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Exotic Pets

Sailfin Dragon


Regular price
$350.00 USD
Regular price
Sale price
$350.00 USD

How to Care for Your Sailfin Dragon

Sailfin dragons (Hydrosaurus sp.) are 3-4’ long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. They can be found in tropical forested areas near fresh water.

Sailfin dragons are green or brown with blue, purple, and/or gold markings. They get their common name from the large, sail-like crest which they have on their tail. They also have a smaller crest of spines running from the back of their head down their spine. Females are generally plainer and do not have significant crests.

Due to their size, sensitivity to poor husbandry, and low handleability, sailfin dragons are advanced-level pet reptiles. However, they can be rewarding pets for those willing to put in the work. With good care, they can live as long as 25 years.

How much space do sailfin dragons need?

A single sailfin dragon should be housed in no smaller than a 6’L x 3’W x 6’H enclosure. If at all possible, larger is strongly recommended. This size of enclosure is not typically available for purchase, so you will need to order one custom-made or build your own.

Cohabitation (keeping multiple sailfin dragons in the same enclosure) is not recommended.

Do sailfin dragons need UVB?

Sailfin dragons are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day. This also means that UVB is required for them to thrive in captivity. Aside from helping provide a day/night cycle and providing an infinite supply of vitamin D, UVB is also good for the lizard’s overall health. 

You will need a high-quality UVB lamp as part of the dragon’s enclosure. Here are the best UVB bulbs for sailfin dragons housed in a 6’L x 3’W x 6’H enclosure:

If the UVB is mounted over mesh, place the basking branch so the dragon’s back is 11-12” below the lamp. If the UVB is mounted inside the enclosure, place the basking branch so the dragon’s back is 18-20” below the lamp. The UVB bulb should be housed in a reflective fixture and placed on the basking side along with the heat lamp. Make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is housed in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.

Since sailfin dragons are active during the day, it’s beneficial to provide an additional daylight-spectrum lamp to make sure the enclosure is brightly illuminated. This is extra important since you will be using such a large enclosure. Use 4’ of strong 6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent plant grow lights for best results.

Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.

What basking temperatures do sailfin dragons need?

Sailfin dragons need a basking surface temperature of 110-120°F and an average temperature everywhere else in the enclosure between 80-90°F. Nighttime temps can drop down to 70°F, but should be no higher than 80°F. Temperatures should be measured with an infrared thermometer.

The basking surface itself should be a thick, sturdy wood branch placed near the top of the enclosure per the specifications listed previously, and preferably placed over a body of water.

Provide heat for your lizard by imitating the sun with a cluster of halogen heat lamps placed on one side of the enclosure. You will need enough lamps to evenly heat an area at least the size of the dragon’s body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), heat mats, red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.

What humidity levels do sailfin dragons need?

Sailfin dragons are a tropical species that needs a humid environment to stay healthy. Average humidity levels should be between 60-80%. Humidity should be measured with a wall-mounted digital hygrometer placed in the middle of the enclosure. Daily misting with a pressure sprayer and/or using a humidifier connected to a humidistat is helpful for maintaining high humidity. 

Reptile humidifiers and foggers should only be used with distilled water and require frequent disinfecting to keep your reptile from getting sick.

Sailfin dragons naturally live near bodies of water in the wild, and seem to do better in captivity when there’s a pool in their enclosure. For this reason, your pet will need its own “swimming pool.” 

At very least, the pool needs to be 1/2 to 1/3 the length of the enclosure and large enough for them to completely submerge (at least 12” deep). Of course, deeper is better if you can provide it. Change out the water once weekly or whenever it gets soiled, and give the basin a good scrub with disinfectant before refilling. Using a siphon (or better yet, a mechanical water pump) and a hose will make emptying and refilling the pool much easier.

What substrate is good for sailfin dragons?

Although sailfin dragons spend a lot of time either climbing among branches or swimming down below, using substrate in the enclosure will cover the floor and help provide a cushion in the unlikely event that the lizard falls from its perch. It also helps maintain humidity!

We recommend the following substrates for sailfin dragons:

Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with any contaminated substrate.

What décor can you use in a sailfin dragon terrarium?

Sailfin dragons are well known for developing severe friction wounds on their nose from attempting to escape small, boring enclosures. One of the best ways you can help your pet be happy in its enclosure is to fill it with things for the dragon to use and interact with.

At bare minimum, you will need a sturdy basking branch, swimming pool, somewhere to hide, and a thick layer of substrate. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:

  • additional climbing branches
  • raised platforms
  • hollow logs
  • additional hiding places (dog/cat kennels can work well)
  • live or artificial foliage

All climbing branches should be securely anchored into the walls/floor of the enclosure to prevent collapse.

What do sailfin dragons eat?

Sailfin dragons are omnivorous, which means that they need to eat both animal- and plant-based foods to get the nutrition that they need. Juveniles should have a diet of 75% animal matter and 25% plant matter, while adults should have 50% animal matter and 50% plant matter. However, they are also known to eat small animals and small amounts of fruits and vegetation.

Feeder insect options: crickets, discoid roaches, dubia roaches, earthworms, grasshoppers, hornworms, silkworms, mealworms, superworms, snails (captive-bred only)

Other protein options: mice, small rats, fish, crayfish, shrimp, scrambled eggs (no oil or salt), organ meat

Vegetable options: collard greens, cactus pads, spring mix, arugula, kale, alfalfa, bok choy, carrot greens, spinach, dandelion greens/flowers, hibiscus greens/flowers

Fruits such as bananas, berries, kiwi, grapes, melons, papaya, and mango make good treats. If your dragon appears to be getting too heavy, reduce the frequency of protein feedings.


You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your lizard from developing a deficiency. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all insects and meats.

Do sailfin dragons like to be handled?

Truthfully, few reptiles actually “like” to be handled. Your sailfin dragon may or may not tolerate handling well, depending on its individual personality. The key to building a trusting relationship with your pet is to provide as many positive interactions as possible. Offering food from feeding tweezers works well as an initial bribe, and it’s best to get the lizard to come to you rather than simply grabbing it.

When you start handling your dragon, be gentle. Don’t grab the lizard from above, because that will make it afraid of you. Instead, approach from the side and scoop from below. Support as much of its body as possible, especially its feet. Start with very short handling sessions in the beginning, then gradually make them longer as your pet becomes more accustomed to you.