Care and Husbandry of Amphibolurus, Tropicagama and Gowidon sp.

Aussie Pythons & Snakes Forum

Help Support Aussie Pythons & Snakes Forum:


Not so new Member
Oct 22, 2016
Reaction score
Care and Husbandry of Amphibolurus, Tropicagama and Gowidon sp.

Mitchell Hodgson

V1.2 edited 16/07/2020


Australia has a truly remarkable mix of small arboreal and semi-arboreal dragons. These lizards inhabit many habitat types across. Several species are currently held in captivity and offer a rewarding pet keeping experience for those wanting and attractively coloured and active lizard. This husbandry guide covers the basic care of Jacky Dragons(Amphibolurus muricatus), Burns Dragons(Amphibolurus burnsi),Long Nosed Dragons(Gowidon longirostris) and Northern Water Dragons(Tropicagama temporalis; formerly Gowidon termporalis).

Choosing a Dragon:

Selecting a dragon is straightforward. Most of this group are available for purchase, however some species or colour locales are harder to acquire. The most widespread are the Jacky Dragon(Amphibolurus muricatus), Long Nosed Dragons(Gowidon longirostris) and Burns Dragons(Amphibolurus burnsi). These can be acquired rather easily as they are a hardy captive that breeds regularly. With the above said, if you’ve found an interesting species that you want to (and legally can) keep, go for it! Very few of these dragons have specialist care and the ones that do will most likely be discussed with you by any responsible breeder.

When selecting an individual for purchase a good sign is a nice fat belly and alert or attentive posture. These animals are active and inquisitive, without such a display of behaviours it could indicate that they are sick or malnourished. Another big tell of sick animals is that the tail shape changes from a nice round plump look to a caved in start shape. It should be noted that Tropicagama temporalis is a very lean lizard overall and juveniles rarely if ever have ‘fat’ bellies. Another important note on Tropicagama is that as juveniles they can display ‘sooking’ behaviour like that of Angle Head Dragons (Lophosarus spinipies). Make sure to provide this species with plenty of privacy and perching opportunities while young and they will be fine!


As hatchlings these animals can be housed in enclosures around 60cm x 45cm x 45cm, commonly the typical 2ft tank dimensions seen in the hobby. Most species as adults should be housed in 90cm x 45cm x 60cm as they are very active (the 90cm dimension can be either length or height as these species are active climbers). Extra depth to 60cms is good as it greatly increases the available space, similarly. Depending on the species different habitat types should be offered as the enclosure style. Some species live in temperate or semi-arid woodlands (A. muricatus and A. burnsi respectively), rocky or arid watercourses (G. longirostris) or tropical northern Australia (T. temporalis).

Across all species ample climbing and perching space should be provided. They are very active lizards for their small size and relish the opportunity to climb. Substrate for most of these species is usually best supplied as a sand or sand soil mix. All species appreciate and use additional surface area provided by backgrounds – whether they be home-made or commercial. Care should be taken with cheap soft foam backgrounds as feeder insects will consume them and they suffer wear from climbing quite rapidly. In the case of T. temporalis it is essential that animals are provided with vertical branches to rest on and climb as they like to shuffle around vertical trunks to escape predators. Any rock used in enclosures should be placed in the base of the tank as these lizards will dig and can pin themselves.

Heating and Lighting:

These dragons have a preferred body temperature range of around 33-38c ( this is a broad estimate) and as such heating opportunities reflecting this should be offered. I generally supply my animals with a surface hotspot temperature of 40c-50c, with a warm end air temp of around 30c-35c and a cool end air temp (or hide sites) of <30c. Heat can be offered easily through halogen spotlights, incandescent bulbs or Mercury Vapour bulbs (which also supply uvb). Underbelly heating should never be used as a main source of heating this group of lizards as they are heliothermic, meaning that they bask under radiant heat from the sun. For all diurnal species I do not recommend the use of ceramic heat emitters or carbon filament lamps as the soul heating source.

These animals need a quality UVB source, without it a majority of them get sickly, will not breed and will most likely die. This is especially important during the early life stages as these species undergo rapid growth within the first 12months and without proper UVB access they can suffer diseases of captivity (specifically a group of disorders grouped into what hobbyists call Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD – Have a google). A UVB source of 5-10% should be offered for most species at the correct distance as they are strong midday baskers. Good options for supplying UV for dragons include quality UVB emitting T5 tubes or mercury vapour globes[1]. Both T8 and compact spiral UVB globes generally do not emit enough levels of UVB for these species and their use will greatly increase your risk of having sick animals. With that said, adequate shelter should be given to allow them to escape the UV if they so desire. No direct obstruction such as glass or perspex should be present between the UV source and the lizards as both above-mentioned filter UV light effectively (Have a look at the tank diagrams provided). Check manufacture specifications, but most bulbs loose output capacity over 10-20cm so make sure that you have them installed correctly. As final note avoid cheap UVB as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that between brands there is a significant difference in quality. Generally, more expensive brands will last longer (up to 12 months) as well as having a better-quality light emitted. Please check manufacturer specifications on how long the UV output of our globe is! A nifty trick is to write the install date on the base of the globe so you know when to change it.

I offer heat and UVB for 10-12 hours a day for all juveniles and subadults. For adults, during summer it is acceptable to offer up to 10-14 hours a day, while during winter it is acceptable to cut down to 6 hours or less. For animals within there first year of life there is no need to cycle temperatures. Later in life, this thermal cycling process is important for breeding and accepted by most keepers to increase longevity. There are risks with cycling animals incorrectly and I recommend having a look online or having a chat to me if you wish to undertake the process.

Make sure to give these animals access to natural sunlight. Unfiltered sunlight has major benefits for dragons as they can heat, metabolise calcium and see significantly better in natural sunlight. Many of these species can be housed outside easily in predator proof aviaries or pits.

For more on lighting have a good read of

Feeding and Hydration:

All small arboreal dragons are strictly insectivorous, meaning that their diet is insects. Most dragons are visual hunters and will actively predate fast moving prey such as crickets or woodies. These two feeders make excellent staples for most species. Some species will consume black soldier larvae (marketed as BSF, lizard grubs, oz grubs, calci worms, etc.), however they aren’t widely taken by all species or individuals. What I recommend is trying your lizard on them and seeing if they will eat them, the reason being that BSF are nutritionally some of the best feeders. Dietary enrichment can occur with the inclusion of appropriately sized mealworms or superworms, however these should NEVER be a staple and fed sparingly as a treat – think of them as junk food.

As hatchlings these animals should be fed every day. Most will reach maturity within one to two years of hatching and need the energy to grow healthily. In my experience, only long nosed dragons will reproduce within the first year, all other species require at least two years to reach sexual and reproductive maturity. As they approach the 6-8month mark feeding should be dialled back, then feeding should be offered 4-5 times a week to adults. If animals are thin due to changes in feeding regime, adjust accordingly. I generally feed my dragons ad lib in a feeding session, however a good rule for most is 5-8 appropriately sized crickets. These dragons eat pins/weanies when they hatch and will be capable of eating medium to large crickets as adults. Discuss with the breeder or seller at the time of purchase about what they are feeding on and how to upgrade food sizes.

Water should be offered through daily sprays for hatchlings and sprays every second day for adults. Water bowls can be offered. During breeding season T. temporalis should be sprayed heavily to imitate the humidity of the wet season that triggers their breeding.


Small arboreal dragons are awesome captives to really deck out a tank for! They are non-destructive, active and small bodied – qualities that make them excellent display lizards. Decorating enclosures can easily be done with rocks, branches and bark as well as commercially produced decorations available online or through pet shops. When using natural materials sourced form outside, be responsible. Don’t go pillaging natural habitats for the perfect decorations, try check places like gumtree for people re-landscaping and giving away bush rock or arborists trying to move on already lopped trees. I generally don’t treat branches or logs from outside, other than giving them a nice wash down to remove and debris. Please make sure all objects are placed on the base of the tank so that id dragons dig (which these guys will do!) they can’t accidentally pin themselves.


I’ll only briefly touch on the concept of health as I’m not a trained reptile vet, but what I think anyone with a reptile needs to know is that prevention, not reaction is key! Reptiles can suffer awfully in captivity if adequate steps aren’t taken initially. Don’t skimp out on husbandry and please do lots of reading from multiple sources. This is care sheet is a good place to start, but it’s purpose is to help guide you, not hold your hand.

Final Checklist:


ð Enclosure (Recommended minimum 90cm x 45cm x 60cm)

ð Heat globe capable of getting to 35c air temp and 45c+ surface temp

ð UVB source (T5 tube or a brand name Mercury Vapour bulb)

ð Calcium/multivitamin powder

ð Substrate – Play sand, soil/sandmix or red sand are fine

ð Basking Perch/object

ð Hides (can be caves, logs, burrows)

ð Timer for day-night cycle

ð Food bowl

ð Water bowl

ð Cage disinfectant (F10, 1:10 bleach to water mix)

ð Live food (crickets, roaches, black soldier fly larvae)

ð Misting bottle

Optional Extras

ð Decorative Plants, branches, rocks, etc.

ð Thermostat – not essential if set up right, however can be useful especially to prevent overheating!

ð Tank background

[1]. temporalis as hatchlings appear to be very sensitive to too much UV exposure, please be careful in making sure that they are not overexposed to UV as they seem tot suffer.

Latest posts