Using Djongo Array Reference Field

Array Reference field

The ArrayField stores embedded models within a MongoDB array as embedded documents for each entry. However, if entries contain duplicate embedded documents, using the ArrayField would result in unnecessary duplication and increased disk space usage. On the other hand, the Django ManyToManyField only refers to a different table of entries. In addition however, it creates an intermediate “through/join” table which records all the mappings.

The ArrayReferenceField is one of the most powerful features of Djongo. The ArrayReferenceField is a bargain between the ArrayField and ManyToManyField. Similar to the ManyToManyField a separate collection is used for storing duplicate entries (instead of embedding them as an array). This means there is no data duplication. However, the intermediate “through/join” mapping table is completely skipped! This is achieved by storing only a reference to the entries in the embedded array.

While the ManyToManyField required two queries to fetch data, the ArrayReferenceField requires just one query and is much faster. If you have used the ManyToManyField, then you know how to use the ArrayReferenceField. In fact, it implements the exact same API as the ManyToManyField. You can replace all existing ManyToManyField with ArrayReferenceField and everything will continue to work as is.

In the example the Entry Model can be rewritten as follows:

class Author(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=200)
    email = models.EmailField()

    def __str__(self):
class Entry(models.Model):
    blog = models.EmbeddedField(
    meta_data = models.EmbeddedField(

    headline = models.CharField(max_length=255)
    body_text = models.TextField()

    authors = models.ArrayReferenceField(
    n_comments = models.IntegerField()

    def __str__(self):
        return self.headline

Notice how the Author model is no longer set as abstract. This means a separate author collection will be created in the DB. Simply set the authors to a list containing several author instances. When the entry gets saved, only a reference to the primary_key of the author model is saved in the array. Upon retrieving an entry from the DB the corresponding authors are automatically looked up and the author list is populated.

The ArrayReferenceField behaves exactly like the ManyToManyField. However, underneath only references to the entries are being stored in the array.


class ArrayReferenceField(ForeignKey):
    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):


Same as the ForeignKey Base class