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Command line GTDB taxonomy browser


gtdb-taxo is a command line utility to query the GTDB Genome Taxonomy. It can look up taxons by name, regex, representative genome, and so on.

The program is the GTDB equivalent of taxo which does the same for the NCBI/ENA taxonomy.

gtdb-taxo can also operate interactively (gtdb-taxo-browser), allowing you to navigate up and down the taxonomy tree from the command line.

gtdb-taxo and gtdb-taxo-browser use gtdb-taxo-db as their back-end. gtdb-taxo-db imports the GTDB taxonomy into a SQLite3 database and offers a SQL interface to query it.

gtdb-taxo is lightweight and requires no special installation, apart from the initial import of the GTDB database.



  • Prerequisites

    gtdb-taxo requires the sqlite3 and GNU awk programs. These are often already present on your system, or else easily installable. On Debian/Ubuntu:

      sudo apt-get install sqlite3 gawk

    If you want to be able to search using regular expressions, then install the sqlite3 PCRE extension:

      sudo apt-get install sqlite3-pcre sqlite3 gawk
  • Clone the repository

      git clone
      cd gtdb-taxo
      ./gtdb-taxo --help
  • Obtain the taxonomy database

    If you are working with the GTDB, then it is likely you have installed GTDBTk and have set GTDBTK_DATA_PATH to point to its data directory. The file to import is then $GTDBTK_DATA_PATH/taxonomy/gtdb_taxonomy.tsv.

    If you do not have GTDBTk installed, find the download location of its database in its installation instructions, and extract gtdb_taxonomy.tsv from it.

  • Import the taxonomy database

      gtdb-taxo-db --import "$GTDBTK_DATA_PATH/taxonomy/gtdb_taxonomy.tsv"

    By default the database is installed in ~/.gtdb-taxo/gtdb-taxo.db. If env variable GTDB_TAXO_DB is set, it will use that file location.

  • [Optional] Add gtdb-taxo to your path

    No further installation is needed. For convenience you could add gtdb-taxo's directory to your PATH, or symlink the gtdb-taxo script in your ~/bin or ~/.local/bin directory, depending on your shell.


The gtdb-taxo, gtdb-taxo-browser, and gtdb-taxo-db commands are self-contained. Invoke with --help to see usage instructions. Below are some examples to get you going.

Examples: Command-line Use

Search on any part of the taxon name:

$ ./gtdb-taxo Staph
family   Staphylococcaceae         f__Staphylococcaceae
order    Staphylococcales          o__Staphylococcales
genus    Staphylococcus            g__Staphylococcus
species  Staphylococcus agnetis    s__Staphylococcus agnetis    RS_GCF_002901865.1
species  Staphylococcus argensis   s__Staphylococcus argensis   RS_GCF_002902305.1
species  Staphylococcus argenteus  s__Staphylococcus argenteus  RS_GCF_000236925.1

The output are four tab-separated columns. These list rank, name, unique name (as used by GTDB), and, for species, accession of the representative genome (see the GTDBTk paper).

Exact search (-e, --exact):

$ gtdb-taxo -e 'Tranquillimonas'
genus   Tranquillimonas g__Tranquillimonas

Regular expression search (-r, --regex):

$ gtdb-taxo -r '.*monas$'
genus    Acidomonas      g__Acidomonas
genus    Aeromonas       g__Aeromonas
genus    Aidingimonas    g__Aidingimonas
genus    Albimonas       g__Albimonas
genus    Alkalimonas     g__Alkalimonas

Examples: Interactive Use

If you run gtdb-taxo without arguments, it starts an interactive browser. Use this to navigate a pointer up and down the tree, and examine ancestors, siblings, or descendants in each context.

$ ./gtdb-taxo
Welcome to gtdb-taxo-browser.  Press h for help or q to quit.

(root) ? help
gtdb-taxo - Navigate the GTDB taxonomy

-                ENTER key displays current pointer
- NUMBER         jump to taxon marked with NUMBER
- %TEXT          search for taxa whose name contains TEXT
- /REGEX         search for taxo whose name matches REGEX
- u(p)           move current taxon pointer to parent taxon
- p(arent)       show parent but do not move current pointer there
- a(ncestors)    show lineage of current taxon all the way up to root
- s(iblings)     show all siblings of the current taxon
- c(hildren)     show all children of the current taxon
- D(escendants)  show all descendants of the current taxon
- q(uit) or ^D   leave

(root) ? children
     2 domain   Archaea
     3 domain   Bacteria

(root) ? 3
     3 domain   Bacteria

(Bacteria) ? children
       ... omitted ...
     7 phylum   Acidobacteriota
     8 phylum   Actinobacteriota
    10 phylum   Aerophobota
       ... omitted ...
   152 phylum   WOR-3_A
   153 phylum   WOR-3_B
   154 phylum   Zixibacteria

(Bacteria) ? /Acinetobacter baumannii$
 12376 species  Acinetobacter baumannii

(Bacteria) ? 12376
 12376 species  Acinetobacter baumannii

(Acinetobacter baumannii) ? ancestors
     3 domain   Bacteria
   110 phylum   Proteobacteria
   272 class    Gammaproteobacteria
   998 order    Pseudomonadales
  2496 family   Moraxellaceae
  4162 genus    Acinetobacter
 12376 species  Acinetobacter baumannii

(Acinetobacter baumannii) ? 4162
  4162 genus    Acinetobacter

(Acinetobacter) ? siblings
  4260 genus    Agitococcus
  4319 genus    Alkanindiges
  7582 genus    Moraxella
  7583 genus    Moraxella_A
  7584 genus    Moraxella_C
  8168 genus    Perlucidibaca
  8434 genus    Psychrobacter
 10133 genus    UBA2031

(Acinetobacter) ? quit


gtdb-taxo - Command line GTDB genome taxonomy browser
Copyright (C) 2019 Marco van Zwetselaar

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see


Command-line browser for the GTDB taxonomy







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