Table with smaller data types seems to take more space on disk?

The question:

I have these two identical tables:

                  Table "public.region"
   Column    |   Type   | Collation | Nullable | Default 
 r_regionkey | integer      |           | not null | 
 r_name      | char(25)     |           |          | 
 r_comment   | char(152)     |           |          | 
    "region_pkey" PRIMARY KEY, btree (r_regionkey)


                  Table "public.region2"
   Column    |   Type   | Collation | Nullable | Default 
 r_regionkey | smallint |           | not null | 
 r_name      | text     |           |          | 
 r_comment   | text     |           |          | 
    "region_pkey" PRIMARY KEY, btree (r_regionkey)

I am using smallint and text in order to save space, but weirdly this is the result:

select pg_size_pretty(pg_table_size('region'))

returns 8192 bytes while

select pg_size_pretty(pg_table_size('region2'))

returns 48 kB.

Why is region2 taking more space, even though I am using smallint instead of integer and text instead of char(n)?

The Solutions:

Below are the methods you can try. The first solution is probably the best. Try others if the first one doesn’t work. Senior developers aren’t just copying/pasting – they read the methods carefully & apply them wisely to each case.

Method 1

After running VACUUM FULL public.region; and VACUUM FULL public.region2;, test again with:

SELECT pg_relation_size('public.region');

Three possible issues:

  1. The obvious reason: table bloat from updates or deletes. Removed by VACUUM FULL.

  2. Schema-qualified names (‘public.region’ instead of just ‘region’) makes sure you don’t measure the wrong table in a different schema by accident. Probably not the case.

  3. pg_table_size() includes auxiliary relation forks (files), which may be filled for one table, but not for the other. For your purpose, the more accurate test is with pg_relation_size().

The manual:

pg_table_size ( regclass ) → bigint

Computes the disk space used by the specified table, excluding indexes
(but including its TOAST table if any, free space map, and visibility


pg_relation_size ( relation regclass [, fork text ] ) →

Computes the disk space used by one “fork” of the specified relation.
(Note that for most purposes it is more convenient to use the
higher-level functions pg_total_relation_size or pg_table_size,
which sum the sizes of all forks.) With one argument, this returns the
size of the main data fork of the relation. The second argument can be
provided to specify which fork to examine:

  • main returns the size of the main data fork of the relation.

  • fsm returns the size of the Free Space Map (see Section 70.3) associated with the relation.

  • vm returns the size of the Visibility Map (see Section 70.4) associated with the relation.

  • init returns the size of the initialization fork, if any, associated with the relation.

Since your example has no TOAST table, only fsm and vm make a difference. Those are typically negligible in size for bigger tables, but relevant for your minimal test. Both may go down to “0 bytes” after VACUUM FULL.

Test with more rows (thousands).


All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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