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Sailfin Dragon

Pet Sailfin Dragon Lizard Care Guide

If you look to the map towards the island nations of Asia, they are a host to various reptilian species. Some are named dragons while others are tropical crocodiles; among one of those varieties is the Sailfin Dragons found and captivated by humans. They have a close resemblance to dinosaurs, with striking features like a sail ejecting out from the tail, spikes near the shoulder, throat, and crests over the back and limbs. 

They are from the ‘Agamid Family,’ with three different species in its genus – Hydrosaurus pustulatus – being the most common and found in the Philippines, H. amboinensis hailing from the eastern part of Indonesia, and H. ‘weberi’ from New Guinea. They are found living in swamps or water bodies along the edges of forests and coastal tropical marshes. 


Sailfin Dragons are considered to be some of the most spectacular looking prehistoric lizards. Their size ranges 3 to 4 feet in length for the males. The females are a third size shorter to regular adults. A fully grown Hydrosarus lizard can be 3.5 foot long with a weight of 4 kg. 

So that would mean if the Sailfin dragon has to be kept in captivity, it needs to have space for itself. The largest to grow in size is H. amboinensis from Indonesia and H. pustulatus from the Philippines. H. ‘weberi’ has a longer tail and is thinner and more lighter in weight. 

Age And Physical Features

Sailfin Dragons require humidity as they originate from the tropical zone. It requires a steady dose of UV-A and UV-B rays coming from sunlight. Their lifespan can go up to 25 years. 

Their body colours are  pear green, reddish blue, purple neon having white crests on their stoutly built bodies. There are other distinct genomes where they have been named recently, considering the fact of how little studies were done in the past. 


These dragons are quite edgy and sharply react to noises as they feel danger is near. Immediately they flee at first sight of danger towards a water body where they sink and wait for an hour for the danger to pass away. To keep these dragons, an aquarium or a cage with a capacity of 113 to 152 liters is needed!

For a lizard with 40 cm long, the tank should have visual barriers on all sides, except the front-facing one. I would still recommend a 13 cm barrier in the front. This barrier will help to prevent a common nose rubbing problem that occurs with these dragons. 

Once they grow much bigger in size, they need a bigger enclosure. They can accept gentile handling; however, the ones caught in the wild may remain unapproachable for many years. 

The lizards are also arboreal species. Their cages also have to be arboreal to accommodate their needs, or they will be severely stressed. 

It is reported that 10% of their population are protected in the Philippines, while the rest remain at the mercy of coastal fisheries, logging, and illegal collection. An arboreal enclosure of 5 * 4 * 6 feet approximately is good enough for an adult dragon. The height is 6 feet, and above is better if there are stairs for climbing, for it needs to stretch its limbs. Branches, shelves, or even stairs should be provided. 

These dragons need to feel secure, so as they sink, a couple of plants will give them a sense of security. Live plants like Spider Plants, Pothos, or maybe artificial plants can do the trick. 

Rocks may be avoided, as startled dragons when trying to hide under a branch may hurt itself on the rock. Any concrete borders or cardboard type materials on the sides with a 10 cm gap will prevent injuries to the jaws, snout and nails. The Asian lizards have a behavior of running along the edges of the glass, sustaining abrasions. 

They must be provided with a water bowl to avoid dehydration and kidney failures. A dehydrated lizard will have sunken eyes. Make sure to have plenty of room on the ground for a large water basin, a food bowl, and a site for possibly laying eggs if you keep females. Keep in mind; the dragon needs to feel secure; the aquarium floor should not rot in humidity. Custom-built cages with a filtered pool is a good idea. 


The organic substrates suit these lizards well. Ones that can sustain high humidity like the cypress plant works charmingly. When compared to coconut husk, they are inexpensive and do not get stuck in the eyes or jaws of the Sailfin dragons. 

They must be competent of retaining humidity and supple enough to moderate fall – when the dragon leaps to the land when frightened. The mix of cypress mulch should be pure. 

Acclimation And Temperature

It’s quite important for the Sailfin dragon to feel secure, and they acclimate to their surroundings. The temperature has a huge role to play, as well. 

As they are from tropical environments, the ambient temperature should be around 40 – 46 °C during the day and 26 – 31 °C at night time. As they depend on UV-B radiation, natural sunlight works best. The other options are mercury vapor or fluorescent light bulbs. 

Keep in mind that these bulbs should be positioned on a branch so that it can bask. For a fluorescent bulb, a 10.0 UV-B bulb is ideal. 

Mercury vapor bulbs can broadcast UVB radiation over a longer distance and provide UV-A radiation benefits. A 12:12 day-night cycle works best for them. For better care and longevity, the major inclusion with various temperature grades should be followed. A red or night bulb and a ceramic heater can also be fitted for after sunlight hours. Be very careful not to overexpose them to sunlight, for that might give them burns. 


A healthy Hydrosaurus means it has good quality food and is immune to bacteria and endoparasitic infections. Luckily, the Sailfin dragons are omnivorous by nature and are known to eat anything edible and healthy. Insects like Crickets, Super worms, Spiders, Cockroaches, Rodents, etc., are their favorite.

From birth till their adolescent age, they need to be fed well and frequently. The young ones exhibit more carnivorous tendencies, but – they also would eat chopped herbs and vegetables if you lay them in their food bowls and leave them undisturbed for half an hour. 

These dragons are shy, but some would start eating once provided if they are hungry. If you want – this remains beneficial – providing a mixed diet of insects enriched with Protein and Calcium, along with tropical fruits like Bananas, Melons, Carrots, Papayas, Cantaloupes, wildflowers. 

Sticking to one variety should be avoided, but feeding them dusty insects remains their preferred snack choice during evenings. The same diet is acceptable for the adult and mature dragons, but it needs calcium from moat insects, mice, chunks of freshwater fishes, shrimps, small crustaceans, and grasshoppers. For pregnant females, calcium-rich insects and vitamins from raw vegetables, along with the regular dietary mix, is suggested. 

Water And Misting

A water bowl placed for a tropical lizard will not automatically mean the lizard will simply drink from it every day. They are quite prone to dehydration and kidney disease as they’re tropical lizards by nature. 

Proper hydration should be taken care of and made sure that they are misted according to their age. For baby Sailfins, twice a day is highly recommended. In the wild, they usually hatch during monsoon time, where they get access to water abundantly from the moisture in the plants and puddles. 

With proper misting, make sure that every part of its body does not miss. This keeps them in good shape after basking and makes for proper shedding. Since they’re unable to access freshwater, make sure to change the water from the cage daily as they defecate and drink in the same source of pan water.


Male Sailfin dragons are known to be territorial and will engage in a fight with other males. Females can opt to live undisturbed, but they may create problems for others if they are wild. In a cage, if more than one dragon will exist, then the size of it should be extended by a good deal. Checking with a professional may sort out how to customize it further. 

Handling And Health Considerations

The Sailfin dragons need care and attention when they are a hatch-ling. They remain edgy, and it takes time for them to build trust, as it needs to feel secure to venture out on it’s own. 

That is why their cage must remain secure and well covered to give them than a sense of security. Give them food like salad or crickets and leave them undisturbed, or watch from a distance. This helps in building trust over time. They are not your vicious, mean type, so being kind to them is a big boost in trust-building. Shelves with climbing opportunities are essential in growth. 

If immediately caught in the wild, they should be taken to a veterinary clinic as they are host to various parasites. Any wounds they sustain should be treated immediately for the risk of infection spreading will show up near their creases of the hind legs and eyes.  

To Cap Off –

Be sure to adhere to this care guide as much as possible. It will prove crucial for such Sailfin dragons and ensure they survive and thrive in optimal health!

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