SQLite vs. Chroma: A Comparative Analysis for Managing Vector Embeddings

SQLite vs. Chroma: A Comparative Analysis for Managing Vector Embeddings blog post fallback blur image SQLite vs. Chroma: A Comparative Analysis for Managing Vector Embeddings blog post main image
Stephen CollinsOct 6, 2023
3 mins

What you will learn

  • What role do vector embeddings play in Large Language Models?
  • Vector embeddings enhance the capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs), enabling them to understand and generate text with nuanced intelligence.
  • What is the purpose of the `sqlite-vss` extension for SQLite?
  • `sqlite-vss` extends SQLite databases with vector similarity search capabilities, allowing for k-nearest neighbors searches on vector columns.
  • What are some advantages of using SQLite with the `sqlite-vss` extension for vector embeddings?
  • Advantages of using SQLite with `sqlite-vss` include privacy and data control, portability, and simplicity.
  • What challenges might one face when using SQLite for managing vector embeddings?
  • Challenges with SQLite include scalability issues, complexity in manual handling of vector storage and search logic, and managing dependencies.
  • How does Chroma compare to SQLite with `sqlite-vss` in terms of managing vector embeddings?
  • Chroma is built specifically for managing vector embeddings with advantages in dedicated solution design, ease of use, and scalability, but it has challenges like setup overhead and a learning curve.

Vector embeddings play a crucial role in enhancing the capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs), enabling them to understand and generate text with nuanced intelligence from your data.

However, managing these embeddings effectively requires a robust database.

Whether you’re navigating through well-known options like SQLite, enriched with the sqlite-vss extension, or exploring other avenues like Chroma, an open-source vector database, selecting the right tool is paramount. This article compares these two choices, guiding you through the pros and cons of each, helping you choose the right tool for storing and querying vector embeddings for your project.

SQLite with sqlite-vss Extension

sqlite-vss extends SQLite databases with vector similarity search capabilities. It allows performing k-nearest neighbors searches on vector columns stored in SQLite tables, enabling use cases like semantic search, recommendations, and question answering.

My blog post “How to use SQLite to store and query vector embeddings” provides a tutorial on how to leverage SQLite to manage vector embeddings. The approach hinges on the sqlite-vss extension and TensorFlow’s Universal Sentence Encoder for vector creation.

Let’s talk about some advantages that SQLite with sqlite-vss has over Chroma:

SQLite Advantages

  1. Privacy and Data Control: SQLite allows data to be stored locally, ensuring privacy and complete control over the data.
  2. Portability: Known for portability, SQLite’s single-file database can be easily transferred or backed up, providing a convenient and compact solution for storing and moving vector embeddings.
  3. Simplicity: SQLite offers a straightforward, lightweight solution for developers familiar with SQL.

SQLite however has some drawbacks in comparison to Chroma:

SQLite Challenges

  1. Scalability: SQLite may not be the best fit for managing very large datasets or high-throughput applications.
  2. Complexity: Manual handling of vector storage and search logic might get complex with evolving requirements.
  3. Dependency: Relies on multiple dependencies (SQLite3, TensorFlow, TypeScript) which might be cumbersome to manage.

Chroma for Vector Embeddings

Chroma is an open-source embedding database, supported by the company of the same name, Chroma. You have the option to self-host it, and the company behind it has plans to offer hosted versions of Chroma in the near future.

I have also written about Chroma, “How to use Chroma to store and query vector embeddings” that introduces you to Chroma, with a short guide on the process of integrating vector embeddings with it.

And here’s some advantages that Chroma has over SQLite with sqlite-vss:

Chroma Advantages

  1. Dedicated Solution: Chroma is built specifically for managing vector embeddings, ensuring optimized storage and retrieval.
  2. Ease of Use: Chroma provides a simple interface for adding and querying documents without needing to manage the underlying complexity.
  3. Scalability: Being a dedicated vector database, Chroma is designed to handle large-scale data and queries efficiently.

Naturally, some challenges as well:

Chroma Challenges

  1. Setup Overhead: Running Chroma requires more infrastructure setup than SQLite, even with the future hosted version.
  2. Learning Curve: Developers unfamiliar with Chroma might require some time to get acquainted with its functionalities and setup.

Comparative Insights

1. Ease and Flexibility vs. Specialization

SQLite with the sqlite-vss extension presents a solution that can be integrated into applications with relative ease, particularly those already using SQLite. However, Chroma, while potentially presenting a steeper learning curve, offers a specialized environment tailored to handle vector data, natively, and at a larger scale.

2. Dependency Management

SQLite requires managing several dependencies and ensuring their compatibility, potentially making it less straightforward than Chroma in terms of dependency management, where most complexities are abstracted away within Docker containers. And this will further be true for Chroma once the hosted version is available.

3. Scalability and Performance

For projects that demand high performance and scalability, Chroma’s dedicated nature might offer advantages over SQLite, potentially providing faster query times and more efficient storage for large-scale applications.

4. Use Case Alignment

Developers might gravitate towards SQLite for smaller, lightweight projects or where embedding management is a small part of the application. In contrast, Chroma could be the go-to for applications heavily relying on semantic search or managing large collections of embeddings.

5. Community and Support

Considering the community and support around these tools is also pivotal. While SQLite has a broad user base and extensive documentation, Chroma’s niche focus on embedding management might offer more targeted resources and community expertise in this specific domain.


Both SQLite with the sqlite-vss extension and Chroma offer viable pathways to managing vector embeddings, albeit with distinct advantages and potential challenges. Developers might opt for SQLite for its simplicity, familiarity, and fit for smaller-scale applications. Conversely, those dealing with extensive embedding data and requiring a dedicated, scalable solution might find Chroma to be a fitting choice.

In essence, the selection between SQLite and Chroma depends on aligning the tool with project requirements, scalability needs, and the team’s familiarity with the technology. As innovations in managing vector embeddings continue to evolve, exploring and understanding various tools like these will undeniably fortify developers’ capabilities in building intelligent, semantically-aware applications.

Stay tuned for future posts, as I dive deeper into exploring and working with vector embeddings!