Friday, April 18, 2008

Welcome home, Richard

Richard came into my life on October 2, 2007. I purchased him from Petco for $29.99 (It's incredible that a pricetag can even be put on something so cute and animated). Prior to bringing Richard home, I did extensive homework on what his care would entail. To avoid information overload, I will share my experiences gradually.

In all honesty, I assumed that a reptile would be extremely low-maintenance. I figured that Richard would make a nice "college pet." He has become much more than that, of course. The little, shy guy I found revealed himself to be a real trouble-maker. I say that most affectionately.

Learning to care for Richard has been an adventure-- one that I engaged myself in with utmost eagerness. I am, after all, a biologist... so all things that involve the reproduction of nature are exciting to me!

The first literature I consulted was a book called "Water Dragons" by Bert Langerwerf. It provided a nice crash course on Chinese water dragons (Physignathus cocincinus), as well as Australian water dragons (Physignathus leseurii). It's a very straight-forward book, and it is written by someone with lots of experience with water dragons.

It should be stated that water dragons are by no means "easy" pets. I believe in doing things right... or not at all. This is especially important when animals are concerned. If you are interested in having pets-- any kind of pet-- it can never be stressed enough how important it is to do your homework in advance. This will help you foresee expenses and prepare you for life's little surprises. You should never take a pet's life lightly.

Okay, onto the informative stuff. I'll keep it basic. Before bringing Richard home, I purchased the following:
  • A halogen reptile bulb (wattage depends on the size of your set up)
  • Calcium carbonate powder
  • A fluorescent lamp set up (7% UVB)
  • A hollowed out log (for hiding and sleeping)
  • An analog thermometer and hygrometer
  • A spray bottle
  • Bedding brick (coconut)
  • A glazed food dish
  • A water dish
The halogen light bulb is for producing a basking area. The fluorescent bulb is absolutely indispensable. Water dragons-- and indeed most reptiles-- require UVB to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D, in turn, is necessary for calcium uptake in the diet. Supplementing calcium is pretty much worthless if your lizard is unable to utilize it. And growing lizards must have calcium to grow strong bones. Water dragons, in particular, grow very quickly, so you can imagine how vital it is to provide UVB in the first place. Unfortunately, the UVB produced by a fluorescent bulb is minute compared to what a lizard would get from basking in natural, unfiltered sunlight, so it's good to let them get some of that when you can!

Thermometers and hygrometers are absolutely necessary, as well. Because Chinese water dragons require certain conditions, you'll want to monitor the temperature and humidity of their habitat!

According to Bert Langerwerf, these are the requirements:
  • Average temperature of 23-26 degrees centigrade (mid to upper 70's in degrees Fahrenheit)
  • A hotter top section of 33-35 degrees centigrade (lower to mid 90's in degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Humidity: 65-70%
Remember that reptiles are ectotherms ("cold-blooded"), so they need to be able to thermoregulate and escape heat when they are too warm, or find heat when they are too cool. So it is necessary to provide a temperature gradient in the habitat.

I'll leave today's entry at that. Enjoy the photos of Richard!

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