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Scott Spence

Importing Large CSV Files into Turso DB

6 min read

So, I’ve got these massive CSV files (some up to 233 thousand rows) that I exported from Fathom Analytics. I want to import them into the Turso DB I use for this site, so, eventually visitors will be able to view the data. I’m lot leaving Fathom, I still think Fathom is a top notch product I’m happy to pay for. Historical data is available via the Fathom API but it would absolutely hammer my allowance (like I did at the start of 2023).

I spent many hours trying to get the data into the database via a single use script then watched my Turso dashboard plan usage sky rocket! 😂

There was a simpler way!

  1. I had to read the docs!
  2. I reached out to their dev rel and my buddy Jamie Barton who pointed me in the right direction.

It’s a three step process, create a new database from the CSV file, dump that into a file then import that into the existing database.

Cool! You can create a database from a CSV file with the Turso CLI, but at the moment you can’t import that into an existing database. I’ll go over how I did that in the following sections.

Create database from CSV file

This is a temporary store that you can destroy with the Turso CLI once you have shunted the data around.

For this example I’ll be setting up the variables I’ll be using in the command line so it’s clear what’s going where.


This section is detailed in the Turso CLI docs to create a new database from the CSV file:

turso db create $TEMP_DB --from-csv $CSV_FILE --csv-table-name $CSV_TABLE_NAME

I can now shell into the database and check the table schema:

turso db shell $TEMP_DB

In the shell I can check the table schema:

PRAGMA table_info(csv_table_export);
-- or

Here’s the output:

CREATE TABLE "csv_table_export"( "Timestamp" TEXT, "Hostname" TEXT, "Pathname" TEXT, "Views" TEXT, "Uniques" TEXT );

You’ll note that the table schema data types are all TEXT and I want to change them to TIMESTAMP for the timestamp and INTEGER for the Views and Uniques columns.

I’ll come onto that part later.

Check the validity of the data

There’s a couple of checks that I want to do before I import the data into my existing database.

Null Value Check: Ensure that none of the columns contain unexpected null values.

SELECT * FROM csv_table_export
  WHERE "Timestamp" IS NULL
  OR "Hostname" IS NULL
  OR "Pathname" IS NULL
  OR "Views" IS NULL
  OR "Uniques" IS NULL;

Data Type Validation: Since all your columns are text, I want to ensure that ‘Views’ and ‘Uniques’ columns contain only numeric data.

SELECT * FROM csv_table_export
  WHERE typeof("Views") != 'text' OR typeof("Uniques") != 'text';

Special Characters in Text Fields: Check for problematic characters in text fields, such as unescaped single quotes.

SELECT * FROM csv_table_export
  WHERE "Hostname" LIKE '%''%' OR "Pathname" LIKE '%''%';

There was a sneaky unescaped ' in there so I had to update the table:

UPDATE csv_table_export
SET Pathname = replace(Pathname, '''', '')
WHERE Pathname LIKE '%''%';

Now I can create a dump of this database to import into my existing database.

Dump the temp database to a file

So this is the part I need to thank Jamie for, he pointed me to a GitHub issue with the workaround for this.

Well, not entirely as I didn’t know how to make the dump file from the database, I found that in another issue on the Turso CLI repo.

Ok, so, to create the dump of the database to a file:

turso db shell $TEMP_DB .dump > $CSV_DUMP

This will create a dump file in the current directory.

If you take a look at the contents of the file you’ll see something like this:

PRAGMA foreign_keys=OFF;
CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS "csv_table_export"( "Timestamp" TEXT, "Hostname" TEXT, "Pathname" TEXT, "Views" TEXT, "Uniques" TEXT );
-- INSERT INTO csv_table_export VALUES...

Inserting more than 20,000 rows into the database will silently fail.

I had to break the dump file into smaller chunks, I did this by inserting COMMIT; and BEGIN TRANSACTION; statements into the dump file.

Something like this:

PRAGMA foreign_keys=OFF;
CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS "csv_table_export"( "Timestamp" TEXT, "Hostname" TEXT, "Pathname" TEXT, "Views" TEXT, "Uniques" TEXT );

INSERT INTO csv_table_export VALUES...
-- 19,999 more rows

So, for my 233 thousand row CSV file I had to split it into 12 files! 🥲

Import the dump into the existing database

Sweet! So, now to import the dump file into my existing database:

turso db shell $EXISTING_DB < $CSV_DUMP

Again I can shell into my $EXISTING_DB and check on the table schema for the import:

PRAGMA table_info(csv_table_export);

That gives me the following output:

CID     NAME          TYPE     NOTNULL     DFLT VALUE     PK
0       Timestamp     TEXT     0           NULL           0
1       Hostname      TEXT     0           NULL           0
2       Pathname      TEXT     0           NULL           0
3       Views         TEXT     0           NULL           0
4       Uniques       TEXT     0           NULL           0

All good, select some data from the table:

SELECT * FROM csv_table_export LIMIT 10;

Cool! Ok, as it stands the data types are all TEXT and I want to change them to TIMESTAMP for the Timestamp and INTEGER for the Views and Uniques columns.

Convert table schema

So, now I’ll create my desired schema for where I want the data to go that I’ve imported:

CREATE TABLE analytics_pages (
  hostname TEXT NOT NULL,
  pathname TEXT NOT NULL,

Then I’ll insert the data from the imported table into the new table with the correct schema:

INSERT INTO analytics_pages (timestamp, hostname, pathname, views, uniques)
  strftime('%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S', Timestamp),
FROM csv_table_export;

Check the data is in the table:

SELECT * FROM analytics_pages LIMIT 10;

Now I’m happy with the data I can drop the imported table from my existing database:

-- Drop import table if not needed
DROP TABLE csv_table_export;

Also, I can delete the temporary database:

turso db destroy $TEMP_DB

That’s it! I’ve imported the data from the CSV file into my existing database.


Wrapping up, I learned that importing massive CSVs into Turso DB is simpler than it looks. By using the Turso CLI, I created a new database from the CSV, converted it to a SQL dump, and then merged it into my existing database.

This experience reminded me of the power of reading the docs and tapping into community wisdom. It turns out, the easiest solutions are often hidden in plain sight, just a question or a quick read away!


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