Most people think of iguanas when the topic of pet lizards comes up. You call these people normies because true, experienced pros know that iguanas are just the tip of the iceberg.
The reptile trade has much more to offer, which is exactly what we’ll discuss today. More specifically, we’ll dive into the world of the black dragon lizard, a rather common pet lizard but with less traction among novices.
So, what makes this species unique, and why do so many people adore it? Let’s have a look!
Description of the Black Dragon Lizard
The black dragon comes with a unique and memorable appearance that you’re bound to fall in love with. Black dragons can measure up to 5 feet in length and weigh up to 110 pounds; females stay smaller and lighter than males.
The animal’s appearance screams agility and fitness. These lizards can crawl, climb, run, and swim at impressive speeds and their anatomy tells the full story of the lizard’s physical capabilities.
The black water monitor has a slender body with short but powerful legs and long fingers.
The lizard also has a very long neck with a wide mouth and an elongated mouth; these characteristics cause the monitor to resemble a Komodo, which is only natural given that the 2 are related. The lizard’s tail is often as long as the entire body.
The lizard is obviously powerful with its muscular body and strong neck, hinting at the reptile’s biting force. It also doesn’t hurt that black dragons are venomous, although they’re not as deadly as the Komodo.
Their venom isn’t as potent, but it can still cause localized swelling, pain, and paralysis and can lead to complications in some cases.
If the venom doesn’t do it, the aftermath may be because black dragons can also transmit live bacteria via their bites. These can cause localized and even generalized infections that can turn deadly.
In terms of coloring, black dragon monitors stay true to their name. They are completely black with little-to-no pattern variation. The skin is also fairly smooth, with visible round scales covering the body head-to-tail.
Behavior and Habitat
Black dragons are arboreal animals, which is rather astounding given the lizard’s impressive size. The reptile uses its tail and powerful legs with long fingers to secure its position on branches and trees while they wait for prey to come by.
Unlike other opportunistic lizards, black dragons are considerably more active and energetic. They don’t spend too much time in the same place and patrol and explore their habitat constantly.
This is to scan for prey, evade predation, and keep an eye on other black dragons that may invade their territory.
Black dragon monitors are by no means peaceful or tolerant towards other monitors, except when it’s mating season, and the reptiles are of different genders. Monitor males are extremely intolerant of each other.
Diet and Feeding
Black dragons are carnivorous lizards that qualify as opportunistic hunters and scavengers. Their preferred food is alive and requires hunting, but they don’t mind if they come across a carcass by any chance.
Their favorite meals include small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, worms, and carrion in case of need.
Much of the lizard’s food also comes from water in the form of crocodile eggs, turtles, and frogs.
Believe it or not, obesity is among the lizard’s natural predators, aside from crocodiles, cobras, and other creatures. That’s because these lizards have slow metabolic rates, which makes them prone to obesity, especially in captivity.
Wild black dragons are unlikely to experience obesity due to their more active lifestyle. They move around their habitat constantly, always on their toes for prey or predators lurking nearby.
They also swim, run, climb, and spend calories constantly, which prevents them from gaining weight. Food is also quite scarce and harder to come by, unlike in captivity. In terms of feeding frequency, black dragons are easy to satisfy.
Juvenile dragons are fine with one meal every 1-3 days, while adults may only eat once or twice per week.
It’s important to assess your lizard’s eating behavior, though, since these are general recommendations.
Some lizards may require more frequent feeding due to a slightly increased metabolic rate or more active temperament. In terms of captive feeding, though, there’s another aspect worth mentioning: supplementation.
These reptiles are prone to calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency, which is standard in the reptile kingdom. So, you need to provide the lizards with a varied diet and calcium and D3 supplementation as instructed by your vet.
Feeder live prey is almost a necessity, as gut-loading the animals prior to feeding them to your dragon will increase their nutritional value.
Always assess your lizard’s calcium levels to make sure it stays healthy over the years. Speak to your vet or consult with a reptile professional to provide your dragon with the best care and diet.
UVB lighting is also necessary for proper digestion, but we’ll discuss this point in more detail shortly.
Breeding and Reproduction
Black dragon lizards are oviparous animals that bury their eggs in the soil or lay them in hidden areas where predators cannot reach them. The mating process is relatively; it’s the mating dance that takes time.
To showcase his intentions, the male exhibits mating-specific movements like head bobbing, more intense coloring, and physical contact with the female (light biting and nipping).
Once the female accepts the male’s advances, the male will mount the female and use its hemipenes to deliver the sperm into the female’s oviduct. The sperm will fertilize the eggs, which will begin forming shortly after.
As an interesting fact, the dragon male can mate with several females during the same mating season, which makes sense. After all, the entire reproductive process takes place in one go.
This means that black dragons only lay their eggs in one session, and the number of eggs depends on the female’s age, health, environmental conditions, and genetics. Expect your dragon to produce between 5 and 30 eggs, depending on the specimen.
This being said, black dragons are rather difficult to breed in captivity. These lizards require specific environmental conditions to breed, which may be more difficult to attain by novice reptile keepers.
So, if you want to breed your black dragons in captivity, always rely on a professional’s guidance and recommendations.
Black Dragon Lizard as a Pet
If you’ve decided that black dragons are perfect for you, consider the following aspects:
- Tank size – Black dragons are primarily arboreal, but they spend a lot of time on the ground as well. The ideal enclosure should be at least 4 times as long as the reptile and twice as tall. Make sure you keep in mind the necessary space for various decorations like branches, rocks, and other elements. And consider the reptile’s growth rate. The ideal tank should accommodate an adult specimen, so always calculate the enclosure’s dimensions based on your reptile’s maximum potential size.
- Tank layout – Given that black dragons are arboreal, the enclosure should have a lot of vertical space. Branches, vines, rocks, and other climbing areas are more than welcome, providing the lizard with plenty of vantage points. This is where the lizard will spend most of its time, especially when resting. However, you should also have a hiding area at the substrate level, maybe a box or a tunnel that can accommodate the adult lizard. This is great for sleeping time or when the dragon requires some intimacy and peace.
- Temperature – You already know that reptiles require a temperature gradient to help them regulate their body temperature. This stays true for black dragons as well. The temperature gradient should be vertical along a vertical axis. The basking spot should be at the top so that the reptile would need to climb there. The tank’s midsection and the substrate should get gradually colder based on your lizard’s requirements. Aim for 90-100 F for the basking area, 75-85 F for the main dwelling spot, and 70-75 at the substrate level. It’s okay if the temperatures don’t meet these values with pinpoint accuracy; black dragons are resilient and adaptable animals. Just make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop too much, causing the dragon to experience digestive problems, stress, or even temperature shock.
- Humidity – Aim for humidity levels around 60-70%, which is typical for a land lizard accustomed to living near various water bodies. You can obtain and maintain these temperatures by spraying the reptile’s habitat, adding some live plants into the mix, and placing a water bowl in the enclosure. Just ensure there’s proper ventilation in the enclosure, so the humidity levels don’t spike to dangerous values. This can cause the dragon to experience skin and respiratory problems.
- Diet – Black dragons demand a nutritious and varied diet, preferably one that would mimic their natural eating habits. This may be rather tricky to achieve due to the reptile’s need for multiple food sources. I recommend feeder animals as the best feeding option, as these allow you to personalize the lizard’s meal plan easier. You should always discuss your dragon’s diet with the vet to provide adequate nutrition and supplementation.
- Lighting – The lighting levels depend on your reptile’s preferences. Keep in mind that black dragon monitors qualify as diurnal, but that’s not the case across the board. That’s because the term of ‘black monitor lizard’ describes a family with tens of subspecies. Some of these are nocturnal, while others are diurnal. I recommend speaking to a reptile professional to figure out your pet’s exact requirements. UVB lighting is necessary for all species, though, as these lizards require it for proper vitamin D3 synthesis. This ultimately aids with calcium absorption, keeping the reptile safe from calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease.
- Handling – Everybody wants to pet their lizards; it’s completely understandable. However, things can get spicy fast with the black dragon. This reptile isn’t as fond of handling and petting as you might think. Some mild handling is acceptable, but only after the lizard has become accustomed to your presence. More importantly, always adjust these interactions to your lizard’s behavior. If it appears stressed or tries to flee your hold, keep your distance. It’s not uncommon for black monitor lizards to bite or scratch when threatened.
Regarding the last point, always remember that black dragons are venomous lizards, which is to be expected, given that they are related to Komodo dragons.
That being said, their venom isn’t anywhere near as potent. You still don’t want them to bite you, and you should get medical attention fast to avoid any potential complications, though.
This being said, here are some quick facts regarding black dragons so you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with:
- Monitor lizards like black dragons rank as the largest lizards in the world, following the Komodo dragon
- Black dragons are in high demand, primarily because of their unusual coloring
- The black dragon’s coloring is the result of a random mutation within a species, much like albinism; this means that black monitor lizards are fairly rare
- Consider the acquisition price before deciding whether black dragons are for you; the cheapest specimen tends to jump the $1,500 mark, with the more expensive specimens going into the $5,000-$6,000 range and up
Black dragons are fascinating, adaptable, and expensive lizards that qualify as some of the most prized pet reptiles in the world.
They’re not exactly easy to care for, but they’ll make for fine additions to any reputed reptile keeper’s collection.
Just make sure you have all the equipment, means, and knowledge necessary to provide your black dragon with personalized care and medical assistance. These lizards can reach 20-25 years or more in captivity.