Advanced Customization

The various objects managed by the extension can be customized by passing arguments to the SQLAlchemy constructor.

Model Class

SQLAlchemy models all inherit from a declarative base class. This is exposed as db.Model in Flask-SQLAlchemy, which all models extend. This can be customized by subclassing the default and passing the custom class to model_class.

The following example gives every model an integer primary key, or a foreign key for joined-table inheritance.


Integer primary keys for everything is not necessarily the best database design (that’s up to your project’s requirements), this is only an example.

from flask_sqlalchemy.model import model
import sqlalchemy as sa
import sqlalchemy.orm

class IdModel(Model):
    def id(cls):
        for base in cls.__mro__[1:-1]:
            if getattr(base, "__table__", None) is not None:
                type = sa.ForeignKey(
            type = sa.Integer

        return sa.Column(type, primary_key=True)

db = SQLAlchemy(model_class=IdModel)

class User(db.Model):
    name = db.Column(db.String)

class Employee(User):
    title = db.Column(db.String)

Abstract Models and Mixins

If behavior is only needed on some models rather than all models, use an abstract model base class to customize only those models. For example, if some models should track when they are created or updated.

from datetime import datetime

class TimestampModel(db.Model):
    __abstract__ = True
    created = db.Column(db.DateTime, nullable=False, default=datetime.utcnow)
    updated = db.Column(db.DateTime, onupdate=datetime.utcnow)

class Author(db.Model):

class Post(TimestampModel):

This can also be done with a mixin class, inheriting from db.Model separately.

class TimestampMixin:
    created = db.Column(db.DateTime, nullable=False, default=datetime.utcnow)
    updated = db.Column(db.DateTime, onupdate=datetime.utcnow)

class Post(TimestampMixin, db.Model):

Session Class

Flask-SQLAlchemy’s Session class chooses which engine to query based on the bind key associated with the model or table. However, there are other strategies such as horizontal sharding that can be implemented with a different session class. The class_ key to the session_options argument to the extension to change the session class.

Flask-SQLAlchemy will always pass the extension instance as the db argument to the session, so it must accept that to continue working. That can be used to get access to db.engines.

from sqlalchemy.ext.horizontal_shard import ShardedSession
from flask_sqlalchemy.session import Session

class CustomSession(ShardedSession, Session):

db = SQLAlchemy(session_options={"class_": CustomSession})

Query Class


The query interface is considered legacy in SQLAlchemy. This includes session.query, Model.query, db.Query, and lazy="dynamic" relationships. Prefer using session.execute(select(...)) instead.

It is possible to customize the query interface used by the session, models, and relationships. This can be used to add extra query methods. For example, you could add a get_or method that gets a row or returns a default.

from flask_sqlalchemy.query import Query

class GetOrQuery(Query):
    def get_or(self, ident, default=None):
        out = self.get(ident)

        if out is None:
            return default

        return out

db = SQLAlchemy(query_class=GetOrQuery)

user = User.query.get_or(user_id, anonymous_user)

Passing the query_class argument will customize db.Query, db.session.query, Model.query, and db.relationship(lazy="dynamic") relationships. It’s also possible to customize these on a per-object basis.

To customize a specific model’s query property, set the query_class attribute on the model class.

class User(db.Model):
    query_class = GetOrQuery

To customize a specific dynamic relationship, pass the query_class argument to the relationship.

db.relationship(User, lazy="dynamic", query_class=GetOrQuery)

To customize only session.query, pass the query_cls key to the session_options argument to the constructor.

db = SQLAlchemy(session_options={"query_cls": GetOrQuery})

Model Metaclass


Metaclasses are an advanced topic, and you probably don’t need to customize them to achieve what you want. It is mainly documented here to show how to disable table name generation.

The model metaclass is responsible for setting up the SQLAlchemy internals when defining model subclasses. Flask-SQLAlchemy adds some extra behaviors through mixins; its default metaclass, DefaultMeta, inherits them all.

  • BindMetaMixin: __bind_key__ sets the bind to use for the model.

  • NameMetaMixin: If the model does not specify a __tablename__ but does specify a primary key, a name is automatically generated.

You can add your own behaviors by defining your own metaclass and creating the declarative base yourself. Be sure to still inherit from the mixins you want (or just inherit from the default metaclass).

Passing a declarative base class instead of a simple model base class to model_class will cause Flask-SQLAlchemy to use this base instead of constructing one with the default metaclass.

from sqlalchemy.orm import declarative_base
from flask_sqlalchemy import SQLAlchemy
from flask_sqlalchemy.model import DefaultMeta, Model

class CustomMeta(DefaultMeta):
    def __init__(cls, name, bases, d):
        # custom class setup could go here

        # be sure to call super
        super(CustomMeta, cls).__init__(name, bases, d)

    # custom class-only methods could go here

CustomModel = declarative_base(cls=Model, metaclass=CustomMeta, name="Model")
db = SQLAlchemy(model_class=CustomModel)

You can also pass whatever other arguments you want to declarative_base() to customize the base class.

Disabling Table Name Generation

Some projects prefer to set each model’s __tablename__ manually rather than relying on Flask-SQLAlchemy’s detection and generation. The simple way to achieve that is to set each __tablename__ and not modify the base class. However, the table name generation can be disabled by defining a custom metaclass with only the BindMetaMixin and not the NameMetaMixin.

from sqlalchemy.orm import DeclarativeMeta, declarative_base
from flask_sqlalchemy.model import BindMetaMixin, Model

class NoNameMeta(BindMetaMixin, DeclarativeMeta):

CustomModel = declarative_base(cls=Model, metaclass=NoNameMeta, name="Model")
db = SQLAlchemy(model_class=CustomModel)

This creates a base that still supports the __bind_key__ feature but does not generate table names.