Frilled Dragon Care


Scientific Name: Chlamydosaurus kingii

Sexing and Characteristics:
The frilled dragon is a medium sized arboreal lizard. Most are of grey to brown colouration, with various tones of rusty red/orange/brown present in the frill, which is said to vary depending on the locality and sex of a particular lizard. The majority of the lizard’s length is comprised of tail, which contributes to its climbing prowess.
The most recognisable feature of a frilled dragon is, of course, the frill. This is only extended when a lizard is startled, alerted or in defensive or aggressive mode, and causes the lizard to look larger than it actually is.

Frilled Dragons are difficult to sex (without x-ray) until mature. Males become larger, with significantly larger heads and larger and more colourful frills. They possess larger femoral pores, which are situated in the thigh area. Females are reputed as being much more skittish than males, and this would be my experience. These dragons may live up to 15 years in captivity, and are diurnal (active during the day)
The frilled dragon can be found in Northern and Eastern Australia, and in New Guinea.
Some males reach three feet in length, but this is mostly tail. Females tend to be about a foot smaller. It takes approximately three years to attain adult size.
Substrate and Water Needs:
Newspaper or paper towels are useful for bedding. Sand is more aesthetically pleasing, but can be ingested and cause impaction. If you choose to use sand, it may be possible to feed your lizard outside of the vivarium. Astroturf is sometimes used. Cedar and pine beddings should be avoided as they are toxic to reptiles.

Fresh water should always be available.
Lighting and UVB:
UVB light is essential to help your lizard produce Vitamin D3 and break down Calcium. Follow the manufacturer’s advice and replace the bulb when advised. A 12 hour on/12 hour off cycle is recommended by this keeper when not attempting to breed.
Always use a bulb guard in conjunction with any lighting fixtures inside the vivarium to avoid burns to your animal.

Temperatures & Humidity:
Your frilled dragon requires a basking spot of 95-100 degrees Farenheit.  The background temperature should range from about 78 to 85 degrees Farenheit, on a gradient. A night-time temperature drop to about 72 to 75 degrees Farenheit is acceptable, but temperatures should never be allowed to fall below 70 degrees Farenheit.
Temperature guns and/or in cage thermometers placed at various points throughout  your lizard’s housing will help you achieve and maintain adequate temperatures.
To achieve these temperatures several heating devices can be used such as :

    • Heatmats
    • Basking/Infrared Bulbs
    • Ceramic bulbs
    • Reptile Radiators

The choice of heating system used is a matter of personal choice, however in ALL cases, a thermostat should be used in conjunction with the heater, in order to avoid burns to the animal, and danger of fire

Humidity should register at about 55-65%, and can be a little higher when your lizard is shedding. Humidity in excess of 75% has been associated with respiratory problems in these lizards.

If help is needed choosing heating/thermostat options, please do not hesitate to contact the Herpetological Society of Ireland & we will guide you in the right direction.


These lizards are arboreal, and spend much of their time basking on vertically laid branches. Three feet of height is the minimum recommended for an adult frilled lizard, and x2 feet of floor space.
They tend to spend little time on the ground and require plenty of arboreally based decorative stimuli. Hides on the floor are rarely, if ever, used.
The frilled lizard’s main diet comprises of live insects, e.g. locusts, crickets, roaches. Pinkie mice, fuzzies and worms may also be fed. Some specimens will eat some fruit and vegetables, but not all.
Live food should be gut loaded.

Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:
A Calcium supplement with a low phosphorus content should be used to dust live food on a daily or bi-daily basis, and a multivitamin supplement (e.g. Nutriball) should be used on a weekly basis.
Live insects represent a very high ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus, but gut loading feeder insects and correct supplementation can avoid potential problems that may result from this, such as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).

While frilled dragons have some very specific husbandry requirements, once this is established from the outset, along with an adequate feeding and supplementation routine, these lizards make for quite hardy captives.
I would recommend changing their water every 1-2 days, spot clean every few days, and clean them out thoroughly every 1-2 months  using an appropriate disinfectant (savlon, dettol, trigene, etc.)
Regular misting and weekly bathing is also recommended. More regular bathing may be useful when a lizard is in shed.

Some Words on this Species:
In my experience these lizards take more work to tame down than the more commonly kept bearded dragon. However, potential keepers ought not be put off by this. While skittish when young and not often handled, these lizards, in my experience, are rarely aggressive. Typical behaviour is to frill and huff, only to turn and run when that does not work!
Anyone who has witnessed a frilled dragon run (very fast!) upright on their hind legs will likely agree that it is one of the most charming and unique aspects of these lizards.
Keepers who regularly interact with their frilled dragons find that they rarely, if ever, frill up anymore, as they have become so accustomed to human interaction.
While these lizards spend a lot of time sitting still in branches, they move VERY quickly when needs be, and are truly entertaining to watch and extremely rewarding to keep.

*NEVER co-house two male frilled dragons. They will fight until death.

Care sheet Courtesy of The Herpetological Society of Ireland 2009



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