Flask-Alembic is a Flask extension that provides a configurable Alembic migration environment around a Flask-SQLAlchemy database.


Releases are available from the PyPI project page. Install with pip:

pip install Flask-Alembic

The latest code is hosted on BitBucket. Install with pip:

pip install https://bitbucket.org/davidism/flask-alembic/get/tip.zip


Configuration for Alembic and its migrations is pulled from the following Flask config keys.

  • ALEMBIC is a dictionary containing general configuration, mostly used by alembic.config.Config and alembic.script.ScriptDirectory. See Alembic’s docs on config.
  • ALEMBIC_CONTEXT is a dictionary containing options passed to alembic.environment.EnvironmentContext and alembic.migration.MigrationContext. See Alembic’s docs on context.

The only required configuration is ALEMBIC['script_location'], which is the location of the migrations directory. If it is not an absolute path, it will be relative to the instance folder. This defaults to migrations relative to the application root.

Basic Usage

First, set up your Flask app (or app factory) and the Flask-SQLAlchemy extension and models.

This extension follows the common pattern of Flask extension setup. Either immediately pass an app to Alembic, or call init_app() later.

from flask_alembic import Alembic

alembic = Alembic()
alembic.init_app(app)  # call in the app factory if you're using that pattern

When an app is registered, mkdir() is called to set up the migrations directory if it does not already exist. To prevent this, call init_app with run_mkdir=False.

The alembic instance provides an interface between the current app and Alembic. It exposes similar commands to the command line available from Alembic, but Flask-Alembic’s methods return data rather than produce output. You can use this interface to do what the command line commands do, from inside your app.

# generate a new revision
# same as flask db revision 'made changes'
alembic.revision('made changes')

# run all available upgrades
# same as ./manage.py db upgrade

You can also get at the Alembic internals that enable these commands. See the Alembic API docs for more information.

alembic.script.get_revision('head')  # locate a revision by name
alembic.context.get_current_revision()  # could compare this to the 'head' revision above to see if upgrades are needed
alembic.op.drop_column('my_table', 'my_column')  # probably don't want to do this outside a revision, but it'll work
alembic.compare_metadata()  # see that the column you just dropped will be added back next revision

The functions require an app context. If you’re calling them outside a view, set up a context manually.

with app.app_context():

Independent Named Branches

Alembic supports named branches, but its syntax is hard to remember and verbose. Flask-Alembic makes it easier by providing a central configuration for branch names and revision directories and simplifying the syntax to the revision command.

Alembic allows configuration of multiple version locations. version_locations is a list of directories to search for migration scripts. Flask-Alembic extends this to allow tuples as well as strings in the list. If a tuple is added, it specifies a (branch, directory) pair. The script_location is automatically given the label default and added to the version_locations.

    'version_locations': [
        'other_migrations',  # not a branch, just another search location
        ('posts', '/path/to/posts_extension/migrations'),  # posts branch migrations will be placed here
        ('users', 'users/migrations'),  # relative paths are relative to the application root

The revision command takes a --branch option (defaults to default). This takes the place of specifying --parent, --label, and --path. This will automatically start the branch from the base revision, label the revision correctly, and place the revisions in the correct location.

flask db revision --branch users 'create user model'
# equivalent to (if branch is new)
# alembic revision --autogenerate --head base --branch-label users --version-path users/migrations -m 'create user model'
# or (if branch exists)
# alembic revision --autogenerate --head users@head -m 'create user model'

Command Line

Currently, Click and Flask-Script are supported. The commands are the same for either one.

If you are using Flask 0.11, the preferred interface is Click. If you are using Flask 0.10, you can use backported integration via Flask-CLI. Flask-Alembic will automatically add the command to the cli if it detects that Click is available.

flask db --help

If you have set up a flask_script.Manager for your project using Flask-Script, you can add Alembic commands like this:

from flask_alembic import alembic_script
app_manager.add_command('db', alembic_manager)
python manage.py db

Differences from Alembic

Flask-Alembic is opinionated and was designed to enable specific workflows. If you’re looking for a more direct wrapper around Alembic, you may be interested in Flask-Migrate instead.

  • Configuration is taken from Flask.config instead of alembic.ini and env.py.
  • The migrations are stored directly in the migrations folder instead of the versions folder.
  • Provides the migration environment instead of env.py and exposes Alembic’s internal API objects.
  • Differentiates between CLI commands and Python functions. The functions return revision objects and don’t print to stdout.
  • Allows operating Alembic at any API level while the app is running, through the exposed objects and functions.
  • Does not (currently) support offline migrations. I don’t plan to add this but am open to patches.
  • Does not (currently) support multiple databases. I plan on adding support for Flask-SQLAlchemy binds and external bases eventually, or am open to patches.
  • Adds a system for managing independent migration branches and makes it easier to work with named branches.

API Reference


class flask_alembic.Alembic(app=None, run_mkdir=True, command_name='db')

Provide an Alembic environment and migration API.

If instantiated without an app instance, init_app() is used to register an app at a later time.

Configures basic logging to stderr for the sqlalchemy and alembic loggers if they do not already have handlers.

  • app – call init_app on this app
  • run_mkdir – whether to run mkdir() during init_app
  • command_name – register a Click command with this name during init_app, or skip if False
init_app(app, run_mkdir=None, command_name=None)

Register this extension on an app. Will automatically set up migration directory by default.

Keyword arguments on this method override those set during __init__() if not None.

  • app – app to register
  • run_mkdir – whether to run mkdir()
  • command_name – register a Click command with this name, or skip if False

Generate a unique id for a revision.

By default this uses alembic.util.rev_id(). Override this method, or assign a static method, to change this.

For example, to use the current timestamp:

alembic = Alembic(app)
alembic.rev_id = lambda: datetime.utcnow().timestamp()

Get the Alembic Config for the current app.


Get the Alembic ScriptDirectory for the current app.


Get the Alembic EnvironmentContext for the current app.


Get the Alembic MigrationContext for the current app.

Accessing this property opens a database connection but can’t close it automatically. Make sure to call migration_context.connection.close() when you’re done.


Get the Alembic Operations context for the current app.

Accessing this property opens a database connection but can’t close it automatically. Make sure to call migration_context.connection.close() when you’re done.

run_migrations(fn, **kwargs)

Configure an Alembic MigrationContext to run migrations for the given function.

This takes the place of Alembic’s env.py file, specifically the run_migrations_online function.

  • fn – use this function to control what migrations are run
  • kwargs – extra arguments passed to upgrade or downgrade in each revision

Create the script directory and template.


Get the list of current revisions.


Get the list of revisions that have no child revisions.

Parameters:resolve_dependencies – treat dependencies as down revisions

Get the list of revisions that have more than one next revision.

log(start='base', end='heads')

Get the list of revisions in the order they will run.

  • start – only get since this revision
  • end – only get until this revision

Set the current database revision without running migrations.

Parameters:target – revision to set to, default ‘heads’

Run migrations to upgrade database.

Parameters:target – revision to go to, default ‘heads’

Run migrations to downgrade database.

Parameters:target – revision to go down to, default -1
revision(message, empty=False, branch='default', parent='head', splice=False, depend=None, label=None, path=None)

Create a new revision. By default, auto-generate operations by comparing models and database.

  • message – description of revision
  • empty – don’t auto-generate operations
  • branch – use this independent branch name
  • parent – parent revision(s) of this revision
  • splice – allow non-head parent revision
  • depend – revision(s) this revision depends on
  • label – label(s) to apply to this revision
  • path – where to store this revision

list of new revisions

merge(revisions='heads', message=None, label=None)

Create a merge revision.

  • revisions – revisions to merge
  • message – description of merge, will default to revisions param
  • label – label(s) to apply to this revision

new revision


Generate the MigrationScript object that would generate a new revision.


Generate a list of operations that would be present in a new revision.


Provide integration with cli libraries.

Integration with Click:

from flask_alembic import alembic_click
app.cli.add_command(alembic_click, 'db')

This is done automatically by Flask-Alembic if it detects app.cli.

Integration with Flask-Script:

from flask_alembic import alembic_script
manager.add_command('db', alembic_script)

Base functions that write information to the terminal.


Create the migration directory if it does not exist.


Show the list of current revisions.

flask_alembic.cli.base.heads(resolve_dependencies=False, verbose=False)

Show the list of revisions that have no child revisions.


Show the list of revisions that have more than one next revision.

flask_alembic.cli.base.log(start='base', end='heads', verbose=False)

Show the list of revisions in the order they will run.


Show the given revisions.


Set the current revision without running migrations.


Run migrations to upgrade the database.


Run migration to downgrade the database.

flask_alembic.cli.base.revision(message, empty=False, branch='default', parent='head', splice=False, depend=None, label=None, path=None)

Generate a new revision.

flask_alembic.cli.base.merge(revisions, message=None, label=None)

Generate a merge revision.