Frilled Dragons (Chlamydosaurus kingii) are an impressive medium to large size lizard with the unique ability to ruff up a frill around their neck, giving them the look of a prehistoric dinosaur. In captivity, this threat display is rarely used, as this lizard can make a happy and placid pet. We consider them an intermediate species – they are easy to keep in captivity, but the size and enclosure needs does mean they aren’t suited to every household as a pet.

Some of these animals in captivity are Indonesian imports, farmed in an outside environment. We strongly urge you to buy captive bred animals from your country and not imports, and I’ll cover that later in the Captive Bred vs ‘Captive Farmed’ section. But for now, let’s learn all you need to know about Frilled Dragons!

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a message on Facebook, email or leave a comment. We’re located in the UK and can only give UK-centric advice on specific products but happy to help where we can.

Meet the Frilled Dragon

Frilled Dragons are sometimes known as the Frilled Lizard, Frill Neck Lizard or affectionately by keepers as Frillies. Their impressive frill scares of predators in the wild and is very effective, but may not be seen very often in captive bred adults, who are quite happy to spend time with people! They originated from the North coast of Australia, and can also be found in southern New Guinea, but have frequently been farmed in Indonesia for the pet trade. With the correct care and a large enough enclosure, these can be bred in captivity. Reptile Cymru only sells UK-bred Frilled Dragons.

Common NameFrilled Dragon, Frilled Lizard, Frill Neck Lizard, Frillie
Scientific NameChlamydosaurus kingii
OriginAustralia, Southern New Guinea
SizeUp to 3ft
LifespanAround 10 years
HousingLarge Arboreal Enclosure for Adults ie. 5 x 2 x 4 foot
DietLive insects, may eat some vegetation

Frilled Dragons can grow up to 3 feet in length including their tail, with males (and those from Australian bloodlines) growing the largest. Smaller females may be around 2 foot. The Frills on males can be larger and more vibrant than females. They are the second largest lizard in the Agamidae family, after Sailfin Dragons – which you might have seen on display in our shop! Their natural colour is a rocky grey, with some orange or sand coloured overtones which fire up when they raise their frills, another way of scaring off predators. Frilled Dragons can run really fast – they can even run bipedally on their back two legs! In captivity there’s not usually enough space to see this activity.

Frilled Dragons have shorter lifespans than some lizards; living around ten years in captivity.

Housing

An adult Frilled Dragon will need a large enclosure. In fact, they will need a larger enclosure than is commercially sold on the shelves in the UK. This can be one of the reasons that these are not commonly kept as pets. This is both a large space and financial investment. Most of the time you will need to build your own enclosure or employ a custom vivarium company. For an adult we would recommend an enclosure that is at least 5-6 feet in length, 2 feet (but 3 feet is better) in depth, and 4-6 feet in height. This is an arboreal lizard that loves to climb and will rarely spend much time on the floor.

A juvenile could be kept in a smaller enclosure for the first year to eighteen months of their life, like our largest chameleon setup, but you do need to have a plan for how to house this lizard as an adult. Housing a pair or trio requires even more space, and this space requirement is one of the reasons that fewer people breed these in captivity than other species.

Decor and Substrate

As an arboreal lizard that loves to climb, bask and hang out at higher levels, you’ll want lots of sturdy branches that will hold their weight. Branches should go in all directions – vertical, horizontal and diagonal. Frilled Dragons can climb extremely well and will happily chill out vertically clinging to a tree trunk! You can see why they have the colours they do, as they camouflage so well.

You may wish to use a disposable substrate such as newspaper for the first few weeks if buying a baby Frilled Dragon, but once you’re sure that they are eating and pooping normally you will want to switch the substrate to something that will hold the humidity and create a forest environment. We recommend Orchid Bark, but you can also use Forest Bedding or EarthMix. These substrates will allow for some digging and foraging, whilst also holding the humidity without going moldy.

Heating and Basking

Because Frilled Dragons are arboreal you will need to have more heat at the top of the enclosure than the floor, and provide your hot spot at a location in the branches your Frilled Dragon likes to bask at. You may need to re-assess this and change it as the Dragon grows and changes their preferred hang out spots.

Daytime temperature needs to provide a hot basking spot of 115-120F / 46 – 49C. Because of their large frill they can sometimes accidentally burn themselves on bulbs. We recommend using a ceramic guard for your hot spot to avoid this.

The ambient in the rest of the enclosure should be 85 – 90F / 29 – 32C.

Night temperatures can drop as low at 75 – 80F / 23 – 28C.

Daytime Basking – A high output basking spot needs to be on the hot side of the vivarium. The exact wattage will depend on your vivarium size and height to attain a hot spot of 40c. We recommend a dimming thermostat with this light, with a slightly higher wattage bulb than you need. 

Turn off your daytime basking at night time.

Night time Heating – We recommend a ceramic heater bulb on a thermostat to meet minimum night time temperatures. We don’t recommend heat mats for a Frilled Dragon as they don’t feel heat as well on their bellies as from above and can be prone to sitting on mats and getting burns.

We recommend using cage guards as best practice with all heat elements, to avoid any chance of them being touched and causing burning.

Controlling Heat – You should always control your heat sources with a thermostat. Your heat source plugs into the thermostat and a probe goes into the vivarium. The probe detects the temperature and then automatically adjusts the heating element to the correct heat output. This gives your animal the correct temperature at all times, whilst also saving electricity!

Measuring Heat – You should have a thermometer – either analogue, or digital – in the enclosure as it is possible for thermostats to be faulty and you want to double check that your temperatures are correct. Ideally having one on the hot end and the cold end, or having one with two probes provides you with the best information.

UVB Lighting

It is essential to provide UVB lighting during the day for 10 – 16 hours a day, simulating the natural season. There are many different UV bulbs on the market at different strengths, and the UV bulb you need will be calculated by the height at which your Frilled Dragon is basking.

According to research performed by Arcadia Reptile, a Frilled Dragon needs a Basking Zone (this is the area they most often sit and bask) of 3-4 UVI. UVI is UV Index, a measure of strength of UV at any specific location. To reach 3-4 UVI you will want a T5 6% Bulb or T8 12% Bulb if the basking zone is 12-15″ away from your Dragon. However if you have a taller enclosure and your zone is 15-24″ away, you will need a stronger bulb such as a T5 12%.

Remember that any UVB bulb needs to be changed as according to the instructions from the manufacturer, which can range from 6 – 12 months. This needs to be changed even if the bulb is still giving off light. They give off a normal amount of light to the human eye, but the UVB rays which your reptile needs to thrive and survive decay. These can be measured with a UV Meter, but this is an expensive piece of equipment. Therefore most people will simply change the bulb in accordance to the instructions on the box. Mark down the date you changed the bulb in your calendar as it’s easy to forget.

Turn off your UVB lighting at night time.

Humidity

Whilst the environment in northern Australia can be rocky and seem dry, as they come specifically from the north coast, they have heavy rainfall daily during the rainy season. This is why they are often captive farmed in Indonesia.

In captivity we would recommend a humidity of around 70%. In the UK this means a large water bowl to create an ambient humidity, and a twice daily 30 second spray with room temperature water. If you live in a dryer climate you may need to spray more often. Monitor humidity with a humidity reader whilst you figure out the best routine for you.

If you find you are reaching humidity without spraying, please still spray twice a day as this is the primary way that Frilled Dragons will drink, and they can suffer dehydration even with a water bowl present.

Social Needs and Housing Together

Frilled Dragons are not a social species and can live their entire lives without meeting another Frilled Dragon and will not suffer because of it. In fact, we recommend keeping them solo.

Two males can be extremely dominant over territory and will fight. This can result in serious injury or even death. Do not keep two males together.

A male and female may breed two young. If deciding to breed you must be sure that your female is old enough and in good condition then the male is introduced, and have a plan for separating them. If you are going to keep a breeding pair we would recommend making it into a trio so the males attention is split!

Two females will usually get on, but it’s not guaranteed. As there is no social benefit for the Frilled Dragon the best for them is to simply live alone.

Diet & Water

A  water bowl should be provided but this is more likely to be used for ambient humidity than to be drunk out of, although adults may go for a quick dip if it’s large enough! Frilled Dragons are most likely to drink droplets from misting. This is a species that can be prone to dehydration, so make sure you keep the humidity at the right levels.

Frilled Dragons are omnivores, benefiting from a variety of livefood and also from a varied diet of vegetables and some fruit. How much fruit and vegetables they will eat depends on the Dragon. Some really don’t like it, and won’t eat it – but it’s worth trying anyway.

Livefood they can eat include crickets, hoppers, roaches, mealworms and waxworms (occasionally). Frilled Dragons are often happy to be hand fed when they get older, but watch your fingers. Allowing them to hunt increases mental stimulation and exercise. Some Frilled Dragons can get obese in captivity as they become accustomed to being lazy and having food hand delivered! Obese reptiles have a decreased lifespan, so keep an eye on it.

Livefood should be kept in cool, well ventilated containers and gut loaded with fresh dry vegetables, or a pre-made mixture such as our Livefood Care Pack which comes with both nutrients and hydration. Don’t use a water bowl with livefood, the humidity will cause them to die and they’re prone to drowning.

What Vegetables and Fruit are Safe for Frilled Dragons?

This is the feeding list for Bearded Dragons, who also come from Australia. Bearded Dragons will eat a significant amount more vegetables and fruit than Frilled Dragons, but this list shows you what is safe to try. Hopefully you will find something your Frilled Dragon likes. If not, don’t worry, some Frilled Dragons simply won’t eat vegetables because their livefood source is abundant and they don’t need to forage for food.

* Collard greens
* Turnip greens
* Mustard greens
* Escarole
* Chicory
* Bok Choy
* Red and Green Cabbage
* Watercress
* Green Beans
* Carrots
* Parsnips
* Sweet Potato
* Dandelion
* Sweetcorn
* Peas
* Bell Pepper
* Squash (including Acorn, Butternut and other varieties)

In moderation you can add some fruit to the diet, including:

* Apple
* Blueberries
* Blackberries
* Raspberries
* Cranberries
* Peaches
* Pears
* Plums
* Pitted Cherries
* Figs
* Apricot
* Pineapple
* Watermelon
* Papaya
* Mango

Avoid citrus fruits. Spinach can be offered only in small amounts, and those greens with high water content such as iceberg lettuce can cause diahorrea and should be avoided. 

Supplementation

Food should be dusted with a multivitamin D3 supplement twice a week and straight calcium on all other days.

Handling

Hatchling Frilled Dragons come out of the egg fighting for their lives – it’s a harsh world out there! They can be extremely nervous, fast and frill up their frill that gives them their name quite frequently. It will take some months of persistent healthy interaction to let your Frilled Dragon know that humans are safe, but once your Frilled Dragon trusts you they will tolerate handling and be happy to hand feed. The older they get the tamer they are. The majority of adult Frilled Dragons who are raised in captivity are tame and placid.

When handling, never pick up a Frilled Dragon by the tail or head. You should support them fully underneath the body. As they are an arboreal species who likes to climb, do not be surprised if they aim for the highest part of you – your head! Be careful of their long claws, which may need regular trimming, but providing good climbing structures will help wear these down naturally.

Captive Bred vs ‘Captive Farmed’

Reptile Cymru recommends always obtaining Captive Bred animals where this is possible in your area. In the UK there are usually enough captive bred animals for the pet supply and there is no need to import, but some suppliers do still import them captive farmed. You should always ask the source of your Frilled Dragon before purchasing.

Captive Farmed animals are not taken directly from a natural, wild population, and thus do not contribute to species decline. This makes them a more ethical choice than Wild Caught animals, which are taken direct from the wild population. However, most or even all of the original animals will have been taken from the wild. This is also likely to be New Guinea populations due to export laws from Australia. You can read more about Australian vs New Guinea below.

Captive Farmed animals are farmed in countries like Indonesia, where they are farmed in large, outside fenced off exhibits. Either the hatchlings are farmed when they appear, or the eggs are farmed and incubated and then the hatchlings housed in smaller enclosures, again, usually outside. Whilst this does mean they generally have a reasonable quality of life in their “farm”, export and shipping can be extremely stressful for these reptiles. Many reptiles still die during the export procedure, and animals can come into the country dehydrated and with parasite loads that are challenging. Additionally since these hatchlings have been bred in a wild-like environment, they have not grown up around humans and can be harder to tame down.

If you are purchasing a pet, always look for a captive bred lizard and ask for confirmation of the country that the animal was born in. Captive Farmed animals require an experienced owner.

Australian Vs New Guinea Frilled Dragons

New Guinea and Australian Frilled Dragons are the same species, but because of their different ranges, they are different to each other slightly in size and appearance, with Australians being larger and more colourful – thus more in demand. New Guinea Frilled Dragons are not protected like Australian Frilled Dragons and therefore most Captive Farmed Frilled Dragons are farmed from originally Wild Caught New Guinea parents. With complete bans on any exports from Australia now, there will be no new Australian bloodlines outside Australia. Because of this, it’s believed that the majority of Frilled Dragons in captivity will now have some or all New Guinea bloodlines. The Frilled Dragons that we sell are captive bred in the UK from many generations of captive bred Frilled Dragons, as such we would not label them with an origin, as we believe the bloodlines are too mixed to do so.

Be very careful of breeders guaranteeing Australian Frilled Dragons without showing photos of the exact parents of the animals, as well as multiple generations, this is a common way of trying to raise the price of a Frilled Dragon disingenuously.

Frilled Dragon FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

My Frilled Dragon has her mouth open, what does this mean?

Whilst some lizards such as Bearded Dragons gape to thermoregulate, in Frilled Dragons an open mouth is usual a sign of defense, aimed at showing their teeth and scaring off a predator. This is often accompanied by them erecting their frill to make themselves look as big and scary as possible.

It also can be a sign of respiratory problems, so watch out for any mucous, bubbling, sneezing, coughing, wheezing etc, so keep an eye out for any abnormal health behaviour.

Do Frilled Dragons have teeth and can they bite?

Yes. As this photo shows Frilled Dragons do have rows of small (approximately 1/8 inch), sharp teeth and a powerful jaw. They use these for crushing insects, and can also inflict wounds when defending themselves from predators, or fighting each other for territory or mating domination. A Frilled Dragon can bite a human, and it will break the skin slightly and can hurt – but is quite unusual. Frilled Dragons are a defensive species, and are not aggressive, so if you are getting bitten, you should evaluate your behaviour that led to the bite. A Frilled Dragon bite should be treated as any animal bite, by cleaning the wound and keeping it dry, but seek medical attention if you believe the wound is infected or not healing.

Are Frilled Dragons venomous?

No absolutely not. They are not at all venomous and are safe pets to own for responsible keepers.

Why do I need to wash my hands before and after handling a Frilled Dragon? Why do people talk about reptiles and Salmonella?

All reptiles can carry salmonella which can be passed onto humans primarily through poop, but occasionally the skin. However, you are far more likely to get Salmonella poisoning through food than reptiles. Having worked with reptiles for over twenty years, I’ve personally never come into contact with someone who has had Salmonella poisoning from a reptile, but I have had it from a turkey (thanks mum!).

That being said, you should always put hygiene first. You should wash your hands before and after handling any reptile with hot water and soap for at least twenty seconds.

Washing your hands before is to remove any toxins or scents on your hands that might confuse the dragon (especially if they think you smell like food!), whilst washing your hands after washes away anything you’ve come into contact with on their skin.

Do Frilled Dragons hibernate?

In the wild Frilled Dragons may hibernate during the winter months out of necessity to survive. In captivity there is limited data on the benefits of this. Some breeders think that as with many species, this might encourage the reproductive cycle as the Dragon innately knows that spring follows winter and spring time is breeding time. But with the current known information, we do not recommend hibernating in general for a pet Frilled Dragon.

Do Frilled Dragons lose their tails like geckos?

No. Frilled Dragons have bone-filled tails that can be damaged or amputated but this is a severe injury and will never grow back. If there is an injury to your dragons tail you should immediately seek veterinary advice.

How often will my Frilled Dragon Shed?

Babies may shed every couple of weeks as they are growing very quickly. As they get older they will shed less and less and it can vary from every month to every few months and then longer as their growth slows down. Adults will only shed once or twice a year. They may eat the shed skin so you may not even see it!

Do Frilled Dragons smell?

Frilled Dragons themselves do not smell but any poop does have an odour and they will usually go every day, so it’s important to keep the vivarium clean. Some substrates do have an odour to them which some people like and others don’t! Having a bioactive substrate can reduce any odour as the bacteria is naturally dealt with by a cleanup crew.

Do Frilled Dragons recognize different people?

Yes! We believe a Frilled Dragon can recognize faces and may be calmer with a person that they already know and trust. They can also differentiate between different voices and will find a familiar voice soothing.

Can Frilled Dragons live with other reptiles?

No, Frilled Dragons should not be housed with other reptiles.

Does my Frilled Dragon need a friend?

No, Frilled Dragons are not naturally social animals and can live happily alone.

Can I get a Frilled Dragon if I have a cat or a dog?

Yes! Your cat or dog may be interested in watching the dragon. We would recommend ensuring your vivarium is securely locked if you have other pets to avoid any accidental opening, and having the vivarium up off the ground will keep it out of direct eyesight. You should never let your Frilled Dragon exercise loose unsupervised with a cat or a dog.

Are Frilled Dragons suitable for children?

Adult Frilled Dragons can be very tame and placid and happy to sit around children. However they can be very fast as babies and this is a species that when threatened has a strong defensive posturing, which can include tail whipping and biting. They should only be around children who understand how to treat an animal with respect, and under adult supervision. We would not recommend buying these purely as a children’s pet or to be housed in a child’s room unsupervised – but as a parent the decision is ultimately yours.

I really hope that this Frilled Dragon Care Sheet has covered everything you want to know. I’ve provided details on housing for your Frilled Dragon, temperatures and humidity and so much more, but if there’s anything I haven’t answered please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the FAQ!

If you have a specific question for us about our Frilled Dragons or setups then please drop us a message on Facebook or an email. Thank you!

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