How to Improve MongoDB Query Performance with Indexes

MongoDB is a widely used, powerful, and flexible NoSQL database that stores data in JSON-like documents. It is known for its horizontal scalability, making it a popular choice for applications that need to store large amounts of data or handle high traffic loads. However, as the data size and traffic increase, one common challenge developers face is optimizing query performance. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by using indexes. In this beginner-friendly blog post, we will explore how to improve MongoDB query performance with indexes, including different types of indexes, how to create and manage them, and some best practices for their usage.

Understanding Indexes

Indexes are data structures that help MongoDB search through documents more efficiently. They store a subset of the data in a collection and can significantly speed up queries that match indexed fields. Without an index, MongoDB must perform a collection scan, which means it has to examine every document in the collection to find the relevant data. This can be very slow, especially for large collections.

Creating an index on a field creates a separate, smaller data structure that stores the values of that field along with a reference to the documents containing those values. This makes it faster for MongoDB to find documents based on the indexed field.

Types of Indexes

MongoDB supports several types of indexes to cater to different query patterns. Let's explore some of the most common types:

Single Field Index

A single field index is an index on a single field in a document. These indexes are suitable for simple queries that involve only one field. To create a single field index, use the createIndex command:

db.collection.createIndex({ field: 1 })

Compound Index

A compound index is an index on multiple fields in a document. These indexes are suitable for queries that involve more than one field. The order of the fields in the index definition matters, as it affects the way MongoDB can use the index. To create a compound index, use the createIndex command:

db.collection.createIndex({ field1: 1, field2: 1 })

Multikey Index

A multikey index is an index on an array field, where each value in the array is indexed separately. This index type allows MongoDB to efficiently search for documents with specific array values. To create a multikey index, simply create an index on an array field:

db.collection.createIndex({ arrayField: 1 })

Text Index

A text index is an index that enables full-text search in a collection. It allows MongoDB to search for words or phrases within string fields. To create a text index, use the createIndex command with the "text" keyword:

db.collection.createIndex({ textField: "text" })

Geospatial Index

A geospatial index is an index that enables geospatial queries, such as searching for documents within a certain distance of a given point. MongoDB supports two types of geospatial indexes: 2d and 2dsphere. To create a geospatial index, use the createIndex command with the "2d" or "2dsphere" keyword:

db.collection.createIndex({ location: "2dsphere" })

Creating Indexes

Creating an index in MongoDB is simple. Use the createIndex command on the desired collection, specifying the fields and index type:

db.collection.createIndex({ field: 1 })

This command creates an ascending index on the field field. For a descending index, use -1 instead of 1.

You can also create a compound index by specifying multiple fields:

db.collection.createIndex({field1: 1, field2: -1 })

This command creates a compound index on the field1 and field2 fields, with field1 sorted in ascending order and field2 sorted in descending order.

Index Options

When creating an index, you can also provide additional options. Some common options include:

  • unique: Ensures that the indexed field contains unique values only.
  • sparse: Excludes documents that do not have the indexed field from the index.
  • background: Builds the index in the background, allowing the database to continue processing other operations.

Here's an example of creating a unique index with a background build:

db.collection.createIndex({ field: 1 }, { unique: true, background: true })

Managing Indexes

You can manage indexes in MongoDB using the following commands:

Listing Indexes

To list all the indexes on a collection, use the getIndexes command:


Dropping Indexes

To drop an index, use the dropIndex command and specify the index name:


Rebuilding Indexes

To rebuild all indexes on a collection, use the reIndex command:


Best Practices for Indexes

Here are some best practices to follow when using indexes in MongoDB:

  1. Create indexes based on query patterns: Analyze the most frequent and performance-critical queries in your application and create indexes that support them.
  2. Avoid over-indexing: Creating too many indexes can slow down write operations and consume more memory. Maintain a balance between the number of indexes and query performance.
  3. Use compound indexes strategically: When creating compound indexes, consider the order of fields and how it affects query performance. In some cases, a single compound index can support multiple query patterns.
  4. Monitor index usage: Use MongoDB's built-in tools, such as the $indexStats and $currentOp operators, to monitor index usage and performance. Adjust your indexing strategy based on this information.
  5. Consider index size: Keep in mind that large indexes may not fit entirely in memory. If an index is too large to fit in memory, MongoDB may need to read from disk, which can slow down query performance.


Q: How do I know if my queries are using indexes?

A: You can use the explain() method in the MongoDB shell to see the execution plan of a query, including whether it uses an index or not. For example:

db.collection.find({ field: "value" }).explain("executionStats")

Q: Can I create an index on a nested field?

A: Yes, you can create an index on a nested field using the dot notation. For example, if you have a document with a nested field like this:

{ "parent": { "child": "value" } }

You can create an index on the child field like this:

db.collection.createIndex({ "parent.child": 1 })

Q: How do I decide which fields to index?

A: Analyze your application's most frequent and performance-critical queries to determine which fields are involved in filtering, sorting, or joining operations. Create indexes on those fields to improve query performance.

Q: Can I create indexes on multiple collections?

A: Yes, you can create indexes on multiple collections. Each collection can have its own set of indexes based on its specific query patterns.

Q: How do I update or modifyan existing index?

A: To update or modify an existing index, you must first drop the index and then create a new index with the desired changes. For example, to update a single field index to a compound index, you would do the following:

// Drop the existing index db.collection.dropIndex("field_1"); // Create the new compound index db.collection.createIndex({ field1: 1, field2: 1 });

Keep in mind that dropping and recreating indexes can be time-consuming and resource-intensive operations, especially on large collections.


Indexes are essential tools for improving MongoDB query performance. By understanding the different types of indexes, how to create and manage them, and following best practices, you can optimize your MongoDB queries and ensure that your application runs smoothly even under heavy workloads.

Remember to analyze your application's query patterns and choose the appropriate indexes to support those patterns. Be cautious about over-indexing, as it can slow down write operations and consume more memory. Finally, monitor your index usage and adjust your indexing strategy as needed to maintain optimal performance.

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