Chinese Water Dragon

(Physignathus cocincinus)


Chinese Water Dragon IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

Physignathus cocincinus can reach a total length of up to 1 m. Usually however they are 60 to 80 cm long, whereby more than 2/3 are tail. The upper part of the animal is a vivid green with cream colored stripes. however it can also be dark brown, according to the stresses of its environment. There are touches of blue and pink among the big round scales around the throat and often a yellowish wash along the flanks. The throat and the chest are yellow to orange and the tail is banded green and a dark brownish-green to brown, whereas those dark bands become larger and larger towards the end of the tail. It has a conspicuous toothed crest on neck and back. The body and in particular the tail are laterally compressed and allow swimming in the water. In addition to vegetable matter Physignathus cocincinus eats rodents, birds, eggs, fish as well as insects and other invertebrates. Both sexes establish territories, whereas male water dragons are incompatible. Usually they live in a group of one male and several females. Male courtship includes prominent positioning, head bobbing and the pursuit of females. When mating the male bites into the crest of the female. The female then lays between 6 and 15 eggs that are about 2,5 cm long. At a temperature of 25 -31 °C, the young hatch after 60-75 days.

Did you know?
that in it's natural environment, Physignathus cocincinus is quite shy and always prepared to take flight. Quite often it rests on branches overhanging the water. When startled it drops from the branches into the bodies of water and can remain submerged for longer time periods, but it may also run into the dense riparian undergrowth on its hind legs. They are good swimmers and divers and can even catch fish. Physignathus cocincinus has a „third eye“. Actually it's a small round spot located at the top of the head, between the eyes and is really known as the parietal


Name (Scientific) Physignathus cocincinus
Name (English) Chinese Water Dragon
Name (French) Dragon d'eau vert, Dragon d'eau chinois
Name (German) Grüne Wasseragame
Name (Spanish) Dragón de agua chino
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Burma, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
Habitat Tropical rainforests in the hills and lowlands always close to water bodies with dense riparian undergrowth and some high trees with strong branches that allow to take a sunbath.
Wild population Unknown
Zoo population 295 reported to ISIS (2007), but this species is also one of the most popular lizards in the pet trade

In the Zoo

Chinese Water Dragon


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Robert Lawton

Why do zoos keep this animal

Physignathus cocincinus is not a threatened species. Zoos and aquariums keep them primarily fot educational reasons as an arboricole representative of the South-East Asian herpetofauna.