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Extending Models

Below is a list of tasks to consider when adding a new field to a core model.

1. Generate and run database migrations

Django migrations are used to express changes to the database schema. In most cases, Django can generate these automatically, however very complex changes may require manual intervention. Always remember to specify a short but descriptive name when generating a new migration.


Assert that you have installed Nautobot in your development environment using poetry install so that changes you make to migrations will apply to the source tree!

nautobot-server makemigrations <app> -n <name>
nautobot-server migrate

Where possible, try to merge related changes into a single migration. For example, if three new fields are being added to different models within an app, these can be expressed in the same migration. You can merge a new migration with an existing one by combining their operations lists.


Migrations can only be merged within a release. Once a new release has been published, its migrations cannot be altered (other than for the purpose of correcting a bug).

2. Add validation logic to clean()

If the new field introduces additional validation requirements (beyond what's included with the field itself), implement them in the model's clean() method. Remember to call the model's original method using super() before or after your custom validation as appropriate:

class Foo(models.Model):

    def clean(self):


        # Custom validation goes here
        if is None:
            raise ValidationError()

3. Add CSV helpers

Add the name of the new field to csv_headers and included a CSV-friendly representation of its data in the model's to_csv() method. These will be used when exporting objects in CSV format.

4. Update relevant querysets

If you're adding a relational field (e.g. ForeignKey) and intend to include the data when retrieving a list of objects, be sure to include the field using prefetch_related() as appropriate. This will optimize the view and avoid extraneous database queries.

5. Update API serializer

Extend the model's API serializer in <app>.api.serializers to include the new field. In most cases, it will not be necessary to also extend the nested serializer, which produces a minimal representation of the model.

6. Add field to forms

Extend any forms to include the new field as appropriate. Common forms include:

  • Credit/edit - Manipulating a single object
  • Bulk edit - Performing a change on many objects at once
  • CSV import - The form used when bulk importing objects in CSV format
  • Filter - Displays the options available for filtering a list of objects (both UI and API)

7. Extend object filter set

If the new field should be filterable, add it to the FilterSet for the model. If the field should be searchable, remember to reference it in the FilterSet's SearchFilter definition.

All filtersets should inherit from BaseFilterSet or NautobotFilterSet as appropriate to the scope of the model's functionality.

8. Add column to object table

If the new field will be included in the object list view, add a column to the model's table. For simple fields, adding the field name to Meta.fields will be sufficient. More complex fields may require declaring a custom column.

9. Update the UI templates

Edit the object's view template to display the new field. There may also be a custom add/edit form template that needs to be updated.

10. Validate the new field in GraphQL

If the model is already part of the GraphQL schema, the new field will be included automatically. Validate that the new field is rendering properly in GraphQL. If the field is not compatible with GraphQL or shouldn't be included in GraphQL it's possible to exclude a specific field in the GraphQL Type Object associated with this specific model. You can refer to the graphene-django documentation for additional information.

Note that if you're using the convert_django_field registry to override the default GraphQL representation for any field type, this override must be registered within the relevant app's ready() function, rather than at module import time.

11. Create/extend test cases

Create or extend the relevant test cases to verify that the new field and any accompanying validation logic perform as expected. This is especially important for relational fields. Nautobot incorporates various test suites, including:

  • API serializer/view tests
  • Filter tests
  • Form tests
  • Model tests
  • View tests

Be diligent to ensure all of the relevant test suites are adapted or extended as necessary to test any new functionality.

12. Update the model's documentation

Each model has a dedicated page in the documentation, at models/<app>/<model>.md. Update this file to include any relevant information about the new field.

Note that this documentation page will be accessible through the web UI via a "question mark" icon on the corresponding model create/edit page.


Due to a limitation in how the documentation is rendered in the web UI, cross-reference hyperlinks between Nautobot documentation pages will not work in the web UI (they will be broken links), so avoid using them in a model documentation page. External hyperlinks (to the Django documentation, for example) will work correctly and may be used as needed.