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Enable and use pgvector on Aiven for PostgreSQL®

This article provides step-by-step instructions on enabling, using, and disabling the pgvector extension for your Aiven for PostgreSQL service.

About using pgvector

The pgvector extension allows you to perform the vector similarity search and use embedding techniques directly in Aiven for PostgreSQL. See pgvector for AI-powered search for more information on what pgvector is and how it works.


  • Aiven account
  • Aiven for PostgreSQL service running on PostgreSQL 13 or newer PostgreSQL versions
  • psql and a psql CLI client
  • Vector embeddings generated (for example, with the OpenAI API client)

Enable pgvector

Run the CREATE EXTENSION statement from a client such as psql connected to your service. This is needed for each database you want to perform the similarity search on.

  1. Connect to your Aiven for PostgreSQL service using, for example, the psql client (CLI).

  2. Connect to your database where you want to operate.

    \c database-name
  3. Run the CREATE EXTENSION statement.


Store embeddings

  1. Create a table to store the generated vector embeddings. Use the CREATE TABLE SQL command, adjusting the dimensions as needed.

    CREATE TABLE items (id bigserial PRIMARY KEY, embedding vector(3));

    As a result, the items table is created. The table includes the embedding column, which can store vectors with three dimensions.

  2. Run the INSERT statement to store the embeddings generated with, for example, the OpenAI API client.

    INSERT INTO items (embedding) VALUES ('[1,2,3]'), ('[4,5,6]');

    As a result, two new rows are inserted into the items table with the provided embeddings.

To calculate similarity, run the SELECT statements using the built-in vector operators.

SELECT * FROM items ORDER BY embedding <-> '[3,1,2]' LIMIT 5;

As a result, the query computes the L2 distance between the selected vector and the vectors stored in the items table, arrange the results based on the calculated distance, and outputs its top five nearest neighbors (most similar items).

Operators for calculating similarity
  • <-> - Euclidean distance (L2 distance)
  • <#> - negative inner product
  • <=> - cosine distance

Add indices

You can add an index on the vector column to use the approximate nearest neighbor search (instead of the default the exact nearest neighbor search). This can improve query performance with an ignorable cost on recall. Add an index is possible for all distance functions (L2 distance, cosine distance, inner product).

To add an index, run a query similar to the following:

CREATE INDEX ON items USING ivfflat (embedding vector_l2_ops) WITH (lists = 100);

As a result, the index is added to the embedding column for the L2 distance function.

Disable pgvector

To stop the pgvector extension and remove it from a database, run the following SQL command: