Optimizing Django query performance is critical for building performant web applications. Django provides many tools and methods for optimizing database queries in its Database access optimization documentation. In this blog post, we will explore some additional tips and tricks I’ve compiled over the years to help you optimize your Django queries even further.

Use assertNumQueries in unit tests

When writing unit tests, it’s important to ensure that your code is making the expected number of queries. Django provides a convenient method called assertNumQueries that allows you to assert the number of queries made by your code. If you’re using pytest-django, which I recommend, then you can use django_assert_num_queries to achieve the same functionality.

def test_db_access(django_assert_num_queries):
    with django_assert_num_queries(3):
        # code that makes 3 expected queries

Use nplusone to catch N+1 queries

N+1 queries are a common performance issue that can occur when your code makes too many database queries. Learn about it here.

The nplusone package detects N+1 queries in your code. It works by raising an NPlusOneError where a single query is executed repeatedly in a loop, resulting in unnecessary database access. I recommend using it only in your test suite - read about how to implement that here.

While nplusone is a useful tool, it is important to note that the package is orphaned and does not catch all violations. For example, I’ve noticed it doesn’t work with .only() or .defer().

for user in User.objects.defer("email"):
    # This should raise an NPlusOneError but it doesn't
    email = user.email

Because of these shortcomings, it is important to use other optimization techniques in conjunction with nplusone.

Use django-zen-queries to catch N+1 queries

The django-zen-queries package allows you to control which parts of your code are allowed to run queries and which aren’t. You can use it to prevent unnecessary queries on prefetched objects, or to ensure that queries are only executed when they are needed. I use it on code that the nplusone package won’t catch.

For example, nplusone won’t catch the following N+1 query but django-zen-queries will.

from zen_queries import fetch, queries_disabled

qs = fetch(User.objects.defer("email"))

with queries disabled():
    for user in qs:
        # Raises a `zen_queries.QueriesDisabledError` exception
        email = user.email

Set Statement Timeout in Postgres

Use Python to prevent new queries

When working with prefetched objects, it’s important to avoid making new queries that could slow down your application. Instead of using Django queryset methods, you can use vanilla Python to optimize your queries and improve performance.

For instance, consider the following code:

for user in User.objects.prefetch_related("groups"):
    # BAD: N+1 query
    first_group = user.groups.first()

    # GOOD: Does not make a new query
    first_group = user.groups.all()[0]

Here are some more examples:

qs.values_list("x", flat=True)[obj.x for obj in qs.all()]
qs.values("x")[{"x": obj.x} for obj in qs.all()]
qs.order_by("x", "y")sorted(qs, lambda obj: (obj.x, obj.y))
qs.filter(x=1)[obj for obj in qs.all() if obj.x == 1]
qs.exclude(x=1)[obj for obj in qs.all() if obj.x != 1]

Note, the nplusone package should catch all of these N+1 violations so be sure to use it in conjunction with this approach.

Use only() or defer() to prevent fetching large, unused fields

Some fields, such as JSONField and TextField, can consume a lot of memory and be very slow to load into a Django object, especially when dealing with querysets containing a few thousand objects or more. You can use only() or defer() to prevent fetching these fields and improve query performance.


In conclusion, query performance is the crux of any Django web application. Use these tips and tricks to further optimize your Django queries and make your applications more efficient.