Recently, I’ve been working with a SQLite database using Clojure. In this post, I’d like to share my experience that I’ve got from that challenge.

SQLite is a great tool used almost everywhere. Browsers and mobile devices use it a lot. A SQLite database is represented by a single file that makes it quite easy to share, backup and distribute. It supports most of the production-level databases’ features like triggers, recursive queries and so on.

In addition, SQLite has a killer feature to be run completely in memory. So, instead of keeping an atom of nested maps, why not to store some temporary data into well organized tables?

JDBC has SQLite support as well, you only need to install a driver, the documentation says. But then, I’ve got a problem dealing with in-memory database:

(def spec
  {:classname   "org.sqlite.JDBC"
   :subprotocol "sqlite"
   :subname     ":memory:"})

(jdbc/execute! spec "create table users (id integer)")
(jdbc/query spec "select * from users")

> SQLiteException [SQLITE_ERROR] SQL error or missing database
> (no such table: users)  org.sqlite.core.DB.newSQLException (

What the… I’ve just created a table, why cannot you find it? An interesting note, if I set a proper file name for the :subname field, everything works fine. But I needed a in-memory database, not a file.

After some hours of googling and reading the code I’ve found the solution.

The thing is, JDBC does not track DB connections by default. Every time you call for (jdbc/*) function, you create a new connection, perform an operation and close it. For such persistent data storages like Postgres or MySQL that’ fine although not effective (in our project, we use HikariCP to have a pool of open connections).

But for in-memory SQLite database, closing a connection to it leads to wiping the data completely out form the RAM. So you need to track the connection in more precision way. You will create a connection by yourself and close it when the work is done.

First, let’s setup your project:

:dependencies [...
               [org.xerial/sqlite-jdbc "3.20.0"]
               [org.clojure/java.jdbc "0.7.0"]
               [com.layerware/hugsql "0.4.7"]
               [mount "0.1.11"]

and the database module:

(ns project.db
  (:require [mount.core :as mount]
            [hugsql.core :as hugsql]
            [ :as jdbc]))

Declare a database URI as follows:

(def db-uri "jdbc:sqlite::memory:"

Our database shares two states: when it’s been set up and ready to work and when it has not. To keep the state, let’s use mount library:

(declare db)

(defn on-start []
  (let [spec {:connection-uri db-uri}
        conn (jdbc/get-connection spec)]
    (assoc spec :connection conn)))

(defn on-stop []
  (-> db :connection .close)

  ^{:on-reload :noop}
  :start (on-start)
  :stop (on-stop))

Once you call (mount/start #'db), it becomes a map with the following fields:

{:connection-uri "jdbc:sqlite::memory:"
 :connection <SomeJavaConnectionObject at 0x0...>}

When any JDBC function or a method accepts that map, it checks for the :connection field. If it’s filled, JDBC uses that connection as well. If it’s not, a new connection is issued. In my case, every execute/query call created a new in-memory database and stopped it right after the call ends. That’s why the second query could not to find users table: because it was performed within another database.

Now with the db started, you are welcome to perform all the standard jdbc operations:

(jdbc/execute! db "create table users (id integer, name text))")
(jdbc/insert! db :users {:id 1 :name "Ivan"})
(jdbc/get-by-id db :users 1) ;; {:id 1 :name "Ivan"}
(jdbc/find-by-keys db :users {:name "Ivan"}) ;; ({:id 1 :name "Ivan"})

Finally, you stop the db calling (mount/stop #'db). The connection stops, the data disappears completely.

For more complicated queries with joins, HugSQL library would be a good choice. Create a file queries.sql in your resources folder. Say, you want to write a complex query that filters a result by some values that probably are not set. Here is an example of what you should put into queries.sql file:

-- :name get-user-visits :?
from visits v
join locations l on v.location =
    v.user = :user_id
    /*~ (when (:fromDate params) */
    and v.visited_at > :fromDate
    /*~ ) ~*/
    /*~ (when (:toDate params) */
    and v.visited_at < :toDate
    /*~ ) ~*/
    /*~ (when (:toDistance params) */
    and l.distance < :toDistance
    /*~ ) ~*/
    /*~ (when (:country params) */
    and = :country
    /*~ ) ~*/
order by

In your database module, put the following on the top level:

(hugsql/def-db-fns "queries.sql")

Now, every SQL template has become a plain Clojure function that takes a database and a map of additional parameters. To get all the visits in our application, we do:

(get-user-visits db {:user_id 1 :fromDate 123456789 :country "SomePlace"})
> a seq of maps...

Hope this article will help those who’ve got stuck with SQLite.