Using SQLite 3 with Flask

In Flask you can implement the opening of database connections at the beginning of the request and closing at the end with the before_request() and teardown_request() decorators in combination with the special g object.

So here is a simple example of how you can use SQLite 3 with Flask:

import sqlite3
from flask import g

DATABASE = '/path/to/database.db'

def connect_db():
    return sqlite3.connect(DATABASE)

def before_request():
    g.db = connect_db()

def teardown_request(exception):
    if hasattr(g, 'db'):


Please keep in mind that the teardown request functions are always executed, even if a before-request handler failed or was never executed. Because of this we have to make sure here that the database is there before we close it.

Connect on Demand

The downside of this approach is that this will only work if Flask executed the before-request handlers for you. If you are attempting to use the database from a script or the interactive Python shell you would have to do something like this:

with app.test_request_context():
    # now you can use the g.db object

In order to trigger the execution of the connection code. You won’t be able to drop the dependency on the request context this way, but you could make it so that the application connects when necessary:

def get_connection():
    db = getattr(g, '_db', None)
    if db is None:
        db = g._db = connect_db()
    return db

Downside here is that you have to use db = get_connection() instead of just being able to use g.db directly.

Easy Querying

Now in each request handling function you can access g.db to get the current open database connection. To simplify working with SQLite, a helper function can be useful:

def query_db(query, args=(), one=False):
    cur = g.db.execute(query, args)
    rv = [dict((cur.description[idx][0], value)
               for idx, value in enumerate(row)) for row in cur.fetchall()]
    return (rv[0] if rv else None) if one else rv

This handy little function makes working with the database much more pleasant than it is by just using the raw cursor and connection objects.

Here is how you can use it:

for user in query_db('select * from users'):
    print user['username'], 'has the id', user['user_id']

Or if you just want a single result:

user = query_db('select * from users where username = ?',
                [the_username], one=True)
if user is None:
    print 'No such user'
    print the_username, 'has the id', user['user_id']

To pass variable parts to the SQL statement, use a question mark in the statement and pass in the arguments as a list. Never directly add them to the SQL statement with string formatting because this makes it possible to attack the application using SQL Injections.

Initial Schemas

Relational databases need schemas, so applications often ship a schema.sql file that creates the database. It’s a good idea to provide a function that creates the database based on that schema. This function can do that for you:

from contextlib import closing

def init_db():
    with closing(connect_db()) as db:
        with app.open_resource('schema.sql') as f:

You can then create such a database from the python shell:

>>> from yourapplication import init_db
>>> init_db()