[database] In Firebase, is there a way to get the number of children of a node without loading all the node data?

You can get the child count via

firebase_node.once('value', function(snapshot) { alert('Count: ' + snapshot.numChildren()); });

But I believe this fetches the entire sub-tree of that node from the server. For huge lists, that seems RAM and latency intensive. Is there a way of getting the count (and/or a list of child names) without fetching the whole thing?

This question is related to database firebase count

The answer is

The code snippet you gave does indeed load the entire set of data and then counts it client-side, which can be very slow for large amounts of data.

Firebase doesn't currently have a way to count children without loading data, but we do plan to add it.

For now, one solution would be to maintain a counter of the number of children and update it every time you add a new child. You could use a transaction to count items, like in this code tracking upvodes:

var upvotesRef = new Firebase('https://docs-examples.firebaseio.com/android/saving-data/fireblog/posts/-JRHTHaIs-jNPLXOQivY/upvotes');
upvotesRef.transaction(function (current_value) {
  return (current_value || 0) + 1;

For more info, see https://www.firebase.com/docs/transactions.html

UPDATE: Firebase recently released Cloud Functions. With Cloud Functions, you don't need to create your own Server. You can simply write JavaScript functions and upload it to Firebase. Firebase will be responsible for triggering functions whenever an event occurs.

If you want to count upvotes for example, you should create a structure similar to this one:

  "posts" : {
    "-JRHTHaIs-jNPLXOQivY" : {
      "upvotes" : {
      "userX" : true,
      "userY" : true,
      "userZ" : true,

And then write a javascript function to increase the upvotes_count when there is a new write to the upvotes node.

const functions = require('firebase-functions');
const admin = require('firebase-admin');

exports.countlikes = functions.database.ref('/posts/$postid/upvotes').onWrite(event => {
  return event.data.ref.parent.child('upvotes_count').set(event.data.numChildren());

You can read the Documentation to know how to Get Started with Cloud Functions.

Also, another example of counting posts is here: https://github.com/firebase/functions-samples/blob/master/child-count/functions/index.js

Update January 2018

The firebase docs have changed so instead of event we now have change and context.

The given example throws an error complaining that event.data is undefined. This pattern seems to work better:

exports.countPrescriptions = functions.database.ref(`/prescriptions`).onWrite((change, context) => {
    const data = change.after.val();
    const count = Object.keys(data).length;
    return change.after.ref.child('_count').set(count);


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