Sailfin Dragons

(Hydrosaurus sp.)

 "BrightLights" One of our Webbers Sailfin  males at 1 year old

Sailfin dragons are native to the Philippine and Indonesian islands. At one time, the Philippine Sailfin (H. pustulata) from the mainland of the Philippines was the most readily available species (yet still uncommon), followed by intergrades of the Indonesian Sailfin (H. amboinensis) from neighboring islands in Indonesia, with the Webers Sailfin (H. webberi), primarily from the Moluccas islands, being the rarest. A somewhat reverse of that tend seems to be true today. The populations of Webers and Indonesians tend to intergrade on the various islands and may just be one species which tends to vary in form from island to island. Keep that in mind when thinking about getting a Sailfin as not all specimens sold as "Webers" will develop the bright colors and neck crests you might be expecting to get. All Sailfins are relatively large lizards, reaching 3' plus in many individuals. As the scientific name suggests, they are water lovers but generally are a semi- arboreal group that simply likes to take a brief daily swim. They're generally skittish as juvies or when first coming to a new home, but many seem to calm down with time and maturity. Check out Scott Corning's website ( for more detailed information on their care.



Webers Sailfins

(H. weberi )

 Our Webers group at 1 year old (H. weberi) Yearling male Webers (H. weberi)

I've always thought Sailfins were stunning lizards, especially the Webers - essentially being a stronger patterned, more refined Plumed Basilisk on steroids!  But the few wild collected specimens most often available always seem to be subadults and in such poor condition that I've never followed though on working with any. Finally, a few hatchlings became available in late winter 2010 so I decided it was time to try my hand at them. I picked up two unsexed Webbers that ultimately proved to be males. They thrived from day 1 and  exceeded all my expectations. We purchased another small group of similar age Webbers to try to come up with some true pairs for breeding. We got talked out of the group in early 2012 (in trade for some Gila's which I've always wanted and couldn't say no to) and our Webbers pen is now home to a trio of Banana Iguanas.  If I can find some really bright ones to revisit the project, I will.

Both sexes of true Webbers start out dark green with broken dark yellowish stripes. This gradually develops into a very attractive bright green and greenish-yellow reticulated pattern in a generally reticulated pattern all over the body. The males go on to develop a round half-wheel neck crest along with a moderate back fin that runs the length of the back. This takes a brief break at the hips then develops into a large sail running along the upper 2/3's of the tail.  Depending on which island they originated from, this coloration and pattern can also include much drabber greens with minimal reticulation and/or sporting shorter neck crests. While ours started out a little flighty, overall they settled in well, getting noticeably calmer with time and maturity. We hope to have access to a few ranched juvies off and on for resale if you're interested, so let us know if you're looking to work with these guys.




Philippine Sailfin

(H. pustulata )

 Philippine male (photo by R Grundy at Daytona 2007)  


The better known and more dramatically finned Sailfin is the Philippine Sailfin dragon (H. pustulatus). While the females tend to resemble a greatly subdued version of a Webbers female, you'll never confuse the adult males. Philippine males turn a medium brown to greenish brown to even deep charcoal, all with bright blue and purple "jewel" spots running along the neck, jaw and throat. Additional blue spots are scattered in rows along their sides and dorsal spines while the upper chest and arm area is often uniformly blue to purple. Webbers seem to have the best neck crests (IMHO) but Philippines generally develop the most dramatic back and tail sails. Their builds are stockier than the Webbers, and overall they are a slightly larger species. Our one adolescent pair proved too shy for our tastes and we let them go.  The adults vary a lot in looks and few turn out al that nice IMHO so I probably won't revisit the Phillipines.

In theory a few captive born pure H. amboinensis show up from time to time but we've only seen them once. These were the nicest sailfins I'd ever seen but couldn't justify the cost to get a group at the time. I truly hope ones this nice come my way again!


At this time we have no Sailfins in-house and will not likely have any in the near future. They are on our back burner as far as projects and I don't currentlly have the free cage space to get a group setup at the moment.  If some exceptionally colorful ones come my way, I'll make an exception, but otherwise this project is on indefinite hold.






Copyright 1992-2015 by  Douglas Dix. All rights reserved for all photos and text