The last utility that their frills provide is in temperature regulation. They live in hot and arid desert environments in Australia and New Guinea where the sun is hot and water and shade are scarce. The long thin membranes of skin allow them to cool the blood that flows through the membranes, similar to the way that a jackrabbit’s ears work to cool their bodies. So it seems that they are both the peacocks and the jackrabbits of the lizard world.
The Frills Help Increase Frilled Dragon Lifespan in the wild
Basically, what we are saying here is that the frill is mostly used for stressful things. Mating might not be the most stressful use, but there are no creatures on earth that don’t experience at least some stress during mating season.
This means that the frills are not for show, and they are not for fun. If you want a Frilled Dragon because you want to see its menacing frilled display frequently, the Frilled Dragon might not be the right reptile for you.
In order to display their frill, they need to be highly stressed, and if they are frequently under enough stress to constantly be displaying a defensive reaction, they are going to live a much shorter life of much lower quality.
A healthy and properly cared for Frilled Dragon might display its frills only a handful of times in its life.
What Else Impacts A Frilled Dragon’s Lifespan?
In order to keep them happy and healthy and reach that ten years of age, a Frilled Dragon needs a few things done right. If care is done exceedingly well there is a chance it could go well past a decade in age. So, what does a Frilled Dragon need to thrive in captivity?
They Require Large Housing
Proper care can impact the lifespan of frilled dragons. These lizards need a fairly large enclosure compared to most reptiles of their size. Mostly because it needs to be taller than most. Since Frilled Dragons spend most of their time in the boughs of trees, watching over the surrounding area for food and intruders, they need an enclosure that replicates the feeling of being in a tree.
Their enclosure needs to be at least 5 feet long by 4 feet wide and it needs to be around 6 feet tall. The taller the better, as the higher that the lizard can sit while it basks, the more comfortable, and less stressed it will be in its home.
Proper Lighting And Heating
It should come as no surprise that these desert dwellers need a good supply of UVB light in order to regulate body temperature and metabolize essential nutrients, like vitamin D. They also like it to be hot. So, where they bask in the upper heights of their enclosure, they need a spot where the temperatures reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty toasty.
It is important to arrange everything just right so that the dragon doesn’t burn the tips of its frills against the bulbs, or that the cage doesn’t catch on fire. The tank temperatures should be around 85-90 in the daytime and 75-80 at night.
Proper Healthy Diet
While the Frilled Dragon certainly has some unique needs in other aspects of its life, their dietary needs are pretty basic. They eat like most insectivorous reptiles, feeding on things like crickets, roaches, various worms, and canned grasshoppers.
A frilled dragon should also be fed occasionally with a baby rodent, like pinky or fuzzy mouse, if they are large enough. Some dragons may like to eat fruits and vegetables here and there but it may take some experimentation to figure out which, if any, they like to eat.
Proper Vitamins And Supplementation
A frilled dragon’s lifespan can be impacted if they do not get their nutrition. Younger lizards need to take vitamins on a daily basis. Adults, on the other hand, are recommended to take them two times a week. However, female lizards should be given supplements every feeding if they are carrying eggs or nursing their young.
To supplement their food, simply sprinkle the powdered form of calcium and a D3 vitamin on top of the food they would normally eat. Then, mist the lizards with fresh water each feeding and you’re good to go!
They Take Water Differently
A bowl of water isn’t going to cut it for a Frilled Dragon. They get their hydration by drinking droplets of water, which in the wild would come from morning dew and droplets of rain collected in the treetops. This means that you need to use a spitzer to spray mist into their enclosure for them to lap up. I would still provide a shallow bowl of water but they will get most of their water from droplets.
They also require a decent amount of humidity in their enclosure to keep their skin healthy. It needs to be at around 70 percent humidity to prevent them from dehydration.
Handling Frilled Dragons
Frilled dragons are not the best pet reptiles for handling. If handling is something that is important to you then I would not suggest getting a frilled dragon. This will stress them out and could even cause bad health if they are overly stressed all of the time. If you are looking for a more handleable lizard somewhat similar to a frilled dragon, I would suggest looking into a bearded dragon instead.
These are the basic most important requirements for one of these lizards. The frilled dragon lifespan is dependent on many factors including health and care.
The Frilled Dragon has some interesting and specific needs as well as some very cool and unique behaviors and characteristics. Frilled dragons usually only live ten years, but they pack a lot of uniqueness in that decade. For more on the frilled dragon check out my Complete Frilled Dragon Care Guide!