A Beginner's Guide to Using PostgreSQL in a Ruby on Rails Application

In this guide, we will explore the basics of using PostgreSQL in a Ruby on Rails application, including installation, setup, and common database operations.

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PostgreSQL, often referred to as Postgres, is a powerful open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) known for its reliability, extensibility, and feature-rich capabilities. Ruby on Rails, commonly known as Rails, is a popular web application framework that simplifies web development. In this guide, we will explore the basics of using PostgreSQL in a Ruby on Rails application, including installation, setup, and common database operations.


Before we dive into using PostgreSQL with Ruby on Rails, ensure you have the following prerequisites in place:

  1. Ruby: You should have Ruby installed on your system. You can download it from the official Ruby website.

  2. Ruby on Rails: Install Ruby on Rails using the following command:

    gem install rails
  3. PostgreSQL: Install PostgreSQL if you haven’t already. You can download it from the official PostgreSQL website.

  4. PostgreSQL Ruby Gem: You’ll need the pg gem, which is the Ruby adapter for PostgreSQL. Install it using gem:

    gem install pg

Setting Up a Rails Application

Let’s start by creating a new Ruby on Rails application that will use PostgreSQL as its database.

rails new my_rails_app -d postgresql

In the above command:

  • my_rails_app is the name of your Rails application.
  • -d postgresql specifies that we want to use PostgreSQL as the database.

Configuring the Database

Rails uses a configuration file located at config/database.yml for PostgreSQL configuration. Open this file and replace its contents with the following:

default: &default
  adapter: postgresql
  encoding: unicode
  pool: <%= ENV.fetch("RAILS_MAX_THREADS") { 5 } %>
  host: localhost
  username: your_postgresql_username
  password: your_postgresql_password

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_development

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_test

  <<: *default
  database: myapp_production
  username: myapp
  password: <%= ENV['MYAPP_DATABASE_PASSWORD'] %>

Replace your_postgresql_username and your_postgresql_password with your PostgreSQL credentials. You can also adjust other settings as needed, such as the host.

Database Migration

In Rails, database migrations are used to create and manage database tables and schema changes. Let’s create a simple example to demonstrate this:

rails generate model User name:string email:string

This command generates a User model with name and email attributes. Now, run the migration to create the corresponding table in the PostgreSQL database:

rails db:migrate

Performing Database Operations

With your Rails application set up and the PostgreSQL database configured, you can now perform common database operations.

Inserting Data

To insert data into the PostgreSQL table, you can use the Rails console:

rails console

In the console, you can create and save new records:

user = User.new(name: 'John Doe', email: '[email protected]')

Querying Data

To query data from the PostgreSQL table, you can use Rails ActiveRecord queries. For example, to retrieve all users:

users = User.all

Updating Data

Updating data in Rails is straightforward. For example, to update a user’s email:

user = User.find_by(name: 'John Doe')
user.update(email: '[email protected]')

Deleting Data

To delete a record:

user = User.find_by(name: 'John Doe')

Handling Errors

In a real application, it’s crucial to handle errors gracefully. Ensure that you use error handling techniques, such as rescue blocks, to handle exceptions that may occur during database operations.


PostgreSQL is a robust and feature-rich RDBMS that pairs well with Ruby on Rails for web application development. In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of using PostgreSQL in a Ruby on Rails application, from installation and setup to common database operations. As you continue to develop your Rails application, you can explore more advanced features and optimizations provided by PostgreSQL to create efficient and scalable web applications.

If you want to learn more about MySQL, please use our PostgreSQL tutorials and PostgreSQL Reference.