This manual describes the ArangoDB importer arangoimp, which can be used for bulk imports.

The most convenient method to import a lot of data into ArangoDB is to use the arangoimp command-line tool. It allows you to import data records from a file into an existing database collection.

It is possible to import document keys with the documents using the _key attribute. When importing into an edge collection, it is mandatory that all imported documents have the _from and _to attributes, and that they contain valid references.

Let's assume for the following examples you want to import user data into an existing collection named "users" on the server.

Importing Data into an ArangoDB Database

Importing JSON-encoded Data

Let's further assume the import at hand is encoded in JSON. We'll be using these example user records to import:

{ "name" : { "first" : "John", "last" : "Connor" }, "active" : true, "age" : 25, "likes" : [ "swimming"] }
{ "name" : { "first" : "Jim", "last" : "O'Brady" }, "age" : 19, "likes" : [ "hiking", "singing" ] }
{ "name" : { "first" : "Lisa", "last" : "Jones" }, "dob" : "1981-04-09", "likes" : [ "running" ] }

To import these records, all you need to do is to put them into a file (with one line for each record to import) and run the following command:

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --type json --collection "users"

This will transfer the data to the server, import the records, and print a status summary. To show the intermediate progress during the import process, the option --progress can be added. This option will show the percentage of the input file that has been sent to the server. This will only be useful for big import files.

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --type json --collection users --progress true

It is also possible to use the output of another command as an input for arangoimp. For example, the following shell command can be used to pipe data from the cat process to arangoimp:

> cat data.json | arangoimp --file - --type json --collection users

Note that you have to use --file - if you want to use another command as input for arangoimp. No progress can be reported for such imports as the size of the input will be unknown to arangoimp.

By default, the endpoint tcp:// will be used. If you want to specify a different endpoint, you can use the --server.endpoint option. You probably want to specify a database user and password as well. You can do so by using the options --server.username and --server.password. If you do not specify a password, you will be prompted for one.

> arangoimp --server.endpoint tcp:// --server.username root --file "data.json" --type json --collection "users"

Note that the collection (users in this case) must already exist or the import will fail. If you want to create a new collection with the import data, you need to specify the --create-collection option. Note that by default it will create a document collection and no ede collection.

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --type json --collection "users" --create-collection true

To create an edge collection instead, use the --create-collection-type option and set it to edge:

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --collection "myedges" --create-collection true --create-collection-type edge

When importing data into an existing collection it is often convenient to first remove all data from the collection and then start the import. This can be achieved by passing the --overwrite parameter to arangoimp. If it is set to true, any existing data in the collection will be removed prior to the import. Note that any existing index definitions for the collection will be preserved even if --overwrite is set to true.

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --type json --collection "users" --overwrite true

As the import file already contains the data in JSON format, attribute names and data types are fully preserved. As can be seen in the example data, there is no need for all data records to have the same attribute names or types. Records can be inhomogeneous.

Please note that by default, arangoimp will import data into the specified collection in the default database (_system). To specify a different database, use the --server.database option when invoking arangoimp.

JSON input file formats

Note: arangoimp supports two formats when importing JSON data from a file. The first format (also used above) requires the input file to contain one complete JSON document in each line, e.g.

{ "_key": "one", "value": 1 }
{ "_key": "two", "value": 2 }
{ "_key": "foo", "value": "bar" }

The above format can be imported sequentially by arangoimp. It will read data from the input file in chunks and send it in batches to the server. Each batch will be about as big as specified in the command-line parameter --batch-size.

An alternative is to put one big JSON document into the input file like this:

  { "_key": "one", "value": 1 },
  { "_key": "two", "value": 2 },
  { "_key": "foo", "value": "bar" },

This format allows line breaks within the input file as required. The downside is that the whole input file will need to be read by arangoimp before it can send the first batch. This might be a problem if the input file is big. By default, arangoimp will allow importing such files up to a size of about 16 MB.

If you want to allow your arangoimp instance to use more memory, you may want to increase the maximum file size by specifying the command-line option --batch-size. For example, to set the batch size to 32 MB, use the following command:

> arangoimp --file "data.json" --type json --collection "users" --batch-size 33554432

Please also note that you may need to increase the value of --batch-size if a single document inside the input file is bigger than the value of --batch-size.

Importing CSV Data

arangoimp also offers the possibility to import data from CSV files. This comes handy when the data at hand is in CSV format already and you don't want to spend time converting them to JSON for the import.

To import data from a CSV file, make sure your file contains the attribute names in the first row. All the following lines in the file will be interpreted as data records and will be imported.

The CSV import requires the data to have a homogeneous structure. All records must have exactly the same amount of columns as there are headers.

The cell values can have different data types though. If a cell does not have any value, it can be left empty in the file. These values will not be imported so the attributes will not "be there" in document created. Values enclosed in quotes will be imported as strings, so to import numeric values, boolean values or the null value, don't enclose the value in quotes in your file.

We'll be using the following import for the CSV import:

Hans,dos Santos,0123,,

The command line to execute the import is:

> arangoimp --file "data.csv" --type csv --collection "users"

The above data will be imported into 5 documents which will look as follows:

{ "first" : "John", "last" : "Connor", "active" : true, "age" : 25 } 
{ "first" : "Jim", "last" : "O'Brady", "age" : 19 }
{ "first" : "Lisa", "last" : "Jones", "dob" : "1981-04-09" } 
{ "first" : "Hans", "last" : "dos Santos", "age" : 123 } 
{ "first" : "Wayne", "last" : "Brewer", "active" : false }

As can be seen, values left completely empty in the input file will be treated as absent. Numeric values not enclosed in quotes will be treated as numbers. Note that leading zeros in numeric values will be removed. To import numbers with leading zeros, please use strings. The literals true and false will be treated as booleans if they are not enclosed in quotes. Other values not enclosed in quotes will be treated as strings. Any values enclosed in quotes will be treated as strings, too.

String values containing the quote character or the separator must be enclosed with quote characters. Within a string, the quote character itself must be escaped with another quote character (or with a backslash if the --backslash-escape option is used).

Note that the quote and separator characters can be adjusted via the --quote and --separator arguments when invoking arangoimp. The quote character defaults to the double quote ("). To use a literal quote in a string, you can use two quote characters. To use backslash for escaping quote characters, please set the option --backslash-escape to true.

The importer supports Windows (CRLF) and Unix (LF) line breaks. Line breaks might also occur inside values that are enclosed with the quote character.

Here's an example for using literal quotes and newlines inside values:

this is a
multine password!"
"Bartholomew ""Bart"" Simpson","Milhouse"

Extra whitespace at the end of each line will be ignored. Whitespace at the start of lines or between field values will not be ignored, so please make sure that there is no extra whitespace in front of values or between them.

Importing TSV Data

You may also import tab-separated values (TSV) from a file. This format is very simple: every line in the file represents a data record. There is no quoting or escaping. That also means that the separator character (which defaults to the tabstop symbol) must not be used anywhere in the actual data.

As with CSV, the first line in the TSV file must contain the attribute names, and all lines must have an identical number of values.

If a different separator character or string should be used, it can be specified with the --separator argument.

An example command line to execute the TSV import is:

> arangoimp --file "data.tsv" --type tsv --collection "users" 

Importing into an Edge Collection

arangoimp can also be used to import data into an existing edge collection. The import data must, for each edge to import, contain at least the _from and _to attributes. These indicate which other two documents the edge should connect. It is necessary that these attributes are set for all records, and point to valid document ids in existing collections.


{ "_from" : "users/1234", "_to" : "users/4321", "desc" : "1234 is connected to 4321" }

Note: The edge collection must already exist when the import is started. Using the --create-collection flag will not work because arangoimp will always try to create a regular document collection if the target collection does not exist.

Updating existing documents

By default, arangoimp will try to insert all documents from the import file into the specified collection. In case the import file contains documents that are already present in the target collection (matching is done via the _key attributes), then a default arangoimp run will not import these documents and complain about unique key constraint violations.

However, arangoimp can be used to update or replace existing documents in case they already exist in the target collection. It provides the command-line option --on-duplicate to control the behavior in case a document is already present in the database.

The default value of --on-duplicate is error. This means that when the import file contains a document that is present in the target collection already, then trying to re-insert a document with the same _key value is considered an error, and the document in the database will not be modified.

Other possible values for --on-duplicate are:

  • update: each document present in the import file that is also present in the target collection already will be updated by arangoimp. update will perform a partial update of the existing document, modifying only the attributes that are present in the import file and leaving all other attributes untouched.

    The values of system attributes _id, _key, _rev, _from and _to cannot be updated or replaced in existing documents.

  • replace: each document present in the import file that is also present in the target collection already will be replace by arangoimp. replace will replace the existing document entirely, resulting in a document with only the attributes specified in the import file.

    The values of system attributes _id, _key, _rev, _from and _to cannot be updated or replaced in existing documents.

  • ignore: each document present in the import file that is also present in the target collection already will be ignored and not modified in the target collection.

When --on-duplicate is set to either update or replace, arangoimp will return the number of documents updated/replaced in the updated return value. When set to another value, the value of updated will always be zero. When --on-duplicate is set to ignore, arangoimp will return the number of ignored documents in the ignored return value. When set to another value, ignored will always be zero.

It is possible to perform a combination of inserts and updates/replaces with a single arangoimp run. When --on-duplicate is set to update or replace, all documents present in the import file will be inserted into the target collection provided they are valid and do not already exist with the specified _key. Documents that are already present in the target collection (identified by _key attribute) will instead be updated/replaced.

Arangoimp result output

An arangoimp import run will print out the final results on the command line. It will show the

  • number of documents created (created)
  • number of documents updated/replaced (updated/replaced, only non-zero if --on-duplicate was set to update or replace, see below)
  • number of warnings or errors that occurred on the server side (warnings/errors)
  • number of ignored documents (only non-zero if --on-duplicate was set to ignore).


created:          2
warnings/errors:  0
updated/replaced: 0
ignored:          0

For CSV and TSV imports, the total number of input file lines read will also be printed (lines read).

arangoimp will also print out details about warnings and errors that happened on the server-side (if any).

Attribute Naming and Special Attributes

Attributes whose names start with an underscore are treated in a special way by ArangoDB:

  • the optional _key attribute contains the document's key. If specified, the value must be formally valid (e.g. must be a string and conform to the naming conventions). Additionally, the key value must be unique within the collection the import is run for.
  • _from: when importing into an edge collection, this attribute contains the id of one of the documents connected by the edge. The value of _from must be a syntactically valid document id and the referred collection must exist.
  • _to: when importing into an edge collection, this attribute contains the id of the other document connected by the edge. The value of _to must be a syntactically valid document id and the referred collection must exist.
  • _rev: this attribute contains the revision number of a document. However, the revision numbers are managed by ArangoDB and cannot be specified on import. Thus any value in this attribute is ignored on import.

If you import values into _key, you should make sure they are valid and unique.

When importing data into an edge collection, you should make sure that all import documents can _from and _to and that their values point to existing documents.

To avoid specifying complete document ids (consisting of collection names and document keys) for _from and _to values, there are the options --from-collection-prefix and --to-collection-prefix. If specified, these values will be automatically prepended to each value in _from (or _to resp.). This allows specifying only document keys inside _from and/or _to.


> arangoimp --from-collection-prefix users --to-collection-prefix products ...

Importing the following document will then create an edge between users/1234 and products/4321:

{ "_from" : "1234", "_to" : "4321", "desc" : "users/1234 is connected to products/4321" }