It's easy to run PostgreSQL inside Docker


Docker makes life easy to run most complex software without going through native installation process. I use docker to deliver development builds for the team to work in their local system. In this article we will see how to run PostgreSQL inside Docker container, connect to the database docker and run SQL scripts.

Introduction to Docker

Docker is a set of platform as a service products that uses OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. Containers are isolated from one another and bundle their own software, libraries and configuration files; they can communicate with each other through well-defined channels - Wikipedia

To learn more about Docker there is an excellent tutorial by runnable. You can find any docker image (a software bundled inside a docker container is called image) from docker hub. The most popular ones are RabbitMQ, Nginx, Apache etc.

Why PostgreSQL inside Docker

Our projects are based on client-server and microservices architecture. We extensively use databases like, MySQL, PostgreSQL and MongoDB. We use messaging queues like RabbitMQ and Redis. So we encourage our developers to use dockers instead of installing all the software on their laptops.

In this article we will discuss on how to use PostgreSQL docker. We cover the following points:

  1. Running the PostgreSQL docker
  2. Logging into the docker container
  3. Logging into PostgreSQL with psql shell
  4. Copying SQL files to docker and running them

Note: You need to have docker installed on your computer or laptop. For installing Docker community edition refer here.

Running the PostgreSQL docker

Use the following command to run PostgreSQL docker:

$ docker run --name postgres-docker -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres -p 5432:5432 -d postgres

  1. Pulls the latest Postgres Docker image from Docker Hub.
  2. Sets the POSTGRES_PASSWORD environment variable value to postgres.
  3. Names (–name) the Docker container to be postgres-docker.
  4. Maps container’s internal 5432 port to external 5432 port, so we will be able to enter it from outside.
  5. Run the Docker container in the background (-d).

Note: In case you stopped your docker or restarted your computer or laptop you can restart your docker by its name. To get the list of containers available (both running and stopped) use the following command:

$ docker ps -a

To start your docker again use the following command:

$ docker start <name of the docker>

This is especially helpful when starting/stopping database dockers, as we store data (tables and records) in our docker containers.

Logging into the docker container

You can login into the docker container with docker exec command. Use below command to login as root into the running docker container:

$ docker exec -it <name of the docker> bash

$ root@377ef2b9b13e:/#

The name of the docker in our case is, postgres-docker. You will get to the prompt logged in as root.

Log into PostgreSQL inside Docker

Once you are into the bash shell of the docker you can use psql command to manage your PostgreSQL database. You the following command to manage your database:

We are using the default postgres user. You will get to the prompt to run commands like:

  1. \l to list the available databases
  2. \c <database name> to select the database

Run SQL commands like, SELECT, INSERT, DELETE, UPDATE etc. to manipulate your tables and records. Refer to psql documentation here.

Copying SQL files to PostgreSQL inside Docker

Sometime we will have an existing schema (SQL file) which we need to execute once we have the docker up and running. To do that we need to copy our SQL file into the docker and then run the SQL file.

Copy the SQL file using docker cp command:

$ docker cp ./world.sql projectm-postgres:/docker-entrypoint-initdb.d/world.sql

Interpret the above command:

$ docker cp <sql file> <docker name>:/<path in docker container>/<sql file>

We will execute the SQL file using docker exec command:

$ docker exec -u postgres projectm-postgres psql world postgres -f docker-entrypoint-initdb.d/world.sql

Interpret the above command:

$ docker exec -u <postgres user> <docker name> psql <dbname> <postgres user> -f <path to SQL file>

The file I uses contains a CREATE TABLE and INSERT TABLE command. So the result says, CREATE TABLE successful and inserted 239 records. The SQL file I used can be downloaded from here


Running databases within Docker provides a lot of flexibility by avoiding the complex installation procedure. Thanks for reading. I will come up with an another article using docker-compose.

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I am Saisyam

I am passionate software developer. I love exploring new technologies and programming languages. Other than coding I love cooking, travelling and photography.

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