There’s no denying that sailfin dragons are among the most beautiful reptiles on the planet. Males have a sail-like protrusion on their tails which they use for swimming underwater and as a third leg when walking on land on their hind legs.
As pets, however, these creatures can be quite complicated given the amount of care that goes into petting them. If you want or already have some of these beauties, here is everything you need to know to keep them happy.
Sailfin dragon species
There are several species of sailfin dragon with the main ones being Hydrosaurus pustulatus, Hydrosaurus weberi and Hydrosaurus Amboinensis. Hydrosaurus simply means “water lizard.”
The differences between these species of sailfin dragons are primarily their size. Hydrosaurus pustulatus is the smallest sailfin dragon species, measuring at a maximum of six inches long and weighing only .07 pounds.
The other two types of sailfin dragon measure in at about 12 inches long and weigh up to 4 pounds.
There isn’t much difference in the way they behave; but they are different in terms of their size and where they’re found.
Weber’s sailfin dragon is a species of the sailfin dragon named after Professor Max Weber, a zoologist who studied them. They have the longest tail among all the sailfin dragons.
Sailfin dragon availability
Hydrosaurus pustulatus is the only sailfin dragon that can be found in Australia. They live near the coastal waters or riversides, as well as on islands off the coast.
The other two types of sailfin dragon live throughout Southeast Asia in countries such Saigon, Cambodia and Thailand.
Sailfin dragons are reptiles with a long history in mythology. They are classified as lizards because of their scaly skin and they can be found in Australia, Southeast Asia, India or Sri Lanka.
A Philippine sailfin dragon may not have much difference from an Indonesian sailfin dragon unless they belong to different species or have grown up in different conditions.
Today, Indonesia is the main source of sailfin dragons kept in captivity. In Indonesia, sailfins are most common around the island of Borneo. Sailfins live near rivers and lakes that may be seasonal or permanent with a depth no more than two meters deep at any time.
They also populate rice paddies inland from the coast where they feed on small fish, frogs and slugs as well as insects found on plants growing along the shoreline.
Sailfin dragon lifespan
The typical lifespan of sailfin dragons is about 25 years in captivity, and they can live up to 40 years.
The difference between wild and domesticated life is that captive sailfin dragons are fed more often, which can lead to them living longer.
A long-term study of a population in Sri Lanka found the average lifespan for wild sailfin dragons was about 18 years and it could reach up to 30 years old if not predated upon.
In captivity, after 12 months they typically attain sexual maturity. Females lay eggs every two weeks until becoming exhausted from egg production or death over time (which usually occurs at three-fourths way through the clutch).
Captive specimens will eat their own eggs unless given other foods; this can sometimes result in cannibalism. Removing the younger conspecifics with forceps may be necessary to keep them alive while preventing cases where they would have been killed off outright.
A baby sailfin dragon grows to a full grows sailfin dragon in about 18 months.
Sailfin dragons are social animals, and can live well in small groups of one male to two females. It’s recommended that you keep no more than one male for every six female sailfins so the males will not fight over territory.
Breeding starts with a female laying eggs (usually about three) which is then fertilized by the chosen male.
Sailfin dragon size
Typically, sailfin dragons grow to be about 18 to 24 inches long. They can weigh anywhere between 1 and 2 pounds.
The sizes of sailfin dragons are dependent on their species, but the largest type is usually around 24 inches in length with some types may only grow up to 12 or 16 inches long.
The smallest type of sailfin dragon typically weighs less than a pound at maturity, but there have been reports that they don’t get much bigger than five ounces.
Sailfin dragon size also depends on how often it eats. If it’s not eating enough food then its growth will be stunted.
Sailfin dragon handling, behavior and temperament
When it comes to the handling of sailfin dragons, it is best to wear gloves for protection against their claws and teeth. The sailfins are not venomous but they do have sharp scales which can puncture skin when handled improperly or without care.
They should be able to move freely inside the enclosure as long as there aren’t any hazards that could cause injury such as a gravel flooring with too large of rocks in it.
The behavioral patterns of sailfin dragons vary from one individual to the next just like people’s personalities differ from each other. As such, don’t rely on information about an average dragon you read online because, generally speaking, this type of animal will always behave differently than others no matter if they’re male or female.
When scared, the sailfins will usually swim up to the top of their water bowl and stay there until they feel safe again.
It’s best not to handle them more than you have to because this can be stressful for them. However, if it’s necessary, make sure you keep your hands flat as much as possible so they don’t use their claws or teeth against you.
Sailfin dragon humidity
For your sailfin dragons to thrive, you’ll need to pay attention to their humidity. Plenty of air circulation and water are the key ingredients here, as sailfin dragons do not regulate their body temperature internally.
A lack of a humid environment will lead your sailfin dragon’s skin dry out, irritate its eyes, and generally make it uncomfortable while at rest or during periods when it needs to digest food. Too much can cause bacterial growth in secretions leading up to infection.
Keep an eye on the moisture levels in the enclosure with periodic checks for condensation visible on walls and roof surfaces inside the cage. Measure daily high temperatures around areas that house reptiles (or use thermometers).
Also, check droplets forming on glass enclosures regularly if they’re being used. Misting plants can also offer a good indicator of moisture levels.
Sailfin dragons are very sensitive to high temperatures, so they need a cool spot in their enclosure with plenty of ventilation and shade available if you live where it’s hot.
If the humidity is too low for your sailfin dragon, misting its body periodically can help keep its skin moistened as well as prevent bacterial growth on scales (as long as droplets do not run down into their eyes).
Humidity for the sailfin dragons should be around 60-80% at a minimum. Allowing plants to gather water from outside sources inside the cage will also add more humidity within it. Providing an open dish or bowl that collects heavy rains when possible is another way to increase moisture levels without needing to create artificial environments indoors.
The perfect humidity also helps them easily shed off their skin when the time comes.
Sailfin dragon caging
When you cage sailfin dragons, the size of the cage is very important. Sailfins require a lot more space than other species due to their large adult sizes and tail spans.
If you plan on having one sailfin dragon in your home, at least get an enclosure that measures 100 square feet (which is about 16 by 20). You should also have three or four different levels for them to climb up and down.
If you decide to keep two sailfin dragons together then it will be best if they are separated into different enclosures so there won’t be any territorial disputes between them. It’s always better if you can purchase two habitats separately rather than just getting one bigger habitat for both of them because they may fight over territory later on.
Sailfin dragon substrate
As for the substrate, sailfin dragons are very particular about what they like to lie on. As a result, many owners find that the best substrate is sand. It’s easy to clean up and it doesn’t make an excessive mess of the tank.
Other substrates to consider include gravel and lava rock, which are both somewhat hardier than sand.
The substrate of sailfin dragons is a topic that’s heavily debated in the community. Some say that because they’re so particular about what substrates they like to lie on, it might be best for them not to have any at all to simulate their natural environment as closely as possible.
Others believe this would lead to excessive messes and unpleasant odors coming from the tank or enclosure. Thus, materials such as sand should make up the majority of the flooring. Owners can also consider using gravel or lava rock if they want something more durable than just standard “sand”.
Sailfin dragon temperature and lighting
The best temperatures for sailfin dragons are between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. The best lighting for them is artificial UVB light or natural sunlight because they live in a rainforest habitat which doesn’t get much direct sun exposure through the trees and leaves.
If you live in a cold area, use a heating pad or ceramic heater to keep the temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use black metal piping and reflectors, which are very cheap and easy to set up for your dragon habitat’s design.
As for the lighting, make sure you have a UVB light to provide your dragon with the right amount of sunlight. You can keep them under fluorescent lights for a while, but eventually they’ll need sun exposure or an artificial UVB lamp to stay healthy and happy.
Sailfin dragon food and water
Sailfin dragons eat a variety of foods. They enjoy fruit, vegetables, live insects and rodents (if they are large enough to be caught).
They will also eat snails if they can find them on your property or in other areas that you visit.
Water is provided by a shallow water dish placed near their basking area where it catches the heat from the sun during daylight hours or an electrical heater at night time when necessary for tropical habitats. Sailfin dragons drink droplets from condensation left after soaking up heat with their skin folds as well as drinking rainwater when possible.
Water should be changed frequently to prevent bacterial growth. Provide fresh clean water every day which sailfin dragons need to keep hydrated so they don’t dry out too quickly.
Sailfin dragon health issues
Your sailfin dragon is a strong, healthy animal so long as you provide it with the appropriate care.
If your sailfin dragon’s health has been compromised and there are problems that need to be addressed, then take note of some common issues below:
- Skin diseases or lesions can occur due to inactivity or stress. If this becomes an issue, give them plenty of opportunity for exercise and continue monitoring their movements carefully.
- Sailfin dragons also have problems shedding properly which leads to prolonged skin infections when not cared for accordingly. This would require antibiotics if left unchecked.
- Some animals may experience difficulty walking because they become ill from parasites such as worms, mites (deadly), and fleas which should be treated immediately.
With proper care, your sailfin dragon may live to be around 30 years old.
Sailfin dragon dangers (bite and venom)
Do sailfin lizards bite? Sailfin dragons have small teeth and they will usually only bite when provoked or hungry.
These lizards are not venomous but their bites can be serious and potentially life-threatening to humans if not cleaned early enough.
Their saliva that comes out of the mouth contains proteins which indicate whether a dragon is in a good mood, feeling threatened, angry etcetera. Sailfin dragons do not always show their emotions through body language like other creatures though, so it’s important to pay attention to what they say with these proteins and keep your distance if you notice them become defensive for no apparent reason. It may also be wise to avoid handling them too much while trying this method of reading their intentions.
Now that you know how to take care of these pretty lizards, find yourself a few and enjoy their beauty.