Chinese Water Dragon

Chinese Water Dragon

Asian water dragon, Thai water dragon, Green water dragon

Physignathus cocincinus
Population size
Life Span
10-15 yrs
998 g
1 m

Chinese water dragons are medium-sized lizards native to Asia. Their coloration ranges from dark to light green, or sometimes purple with an orange stomach. Diagonal stripes of green or turquoise are found on the body, while the tail is banded from the middle to the end with green and white. Their undersides range from white, off white, very pale green, or pale yellow. But their throats are considered to be more attractive, which can be quite colorful (blue and purple, or peach), some with a single color, some with stripes. Adult males have larger, more triangular heads than females, and develop larger crests on the head, neck, and tail, and are larger in general.


Chinese water dragons are native to southern China and southeastern Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma). They live in lowland and highland forests and are most commonly found along the banks of freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Chinese water dragons are social and live in groups consisting of one male and multiple females. They are active during the day (diurnal) and spend most of their time in the trees or plants (arboreal). If threatened, the dragon will drop from the trees into the water and either swims to safety or remain submerged for up to 90 minutes. Their tail can assist swimming and can also be used as a weapon, for balance. Like many other reptiles, Chinese water dragons possess a small, iridescent, photosensitive spot between their eyes referred to as the pineal eye (or parietal eye, or the third eye). It is thought to help thermoregulate their bodies by sensing differences in light to assist with basking and seeking shelter after sunset. Since it recognizes differences in light, the parietal eye can also help the lizard avoid predation from birds and other aerial threats, and can awaken from a deep sleep from even slight changes in light from overhead. When Chinese water dragons express agression they puff up the throat, use head bobbing and arm waving, and, sometimes, chase each other.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Chinese water dragons are carnivores (insectivores) but will supplement their diet with vegetation. Their diet consists mainly of insects, small fish, mammal or reptile.

Mating Habits

60-75 days
at birth
6-18 eggs

Chinese water dragons are oviparous which means that females of this species lay eggs. After mating, the female will dig an underground nest and deposit 6-18 eggs. The incubation period usually lasts 60 to 75 days. Hatchlings are well-developed and independent at birth. They become reproductively mature at around 3 to 5 years of age.


Population threats

Collecting for food and for the international pet trade are main threats to Chinese water dragons. Adults dragons and eggs are usually harvested for food, and juveniles are taken for the pet trade. Another serious threat to these animals is habitat loss due to urban development, timber extraction, agriculture, road construction, and tourism.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Chinese water dragon total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.


1. Chinese Water Dragon on Wikipedia -
2. Chinese Water Dragon on The IUCN Red List site -

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