Posted over 7 years ago. Visible to the public. Repeats.

PSA: "index: true" in Rails migrations does not work as you'd expect

Several Rails migration methods accept index: true as an option to create an index. In some cases (like #add_column), this option is silently discarded. Know what you are doing, or use #add_index instead.


Consider the following migration.

class CreateExamples < ActiveRecord::Migration def change create_table :examples do |t| t.references :category, index: true t.boolean :positive, index: true t.integer :number_of_participants, index: true end add_reference :examples, :user, index: true add_column :examples, :negative, :boolean, index: true # spoiler alert: this won't work add_column :examples, :age, :integer, index: true # (same here) end end

Now which indexes would you expect to see? Probably not these:

(PostgreSQL) => \d examples Table "public.examples" Column | Type | Modifiers ------------------------+---------+------------------------------------------------------- id | integer | not null default nextval('examples_id_seq'::regclass) category_id | integer | positive | boolean | number_of_participants | integer | user_id | integer | negative | boolean | age | integer | Indexes: "examples_pkey" PRIMARY KEY, btree (id) "index_examples_on_category_id" btree (category_id) "index_examples_on_number_of_participants" btree (number_of_participants) "index_examples_on_positive" btree (positive) "index_examples_on_user_id" btree (user_id)

So what happened?

  • Rails created indexes for all fields that we added inside our create_table statement.
  • There is an index for user_id that was added via add_reference :examples, :user, index: true
  • There are no indexes for negative or age that were added via add_column, even though their similar counterparts from the create_table statement received an index.
  • rake db:migrate did not raise an error or at least show a warning for the incorrect index: true option passed to add_column.

What should I do?

You have 2 options:

  1. Be careful when using the index: true option. Use it only inside create_table or for add_reference (= add_belongs_to) statements, and use add_index for other cases.
  2. Never use index: true but only use add_index for the sake of consistency.

We suggest you prefer the 2nd.

In any case: When adding indexes you usually do this for performance reasons. So please inspect the database schema, just to confirm your changes actually have an effect.

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Owner of this card:

Arne Hartherz
Last edit:
over 4 years ago
by Arne Hartherz
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