Docker and MongoDB


There may be times when you want to run specific processes or services separate from other ones that run on your operating system. Docker allows developers to precisely accomplish that goal. Find out how with this tutorial that explains how to build a MongoDB image so that you can run the Mongo Server in a Docker containerized environment.


NOTE: Be sure to give yourself elevated privileges to use the applications you installed.

Installing Docker

  • Verify that you’ve installed the appropriate version of Docker for your OS whether it is a macOS or a Windows environment. Some system architectures are 32-bit while others are 64-bit. Use the installers that are interactive to simplify the process.

Use the APT-GET repository to install Docker on Debian Linux

  • With the commands below, update the repository APT-GET first for your Linux distro (Debian-based), and then get the Docker Engine on your OS:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install docker-engine
  • Start the service for the Docker engine with the command service docker start:
sudo service docker start

Build Docker from source on Linux

On Linux, you must install Docker and Docker Compose by building Docker from source code. You can do this by:

  • use cURL


  • Get the package archive with wget

  • In either case, when finished, complete the validation steps for the download with the Docker’s GPG key as your confirmation.

  • Next, use Linux distro’s repository to install required packages:

ca-certificates curl gnupg2 software-properties-common

NOTE: Linux distros (Debian-based) use apt get to install the library apt-transport-https.

  • Here’s an example of the wget code for a MongoDB package system requiring v4.2:
wget -qO - | sudo apt-key add -
  • Perform a package update when you’re done with that. For a Red Hat Linux OS, use yum update.

Verify that Docker is installed

  • Check your Docker versions to confirm they were installed the right way. Use the commands docker-compose version and docker version to do this.

Build a Docker MongoDB image

  • From a terminal window, run a Docker default image with the command docker run mongo:latest.

  • Alternatively, use the file docker-compose.yml to use Docker Compose to construct a customized MongoDB image. A Dockerifle will hold those specific commands for the image.

Build a MongoDB Docker image with Dockerfile

  • Another way to build an image is by using a text editor such as nano.

  • Optionally, you can use Sublime.

NOTE: If you use a different type of editor to build your image, be sure that your pick has support for syntaxes and YAML indentation. You’ll make an extensionless Dockerfile.

  • Here’s the code showing how to use Sublime:
subl Dockerfile

NOTE: Adhere to the case sensitivity of the code by entering lowercase and uppercase letters as shown. (For example, the “D” is uppercase in Dockerfile. If it’s entered as a lowercase letter, the code won’t work as expected.)

Run Docker commands in Dockerfile

Bash command is automatically elevated with privileges, so you can go ahead and delete the sudo commands from the code.

  • Here is an example of the commands with sudo elevated privileges missing:
FROM mongo:latest

# custom label for the docker image
LABEL version="0.1" maintainer="ObjectRocket"

# use 'RUN' to execute commands in the container's bash terminal
RUN apt-get update -y
RUN apt-get remove mongodb-org -y
RUN apt-get install mongodb -y
RUN mkdir -p ./data/db
RUN service mongodb start -y

# expose MongoDB's default port of 27017
EXPOSE 27017

NOTE: Sidestep errors occurring on your build by using service mongodb start that specifies the service name as mongodb due to the fact that your package uses mongodb, not mongod.

Build a Docker image for MongoDB

  • Build the image with the Docker command build as shown below:
docker build .

NOTE: If you want to specify another directory for the Dockerfile, indicate the path. Otherwise, the . (period) signifies the current directory location.

  • After it’s finished loading, (and the time will depend on the speed of your internet), your response should look similar to this:
Successfully built 836e9c0dc6c2
  • Now, confirm the creation of the image with the command docker images:

  • Start the Docker container by copying the Docker image ID and add it to the end of your command docker run like this:

docker run 836e9c0dc6c2

NOTE: When finished, exit the container with CTRL+C or if you’re using a Linux terminal, you might need to press CTRL+SHIFT+C instead.

  • Input docker ps from a different tab. You’ll be able to read information about the container.

  • Go into the container with this command:

docker exec -it {CONTAINER_ID} bash

Troubleshooting Docker build

  • You can get assistance with Docker and its various commands including options and flags. Learn more about them by going to a command prompt or terminal window and inputting docker build --help.

Run MongoDB with Docker Compose

  • You can run more than one container. As shown earlier in the “Build a Docker MongoDB image” section, you can build a unique Docker container.

  • An example of how to use the Sublime IDE to create or get a project directory Docker file:

subl docker-compose.yml
  • Here’s an example of the code to use YAML data-serialization for your test project. It does three things: (1) makes a bind mount for the data in your MongoDB, (2) does the server or machine port opening for it in order to get the process completed, and (3) makes a root user for the MongoDB which will also have a password.
version: "3.2"
 # setup the MongoDB database
   # pulls the latest, stable image
: mongo:latest
: objectrocket-mongodb

    # bind mount volume for MongoDB documents
     - $PWD/mongo-data:/data/db

     - "27017:27017"

    # configure the Docker entrypoint for MongoDB

NOTE: If you receive an error for your Linux system when you try to install Docker, check your syntaxes for YAML. Make sure they’re indented correctly and done in the same manner in regard to formatting. Another way to overcome the error is to install at the beginning of the file, an earlier version such as 2.2.

Build the MongoDB container with Compose

  • Use the command docker-compose up to test the success of the container building process. The most recent image of MongoDB Docker is what the image should be automatically built on.

Using Compose and Dockerfile to build a MongoDB image

  • Remember to use the cmmand build as opposed to image if you used a Dockerfile to create an image that’s customized. Next, use the nested key context: like this:
version: "3.2"
 # setup the MongoDB database
   # build the image from Dockerfile
: ${PWD}/path/to/Dockerfile

Here’s an example of what an error-free build for a front end service container that is running might look like at a command prompt or in your terminal:

Screenshot of docker ps listing Docker containers and docker inspect

NOTE: To find out the details about an image build, use docker inspect. View a list of your images stored locally with the command docker images.

Access the Docker container for MongoDB

  • From the terminal window, find out how many Docker containers are running with the docker ps command.

  • The command docker exec enables you to enter the MongoDB service that is running by listing the ID of the container. Save time by just entering the starting three digits of the container ID.

docker exec -it 8aa bash
  • Optionally, input the file name of the Docker Compose YAML that you created:
docker exec -it objectrocket-mongodb bash

Use bash commands in the MongoDB container

  • Input the command docker exec and you’ll see the container ID is shown after the root@ terminal output. This means as a root user, you’re gaining access to the container.

  • Find out the environment’s Linux version with the command cat /etc/*-release.

  • Use the command mongo --version to confirm the correct installation of MongoDB and JavaScript shell.

Screenshot of the bash terminal inside of a MongoDB Docker container

NOTE: Always use the tag latest to install Docker MongoDB images. This is because it ensures that you get long-term support (LTS) with the stable installation versions.

The command apt-get install mongodb -y will result in a MongoDB image being built from the ground up by installing the Mongo Shell v3.6.3.

MongoDB Shell inside of Docker

You’re now ready to add a document to the container using the Mongo Shell.

NOTE: Using the command mongo to perform the document addition will work, but it won’t give you database modification privileges.

Access the mongo Shell using the user specified in Docker

  • Obtain user access into the interactive MongoDB shell environment with the flag -u. The user was created earlier in this tutorial when you made the file with docker-compose.yml.
mongo -u objectrocket

NOTE: Avoid error messages by correctly entering the user name and password for the user as indicated in the file made by Docker Compose.

Insert a document in the mongo shell

  • Input the use command, and then put the database name (without any spaces) you have for the project of inserting documents.

  • Make a database db alias to gain entrance into the collections within the database.

use some_db
  • A successful response for the command above is switched to db some_db.

  • Make a collection with the alias db, and then make a document for it. Add a couple of keys like this:

db.some_col.insertOne( {"foo key": "bar value", "int key": 42} )
  • A JSON response should be returned if the command worked. It will have an acknowledged setting of true.
    "acknowledged" : true,
    "insertedId" : ObjectId("5def3dd8cad060b8ef9cc2fa")
  • MongoDB should return the inserted document if you use the function findOne()
  • Execute a document deletion with this command:
  • To leave the Mongo Shell, type exit. Detach from the MongoDB container by inputting exit once more.

Inserting a document into bind-mounted volume inside MongoDB docker container

Persistent data for the Docker volumes

To enable persistent storage, your mongo-data directory should contain all databases, as well as the collections and the documents that go with them.

Stopping Docker containers

  • Access the directory where the docker-compose.yml is located.

  • Use Compose to stop the Docker container from running with this command:

docker-compose down
  • Alternatively, use docker stop and then add the ID of the container. Instead of using the full ID of the container, you can input the name of the container or beginning three digits.


There as many advantages of using Docker to create and pull MongoDB images. The main benefit is that it enables you to run MongoDB and the Mongo Shell in a containerized environment. When you do this, you’re able to easily separate specific services or processes from others that run on the same system. You can run multiple containers and start and stop each one as desired. Containerized environments give you added flexibility in coding for extending project creativity.

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