#database #development #eloquent #laravel #php

By default, Eloquent assumes that primary keys in your database tables are integers, typically auto-incrementing. However, there are cases where you might need to use non-integer primary keys, such as UUIDs or strings. In this guide, we'll explore how to leverage non-integer primary keys in Laravel Eloquent.

Choosing a Non-Integer Primary Key

Before diving into implementation, it's essential to understand why you might choose a non-integer primary key. Integer primary keys work well for many applications, but there are scenarios where non-integer keys offer advantages. For instance:

  • Universally Unique Identifiers (UUIDs): UUIDs ensure globally unique identifiers across systems and databases, facilitating easier data replication and synchronization.
  • Human-Readable Keys: Sometimes, using meaningful strings as primary keys can enhance readability and user experience.
  • Integration with External Systems: When integrating with external systems or APIs that use non-integer identifiers, it's pragmatic to maintain consistency.

Once you've decided on the type of non-integer primary key that suits your application's needs, you can proceed with integrating it into your Laravel Eloquent models.

Defining Models with Non-Integer Primary Keys

In Laravel, defining models with non-integer primary keys is straightforward. Let's say we have a products table with a product_code column as the primary key, which contains unique alphanumeric codes for each product. We can create an Eloquent model for this table as follows:

 1namespace App\Models;
 3use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;
 5class Product extends Model
 7    protected $primaryKey = 'product_code';
 8    public $incrementing = false;
 9    protected $keyType = 'string';

In the Product model, we specify the $primaryKey property to denote the primary key column name, set $incrementing to false to indicate that the IDs are not auto-incrementing integers, and specify the $keyType as string to inform Eloquent about the primary key's data type.

Working with Relationships

When working with relationships between models that have non-integer primary keys, Laravel provides seamless support. You can define relationships using the hasMany, belongsTo, or other methods as usual, and Laravel will handle the foreign key constraints appropriately.

Querying Models

Querying models with non-integer primary keys in Laravel Eloquent remains consistent with integer keys. For example, to retrieve a product with a specific product code, you can use the find() method:

1$product = Product::find('ABC123');

Additionally, you can perform queries using Eloquent's fluent query builder methods, such as where(), orWhere(), whereIn(), etc., without any modifications.

Migrations and Database Setup

When creating migrations for tables with non-integer primary keys, ensure that the primary key column is appropriately defined. For instance, for UUID primary keys, you might use the uuid() method in your migrations:

1Schema::create('products', function (Blueprint $table) {
2    $table->uuid('product_code')->primary();
3    // Other columns...


In conclusion, Laravel Eloquent provides robust support for using non-integer primary keys, allowing developers to work with a variety of data models and database structures seamlessly. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can integrate non-integer primary keys into your Laravel applications efficiently and take advantage of their benefits.

Whether you're using UUIDs, strings, or other non-integer identifiers, Laravel's flexibility empowers you to build elegant and scalable solutions tailored to your specific requirements.

Happy coding!