Why is iterating through a large Django QuerySet consuming massive amounts of memory?

Why is iterating through a large Django QuerySet consuming massive amounts of memory?

The table in question contains roughly ten million rows.
for event in Event.objects.all():
    print event

This causes memory usage to increase steadily to 4 GB or so, at which point the rows print rapidly. The lengthy delay before the first row printed surprised me – I expected it to print almost instantly.
I also tried Event.objects.iterator() which behaved the same way.
I don't understand what Django is loading into memory or why it is doing this. I expected Django to iterate through the results at the database level, which'd mean the results would be printed at roughly a constant rate (rather than all at once after a lengthy wait).
What have I misunderstood?
(I don't know whether it's relevant, but I'm using PostgreSQL.)


Answer 1:

Nate C was close, but not quite.

From the docs:

You can evaluate a QuerySet in the following ways:

  • Iteration. A QuerySet is iterable, and it executes its database query the first time you iterate over it. For example, this will print the headline of all entries in the database:

    for e in Entry.objects.all():
        print e.headline

So your ten million rows are retrieved, all at once, when you first enter that loop and get the iterating form of the queryset. The wait you experience is Django loading the database rows and creating objects for each one, before returning something you can actually iterate over. Then you have everything in memory, and the results come spilling out.

From my reading of the docs, iterator() does nothing more than bypass QuerySet’s internal caching mechanisms. I think it might make sense for it to a do a one-by-one thing, but that would conversely require ten-million individual hits on your database. Maybe not all that desirable.

Iterating over large datasets efficiently is something we still haven’t gotten quite right, but there are some snippets out there you might find useful for your purposes:

Answer 2:

Might not be the faster or most efficient, but as a ready-made solution why not use django core’s Paginator and Page objects documented here:


Something like this:

from django.core.paginator import Paginator
from djangoapp.models import model

paginator = Paginator(model.objects.all(), 1000) # chunks of 1000, you can 
                                                 # change this to desired chunk size

for page in range(1, paginator.num_pages + 1):
    for row in paginator.page(page).object_list:
        # here you can do whatever you want with the row
    print "done processing page %s" % page

Answer 3:

Django’s default behavior is to cache the whole result of the QuerySet when it evaluates the query. You can use the QuerySet’s iterator method to avoid this caching:

for event in Event.objects.all().iterator():
    print event


The iterator() method evaluates the queryset and then reads the results directly without doing caching at the QuerySet level. This method results in better performance and a significant reduction in memory when iterating over a large number of objects that you only need to access once. Note that caching is still done at the database level.

Using iterator() reduces memory usage for me, but it is still higher than I expected. Using the paginator approach suggested by mpaf uses much less memory, but is 2-3x slower for my test case.

from django.core.paginator import Paginator

def chunked_iterator(queryset, chunk_size=10000):
    paginator = Paginator(queryset, chunk_size)
    for page in range(1, paginator.num_pages + 1):
        for obj in paginator.page(page).object_list:
            yield obj

for event in chunked_iterator(Event.objects.all()):
    print event

Answer 4:

This is from the docs:

No database activity actually occurs until you do something to evaluate the queryset.

So when the print event is run the query fires (which is a full table scan according to your command.) and loads the results. Your asking for all the objects and there is no way to get the first object without getting all of them.

But if you do something like:



Then it will add offsets and limits to the sql internally.

Answer 5:

For large amounts of records, a database cursor performs even better. You do need raw SQL in Django, the Django-cursor is something different than a SQL cursur.

The LIMIT – OFFSET method suggested by Nate C might be good enough for your situation. For large amounts of data it is slower than a cursor because it has to run the same query over and over again and has to jump over more and more results.

Answer 6:

Django doesn’t have good solution for fetching large items from database.

import gc
# Get the events in reverse order
eids = Event.objects.order_by("-id").values_list("id", flat=True)

for index, eid in enumerate(eids):
    event = Event.object.get(id=eid)
    # do necessary work with event
    if index % 100 == 0:
       print("completed 100 items")

values_list can be used to fetch all the ids in the databases and then fetch each object separately. Over a time large objects will be created in memory and won’t be garbage collected til for loop is exited. Above code does manual garbage collection after every 100th item is consumed.

Answer 7:

Because that way objects for a whole queryset get loaded in memory all at once. You need to chunk up your queryset into smaller digestible bits. The pattern to do this is called spoonfeeding. Here’s a brief implementation.

def spoonfeed(qs, func, chunk=1000, start=0):
    ''' Chunk up a large queryset and run func on each item.

    Works with automatic primary key fields.

    chunk -- how many objects to take on at once
    start -- PK to start from

    >>> spoonfeed(Spam.objects.all(), nom_nom)
    while start < qs.order_by('pk').last().pk:
        for o in qs.filter(pk__gt=start, pk__lte=start+chunk):
            yeild func(o)
        start += chunk

To use this you write a function that does operations on your object:

def set_population_density(town):
    town.population_density = calculate_population_density(...)

and than run that function on your queryset:

spoonfeed(Town.objects.all(), set_population_density)

This can be further improved on with multiprocessing to execute func on multiple objects in parallel.

Answer 8:

Here a solution including len and count:

class GeneratorWithLen(object):
    Generator that includes len and count for given queryset
    def __init__(self, generator, length):
        self.generator = generator
        self.length = length

    def __len__(self):
        return self.length

    def __iter__(self):
        return self.generator

    def __getitem__(self, item):
        return self.generator.__getitem__(item)

    def next(self):
        return next(self.generator)

    def count(self):
        return self.__len__()

def batch(queryset, batch_size=1024):
    returns a generator that does not cache results on the QuerySet
    Aimed to use with expected HUGE/ENORMOUS data sets, no caching, no memory used more than batch_size

    :param batch_size: Size for the maximum chunk of data in memory
    :return: generator
    total = queryset.count()

    def batch_qs(_qs, _batch_size=batch_size):
        Returns a (start, end, total, queryset) tuple for each batch in the given
        for start in range(0, total, _batch_size):
            end = min(start + _batch_size, total)
            yield (start, end, total, _qs[start:end])

    def generate_items():
        queryset.order_by()  # Clearing... ordering by id if PK autoincremental
        for start, end, total, qs in batch_qs(queryset):
            for item in qs:
                yield item

    return GeneratorWithLen(generate_items(), total)


events = batch(Event.objects.all())
len(events) == events.count()
for event in events:
    # Do something with the Event

Answer 9:

I usually use raw MySQL raw query instead of Django ORM for this kind of task.

MySQL supports streaming mode so we can loop through all records safely and fast without out of memory error.

import MySQLdb
db_config = {}  # config your db here
connection = MySQLdb.connect(
        host=db_config['HOST'], user=db_config['USER'],
        port=int(db_config['PORT']), passwd=db_config['PASSWORD'], db=db_config['NAME'])
cursor = MySQLdb.cursors.SSCursor(connection)  # SSCursor for streaming mode
cursor.execute("SELECT * FROM event")
while True:
    record = cursor.fetchone()
    if record is None:
    # Do something with record here



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