Python sqlite3 gotchas

If you’re using sqlite3 for Python be aware it uses transactions by default. I didn’t realise this, and it caught me out a treat. So, if you want to save yourself a few hours of debugging, take note!

Before every INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE/REPLACE statement, Python’s sqlite3 implicitly opens a transaction. It automatically commits before a non-query statement, e.g. before a CREATE TABLE or similar. This is pretty cool, as if an exception or whatever’s thrown while you’re inserting data, the database state won’t be affected.

But it’s not so cool when you do something like:

import sqlite3
# Create and populate a database
db = sqlite3.connect('temp.db')
db.execute("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS test(id int, \
            data text)")
db.execute("INSERT INTO test(id, data) VALUES(1, \

# Reopen the database and read out all the rows
db = sqlite3.connect('temp.db')
print db.execute("SELECT * FROM test").fetchall()

Doing this will have you scratching your head going, “Why is my database empty? I’m sure I put something in it!” Indeed you did, but because you didn’t commit the data (or have Python automatically do it for you), the data is rolled back and lost.

So the lesson here is either db.commit() manually at the relevant points (before closing the database in this case), or create the connection with a None isolation_level:

db = sqlite3.connect('temp.db', isolation_level=None)
Filed under: Coding
Posted at 16:35:00 GMT on 4th November 2007.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago for Aquatic