If you're wondering whether your immature water dragon is a boy or a girl, you'll need to hone your waiting skills. Though water dragons are sexually dimorphic -- that is, the males and females are visibly different -- you won't be able to see the differences until yours reaches adulthood.
The Chinese water dragon has a life span of about 10 to 15 years. He'll spend the first two of those years reaching maturity. During his juvenile phase, he'll look like a girl, even if he's a guy. Juvenile dragons of both genders have small crests on the backs of their necks, somewhat triangular shaped heads and small spikes running the length of their crests and down the length of their tails. Under their back legs you'll notice femoral pores, which are usually white, smooth and small. A dragon who has celebrated his first birthday is usually about 10 to 12 inches long from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.
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When your dragon's about 18 months old and about 18 inches in length, you may begin to notice some sexual characteristics. If he's a boy, his head will begin to get more of everything: wider, bigger and more triangular. Accordingly, his crest will stand up higher and his spikes will lengthen. You may see a bony ridge under his skin, beneath his spikes, protruding as much as a half-inch. If your dragon has reached this length but hasn't shown such growth, he's likely a she -- because females don't develop as significantly.
As a male dragon grows, his femoral pores will grow larger and darker, filling with a waxlike substance. The female dragon will maintain her delicate pores -- small, white and smooth. The female dragon changes, but her changes are mainly in the shape of her body; she takes on a round or pear shape in her abdominal area, and her tail stays rounded, as opposed to the male's more triangular tail. Both dragons are bright green, but the male sports an area under his throat ranging from yellow to bright orange in color. He'll also show some pink in his lower jaw.
Fully grown, a male water dragon will reach up to 3 feet, head to tail, while the lady is a bit smaller. Both genders are territorial, so both may show aggressive behavior, including throat puffing, arm waving, chasing and head bobbing. The male, meanwhile, will head-bob as part of his courtship ritual. The female lays eggs, whether she's mated with a male or not, so she has special needs. A nutritious diet is crucial for her health because of the strain that egg development puts on her body. She needs an appropriate egg-laying area, as she can become egg-bound if she feels she doesn't have the right spot.
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Reptiles and Amphibeans Fact Sheets: Chinese Water Dragons
- Reptiles Magazine: Chinese Water Dragon Care
- HerpCenterNetwork.com: Chinese Water Dragon Care Guide -- Section 2
- World Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Chinese Water Dragon
- LafeberVet.com: Basic Information Chinese or Green Water Dragons (Physignathus cocincinus)
- The Reptilian: Chinese Water Dragon Care Sheet