[Ruby-on-rails] ActiveRecord: size vs count


As the other answers state:

  • count will perform an SQL COUNT query
  • length will calculate the length of the resulting array
  • size will try to pick the most appropriate of the two to avoid excessive queries

But there is one more thing. We noticed a case where size acts differently to count/lengthaltogether, and I thought I'd share it since it is rare enough to be overlooked.

  • If you use a :counter_cache on a has_many association, size will use the cached count directly, and not make an extra query at all.

    class Image < ActiveRecord::Base
      belongs_to :product, counter_cache: true
    class Product < ActiveRecord::Base
      has_many :images
    > product = Product.first  # query, load product into memory
    > product.images.size      # no query, reads the :images_count column
    > product.images.count     # query, SQL COUNT
    > product.images.length    # query, loads images into memory

This behaviour is documented in the Rails Guides, but I either missed it the first time or forgot about it.


In Rails, you can find the number of records using both Model.size and Model.count. If you're dealing with more complex queries is there any advantage to using one method over the other? How are they different?

For instance, I have users with photos. If I want to show a table of users and how many photos they have, will running many instances of user.photos.size be faster or slower than user.photos.count?


The following strategies all make a call to the database to perform a COUNT(*) query.



records = Model.all

The following is not as efficient as it will load all records from the database into Ruby, which then counts the size of the collection.

records = Model.all

If your models have associations and you want to find the number of belonging objects (e.g. @customer.orders.size), you can avoid database queries (disk reads). Use a counter cache and Rails will keep the cache value up to date, and return that value in response to the size method.