Apistogramma hongsloi

Colorful male Apistogramma hongsloi that is not highly domesticated

Apistogramma hongsloi (A110 – A115) are fairly robust dwarf cichlids from the tropical lowlands in the eastern parts of Columbia. They are closely related to Apistogramma macmasteri and make good aquarium inhabitants. Several color varieties have been developed by commercial breeders in Europe and some of these strains are regularly available.

Apistogramma hongsloi in the wild

photo of head-on view of an Apistogramma hongsloi male

Apistogramma hongsloi are found in tributaries of Rio Orinoco in Brazil and Venezuela. This includes a lot of geographic area and several distinct forms are found in different tributaries. Most of these forms differ in coloration but seem similar in all other respects. These forms are given names by adding an additional name to “A. cf. hongsloi“. The various forms originate in waters that are not commonly collected and a lot of field and lab work will be required to understand the relationships.

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Apistogramma hongsloi varieties

Some popular color strains of A. hongsloi are among the most colorful of all freshwater fish. These strains are entirely domestic and are the result of extensive line breeding. It’s also possible that specialized foods are utilized to attain the brilliant reds and yellows. It’s been reported that the most colorful imports are raised on a diet of cyclops, a tiny crustacean rich in color-enhancing pigments.

photo of intensively colored domesticated male Apistogramma hongsloi
This male A hongsloi shows how intensively colored some strains are. This fish came from a European breeder who focused on developing the most colorful strain possible.

Wild forms of Apistogramma hongsloi aren’t nearly as colorful as the domesticated strains and wild forms are rarely imported to the USA. There is confusion as to the exact nature of the various color forms that exist in the wild. In fact, as of 2022, Mike Wise lists 8 different named A. cf hongsloi forms. A. hongsloi itself is a valid and identifiable species and is the type for the hongsloi complex of the macmasteri group of Apistogrammas. They were introduced into the aquarium hobby as Apistogramma sp. rostrich and in 1979 were formally described by Dr. Sven Kullander.

Buying Apistogramma hongsloi

Colorful strains of Apistogramma hongsloi are regularly imported from European breeders and specialty retailers often have A. hongsloi for sale. (Please note that this “often” is by Apisto standards and you might have to search and/or wait if you want these beauties). A. hongsloi are often offered for sale by online apisto dealers. Visit How to Buy Apistogrammas for more information.

photo of young male Apistogramma hongsloi wild form
This is a young male of a wild form of A. hongsloi

Wild Apistogramma hongsloi are rarely imported. Like many species, in some years there are none and in other years they may be offered. There are several different forms that come from different waters and any given batch of wild A. hongsloi can exhibit a variety of colorations. While I’ve never seen live specimens, photos of some of the variants of A. cf. hongsloi are among the most beautiful Apistos I’ve ever seen.

Apistogramma hongsloi in the aquarium

Apistogramma hongsloi are generally easy to care for and require no extraordinary conditions. If possible, give them a sand substrate and a complex habitat of rocks, sticks, plants, leaves, and other items. Make sure to have multiple sheltered areas and reduce the sight lines in the tank to reduce aggression.

photo of a group of young Apistogramma hongsloi
These are young adult A. hongsloi. They are still small but they can reliably be sexed.

Clean water of neutral to moderately acid pH is appreciated. A temperature of 76 – 78 seems to be fine. Feeding is usually without problems. All live and frozen foods are readily taken and they will accept most prepared foods.

Pairs are usually good parents and typical Apistogramma breeding techniques are usually successful. Keep reading for a personal account of one of my spawnings.

Apistogramma cf. hongsloi – breeding report

Photo of wild male APistogramma hongsloi
This wild male Apistogramma cf. hongsloi is of unknown origin. There are many different variants of this species and there is much still to be learned about the different forms. This strain has coloration and markings that are spread across the cf. forms identified as A110 – A 115 but none are an exact match and it’s likely this is an unidentified strain.

In late December 2006, I placed a pair of wild A. cf. hongsloi of unknown origin in a homemade breeding tank of about 7 gallons. The tank measures about 23″L x 7″W x 8″H so it is quite long in relation to wide. I added about 3/4 inch of fine sand on the bottom and placed several broken pots for caves along with several large rocks placed to divide the sight lines in the tank. I added several watersprite plants anchored with small stones and several clumps of java moss. Finally, I added a couple of handfuls of Oak leaves.

It didn’t take long for the pair to settle in and within a couple of days, the female had nearly sealed herself into one of the caves. The male seemed oblivious and enjoyed the tank. After 8 days the female began to bring the fry out of the cave.

On the first day they were still living on their yolk sacs and did very little swimming and made no attempt to feed. However, by the second day, the mother was shepherding the fry around the tank under the close observation of the male. He was an active partner in brood care and the female welcomed him into the shoal of fry. After several weeks the female began to make a few courtship displays to the male but never was there any aggression between them.

photo of newly emerged fry
On the first day they emerged the fry were not truly free swimming. They never moved far from the mouth of the cave and they made no attempts to swim or feed.
Apistogramma hongsloi female with fry
At two days, the fry stay in a close batch surrounding the female. At this size, they can be seen picking at rocks and plants gathering the microscopic food items that get them off to a great start.
closeup photo of two-day-old Apistogramma hongsloi fry
Two-day-old A. hongsloi fry. At this stage, they have begun to actively explore their environment and are eagerly taking live baby brine shrimp and micro worms.
Female Apistogramma hongsloi with 5-day-old fry
 At five days the fry are obviously growing rapidly. These fish were fed twice a day; alternating baby brine shrimp and micro worms.
7-week-old Apistogramma hongsloi
At 7 weeks the fry have been separated from the parents and are becoming very independent juveniles. They are already skirmishing to establish a pecking order.  

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.