PostgreSQL Queries: How to Write and Optimize Them

Are you new to PostgreSQL or looking to improve your database performance? Look no further! In this guide, we'll explore best practices for writing and optimizing PostgreSQL queries.

Writing Efficient Queries

Before we dive into optimizing queries, let's discuss how to write efficient queries in the first place. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Use SELECT statements to limit results

If you need only a subset of data from a table, consider using a SELECT statement. This will limit the amount of data returned by the query, making it more efficient. For example:

SELECT name, email FROM users WHERE age > 18;

This query selects only the name and email columns for users over 18 years old.

2. Avoid using wildcard characters

Using wildcard characters like * may be convenient, but it can slow down complex queries. Instead, explicitly specify the columns you need in your SELECT statement as shown in the previous example.

3. Use indexes

Indexes are used to speed up queries by reducing the amount of data that needs to be scanned. Be sure to create indexes on frequently accessed columns, such as primary keys or columns used in WHERE clauses. For example:

CREATE INDEX users_name_idx ON users (name);

This creates an index on the name column of the users table.


INNER JOINs are used to combine data from multiple tables. They are more efficient than using multiple SELECT statements and then combining the results in code. For example:

SELECT, orders.order_amount
FROM users
INNER JOIN orders ON = orders.user_id;

This query selects the name column from the users table and the order_amount column from the orders table based on the id and user_id columns, respectively.

Optimizing Queries

Once you've written your queries, it's time to optimize them. Here are some techniques to improve query performance:


The EXPLAIN keyword shows the execution plan of a query. Analyzing the output of EXPLAIN can help you identify performance bottlenecks and optimize your queries accordingly. For example:

EXPLAIN SELECT name FROM users WHERE age > 18;

This query shows how PostgreSQL would execute the query and lists any indexes that would be used.

2. Avoid using subqueries

Subqueries can be useful, but they can also degrade query performance. If possible, try to rewrite subqueries as JOINs. For example:

SELECT books.title,
FROM books
INNER JOIN authors ON books.author_id =
   SELECT name FROM countries WHERE continent = 'Europe'

This query selects the title column from the books table and the name column from the authors table based on the author_id and id columns, respectively. It then filters the results based on the continent column in the countries table. This subquery can be replaced with an INNER JOIN:

SELECT books.title,
FROM books
INNER JOIN authors ON books.author_id =
INNER JOIN countries ON =
WHERE countries.continent = 'Europe';

This query achieves the same result without using a subquery.

3. Use UNION ALL instead of UNION

UNION and UNION ALL are used to combine results from multiple SELECT statements. UNION removes duplicates, while UNION ALL does not. If you know there are no duplicates, use UNION ALL, as it is faster than UNION. For example:

SELECT name FROM customers
SELECT name FROM vendors;

This query combines the name column from the customers table and the vendors table, without removing duplicates.


If you only need a subset of data from a table, use the LIMIT and OFFSET keywords. LIMIT limits the number of rows returned, while OFFSET skips a certain number of rows. For example:


This query selects the name column from the users table starting from the 6th row and returning only 10 rows.

5. Use stored procedures

Stored procedures are precompiled database objects that can be executed repeatedly. They can be implemented in any language supported by PostgreSQL, such as PL/pgSQL or Python. Using stored procedures can speed up complex operations by reducing network traffic and CPU overhead. For example:

CREATE FUNCTION get_user_name(user_id INT)
LANGUAGE plpgsql
AS $$
   name TEXT;
   SELECT name INTO name FROM users WHERE id = user_id;
   RETURN name;

This creates a stored procedure that selects the name column from the users table based on the id column.


Writing and optimizing PostgreSQL queries can seem overwhelming at first, but with these techniques, you can improve performance and streamline your database operations. Remember to use SELECT statements to limit results, avoid using wildcard characters, use indexes, use INNER JOINs, use EXPLAIN to analyze query execution plans, avoid using subqueries, use UNION ALL instead of UNION, use LIMIT and OFFSET to limit results, and use stored procedures to speed up complex operations. Happy querying!

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