You are hereMountain Horned Dragon, Acanthosaura ssp.

Mountain Horned Dragon, Acanthosaura ssp.


Mountain Horned Dragons, also known as Prinklenapes occur in Southern China to Sumatra. MTDs are small lizards, generally not exceeding 12 inches from head to tail. Most of them are shades of brown, however green specimens do occur. Within reason, Mountain Dragons are capable of changing their color as well, or more like the intensity of their color. They are found in cool, humid mountain forests, most often they are hidden in the branches and foliage. Primarily diurnal, they spend their day foraging for arthropods, or waiting to ambush a passing insect. They are not generally aggressive, which has led to an increase in their popularity over the last several years.

Acclimation and Quarantine

Some MTDs can be difficult to acclimate. Because of the stress from being captured and imported to the country, most will require treatment for internal parasites. A major problem has to do with the fact that wild-caught animals harbor tremendous parasite loads, which, in a natural environment, are easily dealt with. However, the stress of importation can suppress the lizard's immune system, in turn allowing the parasites to gain an upper hand on the health of the MTD. Wild caught animals should therefore be treated for parasites as soon as possible after purchase.

Fresh imports are also often severely dehydrated. I have gathered a few ways to combat this issue. One way is to allow the lizard to lie on a branch in the shower with lukewarm water. This should be done as soon as the lizard is home. Be sure to supervise during these times to ensure that the MTD does not get away. Another way is to place it in a bucket or other enclosed space filled to about one inch with lukewarm water. This method is very effective as the MTD will often drink during these sessions. A large water dish should be present in the cage at all times.

Quarantine and acclimation enclosures do not need to be elaborate. Instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly imported lizard. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A few simple branches or pieces of doweling can provide climbing opportunities, and a small plastic container could be used as the water bowl. A hide of some sort, and foliage should also be incorporated into the quarantine enclosure. This setup should be used until the MTD is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.


After the Mountain Horned Dragon is acclimated and feeding well it may be put into a permanent cage. Horned Dragons don’t require very large enclosures. However, ample vertical space is a necessity as these lizards are mostly arboreal in their habits and will require such room to climb. A cage that is about 24” x 24” x 24” (L x W x H) is a minimum size for an individual or pair, but slightly larger enclosures are usually better. Glass enclosures can be used, but are not the best choice for this species. To ensure that the lizard feels secure, a cage with at least five opaque sides is recommended. Wooden cages are a better alternative than glass cages because of the heightened security, but the high humidity needed for these lizards can wear on wooden cages after a while. By far, the best cages for this species are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand the high humidity needed within the habitat. Such cages are also usually inexpensive and attractive.

Branches are very important in furnishing the enclosure as this lizard will spend most of it's time in the perches and almost never descends to the bottom of the cage. There should numerous branches located through out the enclosure. They should be able to access any point in the cage by way of branches. Arboreal hides should also be placed in the branches to provide the MTD with a sense of security in their arboreal habits. They should be placed at multiple levels to provide the dragon with a thermal gradient. Mountain Horns greatly prefer arboreal hides to those on the ground, so I highly recommend arboreal hides. Large amounts of foliage should be added to the cage to provide the snake with more places to hide. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable.

Lighting and Heating

Provide a basking spot for Mountain Horned Dragons that is between 78 - 85 degrees F at the most. They are indigenous to mountains that have much cooler temperatures, and if over heated, could easily lead to the death of the MTD. With that said, be sure to have a temperature gradient also to allow them to cool down when they get too warm. The opposite end of the tank should be 70 - 75 degrees. Night time temps can drop to 65 degrees, perhaps cooler, but not needed. Incandescent lights may also be used as a heat source. They are available in a wide selection of wattages, so the right level of heat for the basking spot can usually be found and then controlled with a thermostat as required. One may also choose to utilize ceramic heat emitters for larger enclosures. They can be used at night without emitting light that would otherwise disrupt the dragon's photoperiod. These should also be used with a thermostat to control the temperature.

Since Mountain Horned Dragons live in the forests under dense canopy, their need for UVB is often times questioned. Many sun loving, basking lizards need UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be metabolized. These animals that are not exposed to UVB can develop Metabolic Bone Disease. If MBD isn't treated in a timely fashion, skeletal deformities, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur. For that reason, I use compact flouresent lights that produce UVB. They do not produce a lot of heat, and there is no evidence that exposing any reptile to UV is harmful. Its best to be safe than sorry.


Mountain Horned Dragons thrive in environments with high humidity, and if the appropriate humidity is not created the MTD could experience health problems. To achieve the necessary humidity, I simply spray the cage once a day with fresh water and provide a fresh water bowl of the appropriate size. When spraying the cage it is important to make sure that the substrate remains damp but not soggy. If too much humidity is present, the lizard could develop problems with its scales or a respiratory infection. The ideal humidity range would be between 60-80%, but moments above and below this range are acceptable for short periods of time. The water bowl should be kept clean and full of water at times.


Mountain Horned Dragons are mostly insectivores and will thrive on a diet of insects. Large adults may also be offered the occasional pinky.

Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed crickets as fast as the dragon will consume them in a few minute time span. Feed them 2-3 times daily appropriately sized crickets, no larger than the width between the eyes of the dragon. Dusting crickets with a calcium supplement is essentinal to the rapid growth of baby horned dragons. Dust your crickets every day or every other day. A vitamin supplement is important as well. Provide vitamins once or twice a week. Adults can be fed every other day.

Crickets should be gut-loaded to make them more nutritious. There are a lot of gut load products on the market or you can feed your crickets fresh vegetable and fruits. They will actually eat anything you give them such as cat, dog and fish food. What ever you choose to gut load your crickets with, be sure to offer them variety. What ever your crickets eat... your lizard eats as well.

Other bugs for your dragon include but are not limited to Silk worms, Wax worms, Phoenix worms, Roaches, Meal worms and Super worms.


A dish of fresh water should always be available. MTD don't drink from standing water often, but it will aid in keeping the humidity raised. New imports and hatchlings almost never drink from water dishes and must be misted or sprayed, as they will lap the water droplets off of the glass and decor of the tank. One may also choose to offer water directly to the dragon via a pipette. I have been able to "teach" my MTDs to drink from a dish of water by placing a cricket in the water dish. After several times of feeding them in this manner, they may eventually start to drink from the dish.