Image Credit : Mickael Leger Photographie
Acanthosaura capra are in a class of their own when it comes to prehistoric-looking, yet readily available saurian companions. Their arboreal nature dictates that the tail length is often equal or greater to snout-to-vent (SVL) length.
Acanthosaura capra generally have a grey background colour with orange/red markings, others tend to be more yellow. Each individual animal varies in colour. They have large orange/red eyes, large noticeable spines present on the nape (back of the neck) with smaller spines running along their back towards the tail.
- Scientific name : Acanthosaura capra
- Distribution : Cambodia (Mondolkiri), Southern Vietnam
- Average Size : 0.25 m (0.8 ft)
- Life Span : 5 years or more
- Difficulty : Intermediate
Depending on the species requirements can change slightly. However using A. capra (most common species) as a basis requirements.
Minimal requirements for an adult are 0.6 x 0.6 x 0.9 meters (2 x 2 x 3 feet) (L x W x H). However larger is always better specially when adding in water features, plants, branches, etc.
Baby/Juvenile Mountain Horned Dragons can start in this size enclosure without issue as they will naturally hunt on the ground or insects will typically climb to within there reach.
No typical hide is required, though some dragons do prefer to hide behind plants or logs and these should be provided to prevent stress specially when first purchased.
A mixture of mulch, coconut fibre, peat moss and fertilizer frees soil (black earth) provide a good mixture that will retain moisture and help with humidity.
It is recommended to use a layered approach to substrate with clay balls as a base, weed control fabric and then the above mixture. This allows water to drain naturally. TIP Place a small hose sticking up from the bottom layer to allow water to evaporate and air flow in the substrate to prevent a musty smell.
Additionally adding spring tails, isopods and red wigglers will help to aerate the soil as well as remove waste to keep your enclosure clean with minimal effort. When using this method mix in some leaves (from a pesticide-free source) for the bugs to eat.
Lighting – Heating
Mountain Horned Dragons require a 5.0 or 6% UVB light. This can be achieved with either a florescent tube light (T5 or T8), coil, or low wattage Mercury Vapor Bulb.
Heating should be minimal with no requirement for a basking spot but one can be provided for additional lighting.
Temperatures should NEVER exceed 28 °C (84 °F) in the warmest part of the enclosure. Providing a heat granulate (warm at the top, cool at the bottom) is key.
Overnight drops to 18 °C (65 °F). In areas where enclosure temperatures may fall below this, use a ceramic heater or heat emitter. DO NOT use a red light bulb as these can cause damage to eye sight and interferes with natural sleeping patterns.
Moving water is key. They will not drink from a standing water dish. Providing a water fall, drip system (typically onto leaves etc) is recommended. As a bare minimum use an air store and air pump to create a moving effect in a bowl of water. Use your imagination to design something that is both functional and looks great to meet these needs.
It is recommended to clean bowls or store bought waterfalls weekly to prevent bacteria build up. Water should be replaced with dirty or every few days.
MHDs require 80% humidity, while allowing the enclosure to dry to prevent mold build up. This can be achieved by misting 3-4 times a day, or by using a misting system.
They are 100% insectivores. Feeding every 2 days is recommended, if using a natural substrate (especially one with leaves/plant matter) insects left in the enclosure will not bit the lizard but will instead eat any items in the enclosure and provide a meal on the off days. A bowl of worms can also be left in the enclosure, however with daily misting its best to avoid spraying the bowl or worms will drown. A regular diet should include crickets, roaches (where legal), superworms, soldier fly larvae. Other bugs like hornworms, butterworms, waxworms can be added on a weekly/monthly basis but should not be a staple. Mealworms are not recommended.
All insects items should be dusted with quality Calcium supplement that includes D3 when feeding as well as a dusting of a reptile vitamins once a week. Full size adults, especially egg laying females can be offered a small pinky, but this is only recommended during laying season as they are high in calcium. Tossing crickets into an enclosure (without hand/tong feeding) will give you a great exposure to the hunting techniques of these arboreal hunters.
Handling is very much dragon specific. Some dragons will tolerate handling while others are very hands off. Starting to handle at a younger age will benefit you in the adult stages. Adults can be worked with to tolerate handling but do not try to force handling as this will stress your dragon.
If using a natural setup as described above with the use of isopods, springtails and red wigglers cleanup will be minimal. If not used than cleaning every other day is recommended. If using a removable water feature be sure to clean it weekly. Fresh water should be provided in any water features every few days. (Actual drinking water can be provided via daily misting.)
With proper humidity and bathing area in the enclosure shedding shouldn’t be an issue. If stuck shed is noticed, a quick shower or humid bath (use a plastic shoe box, fill with lukewarm water and place lid on top (not closed tightly) to help loosen stuck shed.) DO NOT pull on stuck shed as this can cause damage to knew scales.
Potential Health Problems
Unless purchasing from a breeder, most dragons are wild caught. They almost always carry some parasites as these are naturally occurring in the wild. However the stress of a new home may cause them to flair up. Taking a fecal sample to your local exotic vet can identify any present parasites and they can recommend treatment if needed. If you observe worms in the stools, decreased appetite, lethargy, weight loss, take a sample to the vet to ensure these parasites have not flared up again. Following the recommendations in this guide should keep you from further vet visits, but if you are concerned with your dragons health it is always best to seek a exotic vets opinion.
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.