DEFAULT Constraint in PostgreSQL

Using the DEFAULT Constraint in PostgreSQL: Your Ultimate Guide


So you’re setting up a table and you think, "It would be great if some columns could auto-fill themselves with specific values." Well, you’re in luck! PostgreSQL’s DEFAULT constraint is designed to do just that. It lets you set default values for columns when no value is specified during an insert operation. It’s a nifty feature, to say the least, and we’ll go through it in detail right here.

What is the DEFAULT Constraint?

The DEFAULT constraint in PostgreSQL specifies a default value for a column. When you insert a new record into the table, PostgreSQL will use the default value for the column if no value is explicitly provided.


The syntax to define a DEFAULT constraint during table creation is as follows:

CREATE TABLE table_name (
    column1 data_type DEFAULT default_value,

To modify an existing table, you can use:

ALTER TABLE table_name
ALTER COLUMN column_name SET DEFAULT default_value;

Example Using the tv_series Table

Imagine that most series in our tv_series table are currently running, and we want the is_running column to default to true. Here’s how to do it:

ALTER TABLE public.tv_series

Common Errors and Solutions

Error Message:

ERROR: column "is_running" of relation "tv_series" does not exist


This error occurs if you try to set a DEFAULT constraint on a column that doesn’t exist in the table.


  • Make sure the column name is correct and exists in the table.

Error Message:

ERROR: invalid input syntax for type boolean: "TRUE"


This occurs when you try to set a default value that doesn’t match the column’s data type.


  • Ensure the default value is compatible with the column’s data type.

Best Practices and Tips

  • Be thoughtful when setting default values, especially for columns with numeric or date types, as an incorrect default might lead to incorrect data interpretation.
  • If a column frequently contains a particular value, setting it as the default can save time during data entry and make the database more user-friendly.


The DEFAULT constraint is an invaluable tool in your PostgreSQL toolkit. By setting up default values, you not only simplify data input but also improve data consistency across your tables. This guide has equipped you with all you need to know about the DEFAULT constraint, from its syntax to its best practices, ensuring that you can navigate your way around it effortlessly.

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