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Dockerfile for quickly running Django projects in a Docker container.
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NOTE: This image isn't using Docker Hub automated builds anymore. The "Dockerfile" and "Build Details" tabs above are very out of date. Please see the source repo and Travis CI builds.

Dockerfile for quickly running Django projects in a Docker container.

Run Django projects from source using Gunicorn and Nginx.

Note: The :onbuild tag is no longer being built and won't be updated. This guide has been updated to show how to use the non-:onbuild images.

Note: The tags for these images have changed recently. We've dropped support for Alpine Linux and going forward all images will be Debian-based. In addition, we've added Python 3 support. Whereas before there were :debian and :alpine tags there are now :py2 and :py3 Debian-based tags. The default tag (:latest) will remain Debian/Python 2-based as it always has been.


Step 1: Get your Django project in shape

There are a few ways that your Django project needs to be set up in order to be compatible with this Docker image.
Your project must have a All dependencies need to be listed in the install_requires.

Your dependencies should include at least:

  • Django
  • celery (if using)
  • ...but not gunicorn

Django isn't installed in this image as different projects may use different versions of Django. Celery is completely optional.

Gunicorn is the only Python package installed in this image. It is kept up-to-date and tested here so you should not be pinning the gunicorn package in your application. Gunicorn is considered a deployment detail and your Django project should not rely on its use.

Static files
Your project's static files must be set up as follows in your Django settings:

  • STATIC_URL = '/static/'
  • STATIC_ROOT = 'static' (relative) or '/app/static' (absolute)

Media files
If your project makes use of user-uploaded media files, it must be set up as follows:

  • MEDIA_URL = '/media/'
  • MEDIA_ROOT = 'media' (relative) or '/app/media' (absolute)

The staticfiles and mediafiles directories are also used for serving static and media files, but this is deprecated.

Note: Any files stored in directories called static, staticfiles, media, or mediafiles in the project root directory (/app) will be served by Nginx. Do not store anything here that you do not want the world to see.

Django settings file
You'll probably want to make your Django settings file Docker-friendly so that the app is easier to deploy on container-based infrastructure. There are a lot of ways to do this and many project-specific considerations, but the settings file in the example project is a good place to start and has lots of documentation.

Step 2: Write a Dockerfile

In the root of the repo for your Django project, add a Dockerfile for the project. For example, this file could contain:

FROM praekeltfoundation/django-bootstrap

COPY . /app
RUN pip install -e .

ENV DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE my_django_project.settings
ENV CELERY_APP my_django_project

RUN django-admin collectstatic --noinput

CMD ["my_django_project.wsgi:application"]

Let's go through these lines one-by-one:

  1. The FROM instruction here tells us which image to base this image on. We use the django-bootstrap base image.
  2. Copy the source (in the current working directory-- .) of your project into the image (/app in the container)
  3. Execute (RUN) a pip command inside the container to install your project from the source
  4. We set the DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE environment variable so that Django knows where to find its settings. This is necessary for any django-admin commands to work.
  5. Optional: If you are using Celery, setting the CELERY_APP environment variable lets Celery know what app instance to use (i.e. you don't have to provide --app).
  6. Optional: If you need to run any build-time tasks, such as collecting static assets, now's the time to do that.
  7. We set the container command (CMD) to a list of arguments that will be passed to gunicorn. We need to provide Gunicorn with the APP_MODULE, so that it knows which WSGI app to run.*

Note that previously the way to do point 5 was to set the APP_MODULE environment variable. That still works, but is no longer the recommended way and is deprecated.

By default, the script is run when the container is started. This script runs a once-off django-admin migrate to update the database schemas and then launches nginx and gunicorn to run the application.

The script also allows you to create a Django super user account if needed. Setting the SUPERUSER_PASSWORD environment variable will result in a Django superuser account being made with the admin username. This will only happen if no admin user exists.

Step 3: Add a .dockerignore file (if copying in the project source)

If you are copying the full source of your project into your Docker image (i.e. doing COPY . /app), then it is important to add a .dockerignore file.

Add a file called .dockerignore to the root of your project. A good start is just to copy in the .dockerignore file from the example Django project in this repo.

When copying in the source of your project, some of those files probably aren't needed inside the Docker image you're building. We tell Docker about those unneeded files using a .dockerignore file, much like how one would tell Git not to track files using a .gitignore file.

As a general rule, you should list all the files in your .gitignore in your .dockerignore file. If you don't need it in Git, you shouldn't need it in Docker.

Additionally, you shouldn't need any Git stuff inside your Docker image. It's especially important to have Docker ignore the .git directory because every Git operation you perform will result in files changing in that directory (whether you end up in the same state in Git as you were previously or not). This could result in unnecessary invalidation of Docker's cached image layers.

NOTE: Unlike .gitignore files, .dockerignore files do not apply recursively to subdirectories. So, for example, while the entry *.pyc in a .gitignore file will cause Git to ignore ./abc.pyc and ./def/ghi.pyc, in a .dockerignore file, that entry will cause Docker to ignore only ./abc.pyc. This is very unfortunate. In order to get the same behaviour from a .dockerignore file, you need to add an extra leading **/ glob pattern — i.e. **/*.pyc. For more information on the .dockerignore file syntax, see the Docker documentation.

Running other commands

You can skip the execution of the script bootstrapping processes and run other commands by overriding the container's launch command.

You can do this at image build-time by setting the CMD directive in your Dockerfile...

CMD ["django-admin", "runserver"]

...or at runtime by passing an argument to the docker run command:

> $ docker run my-django-bootstrap-image django-admin runserver

If the entrypoint script sees a command for gunicorn then it will run all bootstrapping processes (database migration, starting Nginx, etc.). Otherwise, the script will execute the command directly. A special case is Celery, which is described next.


It's common for Django applications to have Celery workers performing tasks alongside the actual website. Using this image, there are 2 different ways to run Celery:

  1. Run separate containers for Celery (recommended)
  2. Run Celery alongside the Django site inside the same container (simpler)

In most cases it makes sense to run each Celery process in a container separate from the Django/Gunicorn one, so as to follow the rule of one(-ish) process per container. But in some cases, running a whole bunch of containers for a relatively simple site may be overkill. Additional containers generally have some overhead in terms of CPU and, especially, memory usage.

Note that, as with Django, your project needs to specify Celery in its install_requires in order to use Celery. Celery is not installed in this image by default.

Option 1: Celery containers

To run a Celery container simply override the container command as described earlier. If the script sees a celery command, it will instead run the command using the script. This script switches to the correct user to run Celery and sets some basic config options, depending on which Celery command is being run.

You can override the command in your Dockerfile...

CMD ["celery", "worker"]

...or at runtime:

> $ docker run my-django-bootstrap-image celery worker

You can also create dedicated Celery images by overriding the image entrypoint:

ENTRYPOINT ["dinit", ""]
CMD ["worker"]

The above assume that you have set the CELERY_APP environment variable.

Option 2: Celery in the same container

Celery can be run alongside Django/Gunicorn by adjusting a set of environment variables. Setting the CELERY_WORKER variable to a non-empty value will enable a Celery worker process. Similarly, setting the CELERY_BEAT variable will enable a Celery beat process.


Set this option to any non-empty value (e.g. 1) to have a Celery worker process run. This requires that CELERY_APP is set.

  • Required: no
  • Default: none
  • Celery option: n/a


Set this option to any non-empty value (e.g. 1) to have a Celery beat process run. This requires that CELERY_APP is set.

  • Required: no
  • Default: none
  • Celery option: n/a

Note that when running a Celery worker in this way, the process pool implementation used is the 'solo' pool. This means that instead of a pair of processes (master/worker) for the Celery worker, there is just one process. This saves on resources.

The worker is always single-process (the --concurrency option is ignored) and is blocking. A number of worker configuration options can't be used with this pool implementation. See the worker guide in the Celery documentation for more information.

Celery environment variable configuration

The following environment variables can be used to configure Celery, but, other than the CELERY_APP variable, you should configure Celery in your Django settings file. See the example project's settings file for an example of how to do that.


  • Required: yes, if CELERY_WORKER or CELERY_BEAT is set.
  • Default: none
  • Celery option: -A/--app

NOTE: The following 3 environment variables are deprecated. They will continue to work for now but it is recommended that you set these values in your Django settings file rather.


  • Required: no
  • Default: none
  • Celery option: -b/--broker


  • Required: no
  • Default: none
  • Celery option: -l/--loglevel


Note that by default Celery runs as many worker processes as there are processors. We instead default to 1 worker process here to ensure containers use a consistent and small amount of resources. If you need to run many worker processes, they should be in separate containers.

  • Required: no
  • Default: 1
  • Celery option: -c/--concurrency

Other configuration


Gunicorn is run with some basic configuration:

  • Starts workers under the django user and group
  • Listens on a Unix socket at /var/run/gunicorn/gunicorn.sock
  • Access logs can be logged to stderr by setting the GUNICORN_ACCESS_LOGS environment variable to a non-empty value.

Extra settings can be provided by overriding the CMD instruction to pass extra parameters to the entrypoint script. For example:

CMD ["my_django_project.wsgi:application", "--threads", "5", "--timeout", "50"]

See all the settings available for gunicorn here. A common setting is the number of Gunicorn workers which can be set with the WEB_CONCURRENCY environment variable.


Nginx is set up with mostly default config:

  • Access logs are sent to stdout, error logs to stderr and log messages are formatted to be JSON-compatible for easy parsing.
  • Listens on port 8000 (and this port is exposed in the Dockerfile)
  • Has gzip compression enabled for most common, compressible mime types
  • Serves files from /static/ and /media/
  • All other requests are proxied to the Gunicorn socket

Generally you shouldn't need to adjust Nginx's settings. If you do, the configuration files of interest are at:

  • /etc/nginx/nginx.conf: Main configuration
  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/django.conf: Proxy configuration

We make a few adjustments to Nginx's default configuration to better work with Gunicorn. See the config file for all the details. One important point is that we consider the X-Forwarded-Proto header, when set to the value of https, as an indicator that the client connection was made over HTTPS and is secure. Gunicorn considers a few more headers for this purpose, X-Forwarded-Protocol and X-Forwarded-Ssl, but our Nginx config is set to remove those headers to prevent misuse.

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