Engines are what execute the SQL queries. Each supported backend has its own engine.

It’s important that each Table class knows which engine to use. There are two ways of doing this - setting it explicitly via the db argument, or letting Piccolo find it using engine_finder.


This can be useful when writing a simple script which needs to use Piccolo to connect to a database.

from piccolo.engine.sqlite import SQLiteEngine
from piccolo.table import Table
from piccolo.columns import Varchar

DB = SQLiteEngine(path='my_db.sqlite')

# Here we explicitly reference an engine:
class MyTable(Table, db=DB):
    name = Varchar()


By default Piccolo uses engine_finder. Piccolo will look for a file called piccolo_conf.py on the path, and will try and import a DB variable, which defines the engine.

You can ask Piccolo to create the piccolo_conf.py file for you, using the following command:

piccolo project new

Here’s an example piccolo_conf.py file:

# piccolo_conf.py
from piccolo.engine.sqlite import SQLiteEngine

DB = SQLiteEngine(path='my_db.sqlite')


A good place for your piccolo_conf.py file is at the root of your project, where the Python interpreter will be launched.

PICCOLO_CONF environment variable

You can modify the configuration file location by using the PICCOLO_CONF environment variable.

In your terminal:

export PICCOLO_CONF=piccolo_conf_test

Or at the entrypoint of your app, before any other imports:

import os
os.environ['PICCOLO_CONF'] = 'piccolo_conf_test'

This is helpful during tests - you can specify a different configuration file which contains the connection details for a test database.


Piccolo has a builtin command which will do this for you - automatically setting PICCOLO_CONF for the duration of your tests. See tester.

# An example piccolo_conf_test.py
from piccolo.engine.sqlite import SQLiteEngine

DB = SQLiteEngine(path='my_test_db.sqlite')

It’s also useful if you’re deploying your code to different environments (e.g. staging and production). Have two configuration files, and set the environment variable accordingly.

If the piccolo_conf.py file is located in a sub-module (rather than the root of your project) you can specify the path like this:

export PICCOLO_CONF=sub_module.piccolo_conf

Engine types


Postgres is the preferred database to use, especially in production. It is the most feature complete.