Sqlalchemy autocommit

February 24, 2024


autocommit=False means this:

query = "SELECT 1"
if not autocommit:
	query = f'BEGIN {query}' # implicit transaction

conn.commit()  # without this it won't commit/rollback

autocommit=True means this:

query = "SELECT 1"
conn.execute(query)  # commited automatically, no transaction

# or explicit transaction
with conn.begin():
  # commited (or rolled back on error)

Long answer:

Python has DBAPI PEP 249. All existing drivers try to be PEP-249-compatible.

One of the main PEP's design choices is an implicit transaction - basically, PEP 249 has no begin method - which means there must always be a transaction.

Postgres has no such feature as an implicit transaction so psycopg for example just adds BEGIN to all queries - this is emulated PEP 249 implicit transaction.

autocommit in psycopg (and in sqlachemy) is a way to disable this implicit BEGIN. Once autocommit=True psycopg won't append any BEGIN to you query. This means that each query is executed and commited in one go - you can not roll it back. If you want to rollback you have to call .begin() yourself and this will let you commit/rollback explicitly.

Sqlalchemy 2.0 dropped library-level autocommit - which means that you can not execute a query without a transaction - sqlalchemy will always open a transaction for you query and you need to commit it yourself.

So the main difference is that in sqlalchemy 1.x this query commits if autocommit=True :

conn.execute('DELETE FROM users WHERE id = 1')

but in sqlachemy 2.0 it won't. You need to commit explicitly now

conn.execute('DELETE FROM users WHERE id = 1')

As sqla docs says , "true" autocommit is available via driver.

For sqlahchemy "true" autocommit these days means a separate transaction level.

One interesting advice from docs is to use a separate engine for read-only queries with AUTOCOMMIT:

One such use case is an application that has operations that break into “transactional” and “read-only” operations, a separate Engine that makes use of "AUTOCOMMIT" may be separated off from the main engine:

from sqlalchemy import create_engine

eng = create_engine("postgresql+psycopg2://scott:tiger@localhost/test")

autocommit_engine = eng.execution_options(isolation_level="AUTOCOMMIT")

autocommit_engine here will be used for read-only queries so settings AUTOCOMMIT here will tell the driver not to emit BEGIN as the doc says

It is important to note that “autocommit” mode persists even when the Connection.begin() method is called; the DBAPI will not emit any BEGIN to the database, nor will it emit COMMIT when Connection.commit() is called.


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Written by Max Kindritskiy I'm writing about web development and other dev things.