Frilled Dragons are arboreal lizards meaning they dwell up high in the trees. In order to replicate this in captivity they will need a tall enclosure with a minimum of 4 feet high. They also need plenty of running space which would require an enclosure no shorter than 3 feet long and a depth of 2 feet. As you can see, their enclosure is no 20 gal tank you keep your leopard gecko in. They need something roughly the size of a wardrobe closet or a standard refrigerator which most people can not accommodate in their homes. To add onto the difficulty, enclosures of that size are not easy to come by pre-made. If you happen to find one of the proper size they usually cost well over $2000 for it too. There is always the option of building your own but many people do not like to do this. Cage decor is something that is actually needed for Frilled Dragons. They require plants to hide in and behind and vertical and horizontal basking spots. Decor is not cheap and something as simple as a small bunch of leaves can cost about $10. This is usually the first problem people encounter when they buy a Frilled Dragon without research or thinking things through.
The diet of a Frilled Dragon is another thing to consider before you purchase one. They are mainly insectivores but will occasionally chow down on a pinky or fuzzy mouse and they may even willingly eat plant matter too. As babies they will consume usually between 30-100 or more insects a day until they are about a year to a year and a half. As they grow their protein intake slows down and they can be offered smaller quantities of food though. During that year to year and a half you will be spending a lot of money on bugs to feed your dragon. For example, crickets usually run at about .12 a piece at most pet stores or $10 per 1000 that you buy online. Now with, let's say on average, 40 bugs a day at .12 a piece for a year that comes out to quite a bit of money and that number could definitely be higher too. The cost of feeders is going up too because of a recent cricket virus wiping out every brown cricket captive in the US and Canada. Other feeders are not as cheap. Silkworms, hornworms and roaches are close to $1 a piece depending on the place you get them from and that can definitely add up quick.
Humidity levels are something that even the most experienced keepers have trouble with. It's something Frilled Dragons need a lot of since they are considered tropical lizards. The trouble is getting 65-77% humidity in a giant enclosure and then also allowing some time in between to let it get to 50%. If it is too humid for too long you run the risk of your dragon getting a Respiratory Infection and if it's too dry he will likely have difficulty shedding and become dehydrated which could lead to other health issues. There are many methods of keeping the humidity but when it all comes down to it, buying a misting system is your best bet and those can run in the hundreds for one that will actually do a good job. The key is to find a good balance between "wet" and "dry" seasons in the enclosure.
Frilled Dragons are diurnal which means they are active during the day and that means they require both a heat light and a UVB or MVB for simulated sunlight. MVBs and UVBs are not cheap bulbs that can be bought at the hardware store like hat bulbs can. These bulbs can run anywhere from $20 to close to $80 depending on the kind you get and where you get it. Certain kinds need to be replaced every 6 months while the more expensive kinds (MVBs) can last up to a year or year and a half. Also, there is a very limited market on suitable bulbs for Frilled Dragons. At the moment there is only 1 suitable florescent tube UVB (the Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0) and only 2 suitable mercury vapor bulbs (MVB) which are the MegaRay and the T-Rex Active UV. Frilled Dragons require no less than a 12 hour light period which can jack up your electric bill pretty quick.
Frilled Dragons, while related to Bearded Dragons to not tame down as easily if at all. Frilled Dragons are naturally timid and skittish. You will have to dedicate at least 2 months to properly taming and handling your Frilled Dragon in order for it to trust you and not run away every time you go near it. Many people will get discouraged that they aren't always as outgoing as people would like them to be. It is possible to have one as tame as a Leopard Gecko or a Bearded Dragon but it takes a lot of time and work. It is a slow process in most cases and many people will give up and you will be stuck with either a very timid and sky animal or an aggressive one. Getting bitten doesn't hurt too bad but no matter what it isn't a pleasant experience and it can be pretty much completely avoided.
Last and definitely not least is the cost for a Vet. It is always wise to have annual checkups done by a reputable Reptile Specialist Vet. The price for just a visit can be more or less around $75 and anything done at that visit is extra. With Frilled Dragons, chances are you will have to make at least 1 trip to the Vet a year. Many Frilled Dragons like to do what they call "sulking" where they will go on hunger strikes for random periods of time. During this time you may seek a vet for help to get him to eat again. Also with Frilled Dragons there are many wild specimen or poorly farmed specimen being sold in the market. They usually come with a list of issues and many don't survive or they will have you at the vet every other month. They key is to get a specimen that is labeled CBB or captive bred and born.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you are ready to own a Frilled Dragon:
- I can dedicate 12-14 hours of heat and UV a day?
- I can supply my Frilled Dragon proper amounts of food ranging from 40 to 100+ bugs a day?
- I can supply a minimum of 4'H x 3'L x 2' D enclosure fully furnished with vertical basking spots and foliage to seek shelter in?
- I have a reputable Reptile Vet nearby for annual checkups and emergencies?
- I am capable of providing proper humidity levels so that my dragon does not develop health problems?
- I have the time and patience to dedicate to properly taming and handling my Frilled Dragon?
- I understand that Frilled Dragons may not be as outgoing or friendly as other lizards like Leopard Geckos and Bearded Dragons?
- I have an income that can support all of the above needs and more?