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Frequently Asked Questions

Before you buy that Wild Caught reptile, read this!

Index: Advanced:

Can I keep my MHDs in a screen or mesh enclosure?

I do keep my MHDs in reptariums. I am using the 175 which is 48"h x 29"w x 29" deep.

Following are some photos I took while setting up one of my reptariums:
I use the reptarium upside down so that I can create a deeper area for the substrate. I wrapped 4 mil construction plastic and wrapped it around the bottom (top if it were right-side up) leaving the bottom open, sort of like making a box kite. Use Duct tape for the seams.
Next I stretched the Softray over the bottom completing the nice deep area for substrate.

complete this by pulling the mesh cover over the frame and plastic covered bottom.

Next I cut a length of the plastic long enough to go completely around the reptarium with a 3" overlap and tall enough to cover the height plus half the bottom and about 6" of the top. I did not show this step but think it will make sense when you see the top and bottom of the finished project.
Using the clips that come with the reptarium I positioned the plastic around the frame and wrapped the excess for the bottom under the softray. This was done to allow me to spray the viv heavily without worrying about it running down the sides and onto the floor.
Next I folded the top in over the top leaving a 6" strip down the center open for the lights. After using this for a few weeks I wound up cutting some of this away to allow for better air circulation.
This photo shows the completed wrap job. Notice that the mesh cover is inside the plastic cover so the dragons can run and climb on the mesh. This greatly expands the area they have for climbing and hiding.
Next fill bottom to a depth of 6" of coir fiber and add plants, vines, and other fixtures.
I did purchase the fake vines and by twisting different sizes with silk vine got a really nice looking vine that the dragons love to hang out on.

After zipping the reptarium door shut you simply pull the plastic door across and use a frame clip to secure it in place. I used clear Duct tape over the spot I would be clipping to prolong the life of the plastic.

Here is one of the finished reptarium with inhabitants.

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How Old is My MHD?

Q: OK, I'm new to the lizard as a pet thing i have him with me now but I don't know what I should do. I don't know how old he is I was just wondering how I would be able to tell how old he is.

It is really impossible to tell the age of a WC MHD. If he is full grown then he is adult but how many years is unknown. If he isn’t full grown then you can guess him to be less than 2 years of age. Snout to vent length of A. capra at 18 months is 4 1/2 to 5".

Of course there are many variables that could alter adult size, such as poor supply of feeders, health problems, competition for food, not enough calcium, etc. Also, some MHDs just don’t get as large as others. Some never reach the 12" total length so size can really vary from 10-15" at full growth. Size is about the only thing you can really use to determine age and then you are only venturing a guess.

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How can I tell if the eggs are fertile?

There is not guaranteed way to tell if your eggs are fertile. I would set them up for incubation regardless of what they look like when candled. To candle the eggs you will need a small pen-lite flashlight. I use a mini-mag. Hold the pen-lite beneath the egg. If the egg glows yellow it is probably not fertile but this is not certain. However, if the egg glows pink or red or if it shows red veins it is most likely fertile.

Following are some photos I have taken of several clutches of eggs ranging anywhere from 1 week old to 4 months old:
This picture shows 2 different eggs being candled. Notice that the egg on the left has a nice red glow while the egg on the right has a bright yellow glow. The egg on the left should be fertile while the egg on the right is questionable.
Two day old clutch. When candled they look yellow and I suspect they are infertile. I will leave them in the incubator though just in case they are fertile.

NOTE: At term all but 2 eggs had failed and did in fact prove to be infertile. Two eggs however were fertile but the embryos died early in development. They went full term and then started to mold.

Nine day old clutch. Look pink when candled, probably fertile.

NOTE: All of these eggs failed, most appeared to be infertile with only one reveiling a very small deformed embryo that died in the very early stages of development.

Twelve day old clutch. Look pink when candled, probably fertile.

NOTE: All 7 of these eggs hatch successfully and the babies look nice and fat at hatching.

Clutch at 48 days. Candle red. Probably fertile.
Clutch at 74 days. Candle red. Probably fertile.
Clutch at 108 days. Candle red. These are fertile. When candled you can see shadows of the baby inside the egg.
Clutch at 109 days. Candle red. These are fertile. Shadows of the baby inside the egg are very defined at this stage.
Clutch at 115 days. Candle red. These are fertile. At this stage the baby fills the egg enough that very little light passes through.

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What Plants are Safe For My MHD Enclosure?

Use of high humidity plants such as pothos, some of the dracaenas, ferns, bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytic plants will also help to maintain the needed humidity and provide hiding places for the MHDs. Try to choose sturdy plants as the MHDs will climb anything they can.

Here is a great site for researching vivarium safe plants http://www.blackjungle.com/. Here you will find a wealth of information about terrariums. If you go to their Plants section you will find a lot of information about the plants they offer for terrarium use. Any of the plants they offer are safe even for reptiles that may eat plants occasionally and most are well suited to the MHDs habitat. The only succulant I would recommend for the humid environment would be Rhipsalis, but otherwise the orchids, ferns, mosses, carnivorous plants, Exotics & Tropicals, air plants and other Epiphytes are well suited to this setup.

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My Dragon Keeps Rubbing its Nose on the Glass, What Should I Do?

Q: My mountain dragon literally kept bashing her head into the side of the tank all last night and this morning. Did any of yours go through this when the other lizard died?

A: MOST of my lizards knocked their heads/noses against the glass initially. It is real common behavior as they don't realize the glass is there. They will try repeatedly to get through to the other side! If you look real close at the pic of my terrarium on my web page, you will see that I have something around the glass to stop this. Used hot glue or glue stick and glue black fabric screen to the bottom 10" of each glass pane. The lizards can see this and will stop this behavior. You really need to do something like this or they can rub the nose raw and get infection that can cost them the jaw and teeth.

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My Dragon's horns broke off. Will they grow back? What Should I Do?

Q: My nephew’s MHD’s horn fell off. We are wondering what the most likely cause is. My first thought was a bad shed, but he hasn’t shed recently. Please reply ASAP!!

A: He could have rubbed it on something or it could have been damaged before and just finally fell off. It is also possible that it was a shed problem. If there was old shed that hadn’t come off it may not have caused the horn to fall off right away. Sometimes there will be 1, 2, or more layers of old shed before it strangulates the horn and finally causes it to fall off. It won’t grow back and it only causes cosmetic injury. there is no need to treat it in any way. To avoid any loss of other horn or spikes make sure that the dragon is misted heavily several times a day when it is in shed and 2-3 times a day otherwise.

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Do You Know Anything About Breeding?

Q: Do you know anything about breeding. I have not had any luck yet. Not that I have expected anything yet, I was just wondering if there is anything that I can be doing to encourage breeding.

As for the breeding, just make sure the environment is good. Especially make sure the humidity is high, like 70-80%, the higher the humidity the happier they are.

If you haven't had them checked for parasites I highly recommend you find a vet that is familiar with exotic pets and get a fresh sample of feces in for an exam. This isn't usually too costly, and can make the difference between life and death for these guys.

As for breeding, just provide the proper health care, and environment, and let nature take it's course. Make sure you have a male and a female. They are pretty easy to sex if they are mature and you know what to look for.

I have also hear that they can be cycled using a cool period to stimulate breeding. I have not worked with this yet but find that my dragons produce eggs every other year without any temperature manipulation.

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Is it Normal for my MHD to Lay Around All the Time?

Q: These little guys don't move much and have their eyes closed a lot of the time. Is this normal? Most of them are eating well so I don't think they are sick, but I have never acclimated wild caught lizards with much success so what do you think?

A: You can count on them being sick! You will find that when you do get fecal done. Mine had nematodes, worms, and a bacterial infection. For acclamation have the proper set up and allow time! Feed a good variety of insects and be patient and persistent. Most MHDs are dehydrated so I like to give them all Pedialyte or reptile electrolytes to help get them re-hydrated.

Q: How active are your dragons. My two don't move much. I was worried when I got up this morning that one was dead because she was sprawled out over the top of the drip tree gadget in a totally limp position with her legs hanging down.

A: My older ones are not very active unless chasing around during and after courting, or when I use the sprinkler to make it rain! Most MHDs love showers and will drink from the branch, but some will scurry taking cover on the ground under the plants!

I did notice that when my fogger was working my animals were a lot more active. But at that, that only meant that they would be on a different branch each time I looked. They also spent a lot more time on their waterfall when the fogger was working.

From what I have seen, once my new members have settled in, they get more relaxed and it isn't uncommon to find them on a branch with all four legs hanging limply below. They have pretty good balance! Even the babies will just hang from a leaf or branch with their legs hanging limp. This is normal for MHDs!

So as long as color is good, he/she is eating well, you are finding feces every few days to a week, and your dragon isn't laying on the ground all the time the inactivity is pretty normal.

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Is the temp. of 80-69 degrees O.K.?

Q: Is the temp. of 80-69 degrees O.K.? I understand they like it cooler, what do you keep them at?

A: Mine are around 78° F during the day and drop as low as 65° F at night. I don't have so much a gradient, but rather a day/night variant. There are others who do have a gradient, but I am not using anything for heat, just the UVB bulb. When you think temperature gradient with MHDs try to heat the upper part of the viv so that they soil is the cooler area. You will find that if your animals are too warm they will drop lower into the viv.

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What Should I Do to Acclimate My New MHD?

Q: How long did the acclimation process take for you?

A: I have to say that by the time the parasites and infection were cleared the animals seemed to have settled in. It is pretty hard to put a time on this as each animal will be different depending on its condition.

Q: MY BIGGEST QUESTION is what did you do to acclimate yours? What kind of setup did you have? How many animals do you think should be kept together? Were your animals very sick when you got them, as some of mine are? What can I do to help them get well? What did you do?

A: Yes, my animals were very sick when I got them. I have lost a few but most have recovered well with time and proper care. My original male was so sick that I had to force feed him for almost a month. I think it was well worth the time as he was the most docile of my animals. They were initially treated with Panacur and Flagyl and then later while I was force-feeding they were treated with antibiotics for a bacterial infection.

I feel that groups of 1.2 to 1.4 work well depending on the size of your vivarium. Remember to allow a 1x3 foot floor space for each animal. I must stress that each animal should be quarantined individually until it receives a clean bill of health before it is introduced into a group. If you are purchasing a group they will all have to be treated for the same parasites/infections but any new individual should be isolated and treated before joining the group.

If you only have to dispense meds, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Although they can bite, they don't usually, and it isn't too hard to get them to open their mouths. Some Dragons will open there mouths when touched on the top of there head or stroked at the corners of their mouths! That makes giving medicine much easier!

I went through hand feeding with Darrell about 2 months after I got him. He had already been treated for parasites, but then he quit eating and started to lose weight. The vet did a cloacal smear and found a bacterial infection. He had to be force fed baby food for 2 weeks and then force fed crickets and super worms for another week before he showed an interest in eating on his own. So, recovery/acclamation time can be a simple matter of 2 or three weeks or can take a long time depending on your animals condition.

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My Dragon Spends All of its Time on the Ground, What is Wrong?

Q: Unfortunately our dragon has been spending a lot of time lying at the bottom of the cage..looking quite ill. We have been trying to force feed it - today we used tweezers and tried to give it some mealworms...but it wouldn't bite. I think it must be dehydrated as well. Otherwise I think we are doing all the right things...we just might be too late to save this dragon

A: It is really unfortunate that your introduction to these would be with one that is ill. These are really wonderful animals, but need to be planned for and researched before the acquisition. If it won't eat the insects, you could try feeding strained lamb baby food thinned with a little mashed banana and Gatorade or pedialyte. Administer this with a syringe or eye dropper in small amounts. It will get some nourishment into the animal and may help if parasites are not present.

Q: Hi..my friend happened upon your web site and said you had two dragons and knew a lot about them. My 9 yr. old son just got a mountain horned dragon and we are distraught because its not eating and looks like its about to die. Can you possibly help me? We put the live crickets in there and some live mealworms, but it wont eat them. We have the mineral dust too but haven't tried that yet since he's not eating anything. We have all the proper lights...daytime and nighttime, the hot rock and keep daytime temp high 70's low 80's and nighttime temp 60-65. We have a fake plant in there..it likes to hide in it. But, Now he barely moves and has been lying down in one corner. I thought it was dead because its eyes were closed and it didn't move for a long time but this morning it sort of came to...but seems really really weak. I hope you might have some ideas to help save this dragon! I would sincerely appreciate any help or advice you could give me.

A: My collection grew to 17 adult dragons and at one time over 100 hatchlings & eggs. I do feel I am very familiar with these animals and am working hard to establish a good colony of captive-bred animals to help promote these in the reptile community.

My younger animals eat crickets, superworms, and small nightcrawlers. The favored and most natural food for these animals seems to be nightcrawlers.

Unfortunately, the dragons that are sold in the pet shops are wild specimens and are usually very stressed and in poor health. The females are often laden with eggs and many die eggbound. If your little one is spending most of the time on the floor of your enclosure, it is a sure sign it is close to death if something is not done soon

My first recommendation is to find a vet that can do a fecal flotation to check for parasites. It is real common for these to be imported with pinworms and various flukes and other parasites. Bacterial infection is even a possibility. This can only be determined through a fecal float. If feces are not available since he has not been eating, it will be necessary to take the little one to a vet that is familiar with small lizards. They can do a cloacal smear where they actually swab the cloacia for a sample to determine what wrong.

Once this is done, the animal will probably have to be force fed. If you make it to this point, having your son's animal tested and treated, I can give you more in depth directions on force-feeding. Howver you get the tests done, your vet will need to know the weight of the animal in grams so they can prescribe the correct dose of meds.

I am so sorry that the pet store you got your dragon from didn't know the proper needs of these animals. If there are no parasites, the problem could just be stress. The Horned Mountain Dragon needs daytime temps in the mid 70's to low 80's. When the animal is ill, it may be beneficial to raise the temps to the upper 70's not to exceed 85°. For a daytime bulb, they do need a good UVB bulb so they can produce the needed vitamin D3.

MHDs don't need a heat rock at all as they are tree dwellers and won't use it. I do use a very low heat bulb for my babies or juveniles if they are not eating well, just to perk them up. It can aid in digestion. However, it should still not reach a temp over 85° F at any time. This animal also requires a lot of humidity. I try to keep my vivarium at 70% humidity. They also will become dehydrated if they don't have adequate humidity and fluid intake. They will not drink or soak in water that is not moving. If you have not done so, place an air stone in the water dish to create movement, or place a dripper above it so the drops of water will create movement. This can be done with a small butter tub with a pinhole in the bottom! If the dragon has not been taking water, efforts should be made to hydrate it. This should be done in a combination of ways. First, take a tub large enough to contain the animal, a bucket will work, just make sure it can't climb out. Fill the bucket with enough warm animal for the animal to soak but shallow enough his head will be above the surface. Soak for about 20 minutes and then return to the viv. Secondly, use an eye dropper to administer some pedialyte or Gatorade. This will help replenish the natural electrolytes and minerals.

Above all, make sure you get this little one to a vet. If it is not treated it will not live for sure!

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Last updated November 26, 2005


©2004, Marcia E Bradley - FroggieB

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