I would like to know what is the easiest way to forward my docker container logs to an ELK server, so far the solutions I have tried after having searched the internet didn't work at all.

Basically I have a docker image that I run using docker-compose, this container does not log anything locally (it is composed of different services but none of them are logstash or whatever) but I see logging through docker logs -tf imageName or docker-compose logs. Since I am starting the containers with compose I cannot make use (or at least I don't know how) of the --logs-driver option of docker.

Thus I was wondering if someone may enlighten me a bit regarding how to forward that logs to an ELK container for example.

Thanks in advance,



Thanks to madeddie I could achieve to solve my issue in the following way, mention that I used the basic ELK-stack-in-containers which madeddie suggested in his post.

First I update the docker-compose.yml file of my container to add entries for the logging reference as madeddie told me,I included an entry per service, a snippet of my docker-compose looks like this

   version: '2'
        image: ansi/mosquitto
          - "1883:1883" # Public access to MQTT
          - "12202:12202"  #mapping logs
           driver: gelf
             gelf-address: udp://localhost:12202
     image: redis
     command: redis-server --appendonly yes
       - "6379:6379" # No public access to Redis
       - "12203:12203" #mapping logs
       - /home/dockeruser/redis-data:/data
       driver: gelf
         gelf-address: udp://localhost:12203 

Secondly, I had to use a different port number per sevice in order to be able to forward the logs.

Finally,I updated my elk container docker-compose.yml file to map each of the upd port where I was sending my logs to the one that logstash listens to

  build: logstash/
  command: logstash -f /etc/logstash/conf.d/logstash.conf
    - ./logstash/config:/etc/logstash/conf.d
    - "5000:5000"
    - "12202:12201/udp" #mapping mosquitto logs
    - "12203:12201/udp" #mapping redis logs

This configuration and adding the entry of gelf {} in logstash.conf made it work, it is important as well to set up properly the IP address of the docker service.


  • This is an interesting solution, you now have a port forward on all other containers to the logstash container. Normally you would not have all those 1220* ports on the other containers, only the 12201/udp on the logstash one and the logging would point to gelf-address:udp://ip_of_dockerhost:12201 (if all the containers are running on the same host, then would work as ip_of_dockerhost, otherwise use the main IP address of the host the logstash container is running on.
    – madeddie
    Aug 12, 2016 at 13:31
  • I tried to do so, but while running docker-compose up I saw a complaint that the port was already in use.
    – ndarkness
    Aug 22, 2016 at 10:05
  • yes, because you open a port for logstash on all your containers, while you should only open it for the logstash container. there is no need for all the other containers to listen for logstash connections, therefor, they don't need to open a port for it.
    – madeddie
    Aug 22, 2016 at 10:21
  • I don't understand it completely,do you mean that my logging option should be just at the same level of services tag instead per container?
    – ndarkness
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:14
  • the logging keyword doesn't actually open a port to listen on, it configures where docker connects to. I'm talking about the port mappings you make on each container, you can only open a port once, but you shouldn't open a port for logging on each container, just the logstash one. The problem lies in your usage of "localhost" as host of the geld endpoint, instead of localhost you should use the IP of the machine where logstash container is running or if all the containers are on the same host or use "logstash" if all containers are started with the same compose file.
    – madeddie
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


Docker compose has the logging keyword: source

  driver: syslog
    syslog-address: "tcp://"

So if you know where to go from there, go for it.

If not, I can advice you to look into the gelf logging driver for docker and the logstash gelf input plugin

If you would for instance use this basic ELK-stack-in-containers setup, you would update the docker-compose file and add port - "12201:12201/udp" to logstash.

Edit the logstash.conf input section to:

input {
    tcp {
        port => 5000
    gelf {


Then configure your containers to use logging driver gelf (not syslog) and the option gelf-address=udp://ip_of_logstash:12201 (instead of syslog-address).

The only magic you will have to take care of is how Docker will find the IP address or hostname of the Logstash container. You could solve that through docker-compose naming, Docker links or just manually.

Docker and ELK are powerful, flexible, but therefore also big and complex beasts. Prepare to put in some serious time, in reading and experimentation.

Don't be afraid to open new (and preferably very specific) questions you come across while exploring all this.

  • Thanks for the answer, as far as I've tested I have to add that entry per service running in my docker-compose.yml file right? I have done it for two services and now those ones don't log into the terminal so I guess their logs is being forwarding. I have a bit experience on it but mostly from literature(Iǘe read that filebeat is better), could you put those configs here too?
    – ndarkness
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:31
  • I can't help you with filebeat (don't use it myself), but I'll add a sample config snippet for logstash. Although I expect you to read up on how to use the ELK stack, because that's a bit beyond the scope of this question (and also enough to fill a week of introductory training :))
    – madeddie
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:39
  • Thanks again, it is fine if you can share the config snippet for logstash, I have downloaded an sebp/elkimage where elk is set up and I am planning to forward that syslog to that container.
    – ndarkness
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:42
  • I have notice that I can only one of my services attached to one port due to the fact that is tcp, can I use udp too for the syslog?
    – ndarkness
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:47
  • UDP can also only be opened by one listening process. The syslog-address: "tcp://" option means "send logs to this syslog server", so it doesn't itself set up and listen to syslog messages.
    – madeddie
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:53

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