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Django on_delete

Django offers many advantages and capabilities and changing the database is one of its best benefits. Django framework can handle the backend process effortlessly. Processes like creation, deletion, and update can be very flexible performed by the Django models easily. In this tutorial, we have the complete guide of the Django on_delete parameter.

The on_delete is one of the parameter which helps to perform database-related task efficiently. This parameter is used when a relationship is established in Django. The on_delete parameter allows us to work with the foreign key.

It is clear that whenever the foreign key concept comes into the scenario, the on_delete parameter is expected to be declared as one among the parameters in the foreign key.

This parameter decides whether deletion must happen. It tells what to do when a parent value is deleted. This option allows the extent of flexibility to the database-oriented operations.

Let's understand the following syntax.

Syntax of Django on_delete

  • The left-most value represents the field that is going to be created in reference. We need to mention a specific field that will be used to perform the specific operation. This field will pull the data from the parent field, and the parent field needs to be mentioned here. It will reference the further through the framework. In the database, the field_namewill act as the field inheriting the value of the foreign key.
  • On the right side, the ForeignKey()function represents the operation of foreign key creation. To create the foreign in Django, this function is necessary to use. Next, it takes several arguments that we will discuss in another tutorial, and on_delete is one of them.
  • The first argument, WASD, denotes the foreign key which is expected to be inherited. Then, the on_deleteparameter is used, which performs the various operations.

Various on-delete Options

Django is famous for its robust relational management database management system. The on_delete handle is used to handle the deletion of reference data to maintain the database integrity.

The on_delete includes the following options -

  • SET()


When we set the on_delete parameter as CASCADE, deleting the reference object will also delete the referred object. This option is most useful in many relationships. Suppose a post has comments; when the Post is deleted, all the comments on that Post will automatically delete. We don't want a comment saving in the database when the associated Post is deleted.


The PROTECT option behaves just opposite of CASCDE; if we try to delete the actual reference object then all instance of the data on the reference object are not deleted. In simple words, it prevents referenced object to be deleted if it has an object referencing in database. If a post consists of comments, it cannot be deleted.

If we forcefully delete the reference object, it will raise the ProtectedError which can be handled in views.


First, we need to set the null option on the foreign key as True; we can use the SET_NULL option on the on_delete option. When we delete the referenced object, the referencing value will be updated as NULL. In simple words, a post is deleted without deleting associated comments and set to be NULL.


This option works the same as the name suggests; it takes the default value set when defining the relationship. When we delete the referred object, then the referencing object value will be assigned with the default value that we have created. When we delete the Post that has comments, the comments are automatically assigned to the default post that we have created the model.


It is quite similar to the SET_DEFAULT, but provides more flexibility. When we delete the referenced object then the referencing value is updated as NULL. So a NULL value will be replaced for the referencing object.


As the name suggests, when we delete the referenced object, it does nothing. It is not suggested to use because it violates the purpose of an RDBMS. Comments are still referring to the deleted posts that do not even exist. It causes a lot of bugs and data integrity errors.


The RESTRICT option is similar to the PROTECT option, but the only difference is when we delete the reference object on_delete raise the RestrictedError. But RESTRICT will provide the facility to delete the referenced object if the referencing object and the object referred to objects are allotted with reference to a different common object.

Example - file

We have created the two models, Author, and Post. In the post model, we define a foreign key field named Author referencing the Author's object. Then we define the on_delete parameter as CASCADE.

To display the models in the control panel, it needs to be registered in the file.

After creating the post and author, we have the following data in our database.


Django on_delete


Django on_delete

Now, we delete an author of book "You can win". After deleting this author, associated post is also deleted automatically. Now, our database will look like as follows.


Django on_delete

In the next example, we change the property of on_delete from CASCADE to IS_NULL and migrate the database. Let's see how it is impact on database.

We delete the author name "Mathew Barnard", the Post associated with this Author will set as null.

Django on_delete

We have shown the two examples of on_delete options. You can create your own models and apply each option and observe the result. To get the complete details of mentioned on_delete options, visit the official documentation of Django.


In this article, we have mentioned how we can use the on_delete parameter in a foreign key. It provides the flexibility to delete the record and control the impact of that deletion on the referenced records. It takes multiple options, and each option allows us to control the behavior of referring data.

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