Apistogramma hoignei

Apistogramma hoignei (A116, A118) is a rarely seen dwarf cichlid that comes from the Orinoco basin in Venezuela. They are closely related to Apistogramma macmasteri and are easy to keep and breed. Unfortunately, they are rarely available in the USA.

Introduction to Apistogramma hoignei

A. hoignei is one of a number of species found throughout a broad swath of landscapes. There are two forms of A. hoignei identified as A116 & A118 while the very similar Apistogramma cf. hoignei “Arauca” has been designated A117. In 2011, several new species were described that are obviously closely related to A. hoignei however, to the best of my knowledge, none of these are in the hobby. In total, there are at least 6 identified forms of A. hoignei and A. cf. hoignei. (For more information about A numbers and Apistogramma groups see our section on Apistogramma classification and naming.

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photo of Apistogramma hoignei male
Although a plant is in the middle, this male shows the distinctive colors on his tail as well as dark spots near his head.

Apistogramma hoignei is found in tributaries to the Rio Orinoco in Columbia and Venezuela. They are associated with leaf litter and dense vegetation which provide shelter. A. hoignei are often captured in waters with pH values between 6.5 and 7.0. They are larger than many Apistos with some males reaching 3 1/2 inches.

What’s in a name?

Apistogramma hoignei is in the macmasteri complex within the A. macmasteri group. Like the other macmasteri complex members, Apistogramma hoignei is a fairly robust Apisto. The species was first described by Meinken in 1965 from what he believed was a pair of fish. It turns out that they were not a pair but that is only part of the tale.

The story begins in the spring of 1964 when the fish collector Leo Hoigne captured the fish from the Rio Apuré in the Venezuelan state of Guérico. Hoigne shipped the fish to Albert Klee who was the prominent American editor of the well-known magazine The Aquarium. Klee subsequently preserved the “pair” and sent them to Meinken who honored the collector by naming them Apistogramma hoignei 

As part of his 1979 revision of the genus, Apistogramma Dr. Sven Kullander reexamined the original “pair” upon which Meinken based his description. Kullander discovered that the fish were not a pair, but actually two females. Females of the macmasteri complex are very difficult to tell apart but, through careful examination, Kullander was able to establish that A. hoignei was a valid species. However, it was not in the hobby at the time and it was the mid-1990s before the species became more available.

photo of two male Apistogramma hoignei displaying in mock combat
These two male Apistogramma hoignei often spent hours sparring with each other. Although they often put on amazing displays, they never did damage to each other. 


Identifying Apistogramma hoignei

photo showing just the tailof a male Apistogramma hoignei
This close-up of an Apistogramma hoignei tail shows the black and red upper and lower margins as well as the slight lyrate shape

As is expected of a fish that inhabits a large geographic area with lots of habitat types and has numerous similar species and forms, Apistogramma hoignei exhibits a lot of variability in coloration and finnage. Male A. hoignei are typically identified by their caudal fin (tail) which usually sports distinctive colorful edges on the top and bottom of the lyrate-shaped fin. Solid red or black edges are common and some populations have both red and black.

In addition to their distinctively marked caudal fins, the males of some populations of A. hoignei sport a tall serrated dorsal fin. Most exhibit dark markings on their face but this is not a reliable diagnostic feature. If you ever need identification assistance for a hoignei-type fish just reach out to the community at Apistogramma.com.

Aquarium Care

Apistogramma hoignei has never been a common species in North America. In fact, it’s often many years between times when it’s available. It seems like it would be a good species for long-term maintenance as it is fairly undemanding of water, easy to feed, and easy to breed. The species has been collected in a variety of water types and I’ve seen breeding accounts that describe success under a wide variety of conditions. In my experience, the species is easy to keep and breed. Follow the basic instructions for breeding Apistogrammas and you should have success.

I kept A. hoignei for a number of years in the 1990s. The population I had exhibited a lot of yellow colors on the males and only faintly colored bands on the edges of the caudal. In addition, my strain only exhibited minor dorsal fin extensions and only slightly lyrate caudal fins. However, they were great fish, attractive, not too aggressive, and undemanding of food and water. Unfortunately, I failed to keep my population going but I will be sure to get this species again if I have the chance.

photo of adult male Apistogramma hoignei
This male does not exhibit the extended dorsal lappets that some populations possess. The yellow colors on the face and anterior portions of the body are typical. However, the diagnostic colored margins on the top and bottom of the caudal are not prominent on this fish.

How to buy A. hoignei

As with many of the uncommon species, there is no reliable way I know of to buy A. hoignei. It’s often years between seeing them on anyone’s list. Reach out to the online fish sellers who import and let them know you are looking. It’s always possible they will become available. Our Guide to buying Apistogrammas has a lot more information on where to look.

Essential Articles About Apistogrammas
The Genus Apistogramma
Apistogramma Aquarium Care
Breeding Apistogrammas
Understanding Apistogramma Classification and Identification
Live Plants in the Apistogramma Aquarium
How and Where to Buy Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids


Most of the information I provide on this website comes from books and websites. While I don’t provide specific citations, these are the sources for most of my information.
South American Books:
Mergus Cichlid Atlas Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Dr. Uwe Römer
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Rainer Stawikowski, I. Koslowski and V. Bohnet
Die Buntbarsche Amerikas Band 2 Apistogramma & Co. by Ingo Koslowski, Translation by Mike Wise
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Hans J. Mayland & Dieter Bork
American Cichlids I – Dwarf Cichlids by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
West African Books:
The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa by Anton Lamboj
African Cichlids I – Cichlids From West Africa by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
Apisto sites – the home page of Tom C – Global authority for identification and classification of apistogrammas
Apistogramma.com – An excellent international forum with expert members who gladly share their knowledge.
Much more information is available in our complete exploration of dwarf cichlid information resources.