I'm trying to understand how the containers talk to each other with Docker Compose.

I'm working in a VM with no domain name, so I use IP address:port.

I want a simple Wordpress app using the standard images : wordpress:php5.6-fpm-alpine, mariadb, nginx. Next to that, I want a phpMyAdmin container with its own docker-compose.yml, linking to the MariaDB container.

short story

I managed to get it to work with links.

Then I tried to setup, but I got an error saying they are not on the same network. I know I could probably have gone with --linkin command-line, but that's no fun.

So I figured that's what the networks directives are for, and I rewrote my docker-compose.yml.

Here's the working docker-compose.yml for my Wordpress app (only the relevant stuff)

          - maria_net
          - app_net

          - maria_net

         - app_net


The app exposes port 8080, where nginx is listening.

I need to tell nginx to proxy php requests to the blogcontainer where php-fpm is listening on port 9000.

The conf files for nginx are pushed in the container's /etc/nginx/conf.d.

What it does :

  • sets an upstream pointing to port 9000 of the blog container (php-fpm),
  • sets root for static files on /var/www/html, which is a volume shared with the blogcontainer
  • proxies requests on php files to the upstream

sample nginx/conf.d/default.conf

upstream backend {
    server blog:9000;

server {
    listen 80;

    root /var/www/html;
    index index.php;

    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;

    location ~ \.php$ {
        fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME    $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        (...more fastcgi_param...)
        fastcgi_pass backend;

With this setup, Docker takes care of making containers on the same net visible to each other under their service name, and when I hit my VM's IP on port 8080, I get to the Wordpress install just fine.


I now try to connect a phpMyAdmin container to MariaDB.


version: '3'

        image: phpmyadmin/phpmyadmin
          - maria_net
         - PMA_ARBITRARY=1
        restart: always
         - 8081:80
         - /sessions
          - PMA_HOST='db'
          - PMA_USER=root
          - PMA_PASSWORD=azerty


phpMyAdmin actually listens on @8081, but it says it can't connect to host db.

Which is quite normal, as I found out :

user@host $ docker network ls
NETWORK ID          NAME                   DRIVER              SCOPE
3fbb92bac6dc        blog_app_net           bridge              local
fa0ef0ee1a64        blog_maria_net         bridge              local
3b4cd3956119        bridge                 bridge              local
820bc4c6c844        host                   host                local
17b010e55091        none                   null                local
79bcc3149270        phpmyadmin_maria_net   bridge              local

phpMyAdmin and MariaDB each have their mariadb_net...

I RTFM again, and found that from within Docker Compose, you have to specify that you want to connect to an existing network with external (the network's actual name as listed by docker network ls):

        name: blog_maria_net

Now the phpmyadmin and mariadb containers are on the same network :

$ docker network inspect blog_maria_net
        "Name": "blog_maria_net",
        "Id": "fa0ef0ee1a6479fba0ed60dc01480a5f2200ff1ab37de511f9a2e55caa238bb1",
        "Created": "2017-07-02T13:01:08.473871818+02:00",
        "Scope": "local",
        "Driver": "bridge",
        "EnableIPv6": false,
        "IPAM": {
            "Driver": "default",
            "Options": null,
            "Config": [
                    "Subnet": "",
                    "Gateway": ""
        "Internal": false,
        "Attachable": true,
        "Ingress": false,
        "Containers": {
            "1b0241ed5609f541e60f23717d1cfd55ded4a272536ad417c33e57c573ffec72": {
                "Name": "blog_blog_1",
                "EndpointID": "9e4fd814799cce653299f0751af51482e9f40e15d73bc213af9f120bd7d0f143",
                "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:13:00:03",
                "IPv4Address": "",
                "IPv6Address": ""
            "af6a790c667ba6576ebd056f8166a46d8da7cd1d2704a91e45b93d6d7c945e28": {
                "Name": "blog_db_1",
                "EndpointID": "a9e5d3489f8b156385d1c81c34b6b712708715803080f8b75651ba1bc8fdd039",
                "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:13:00:02",
                "IPv4Address": "",
                "IPv6Address": ""
            "ccaf49d12d928a455c50be33e607e731bb1045f2afe9003c4d22a914af604923": {
                "Name": "phpmyadmin_phpmyadmin_1",
                "EndpointID": "8cfc3efa3654040fdaaa4ffa16643cfab838602d9eead3d14d40c0dd8fd45fe8",
                "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:13:00:04",
                "IPv4Address": "",
                "IPv6Address": ""
        "Options": {},
        "Labels": {
            "com.docker.compose.network": "maria_net",
            "com.docker.compose.project": "blog"

And the mariadb container is aliased db as per its service name :

$ docker inspect blog_db_1
"Networks": {
    "blog_maria_net": {
        "IPAMConfig": null,
        "Links": null,
        "Aliases": [
        "NetworkID": "fa0ef0ee1a6479fba0ed60dc01480a5f2200ff1ab37de511f9a2e55caa238bb1",
        "EndpointID": "a9e5d3489f8b156385d1c81c34b6b712708715803080f8b75651ba1bc8fdd039",
        "Gateway": "",
        "IPAddress": "",
        "IPPrefixLen": 16,
        "IPv6Gateway": "",
        "GlobalIPv6Address": "",
        "GlobalIPv6PrefixLen": 0,
        "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:13:00:02"

But phpMyAdmin still can't connect to host db :

MySQL a répondu : Documentation

#2005 - Unknown MySQL server host ''db'' (-2)

The double quote might be the problem...


Actually it was the quote : I set the environment variable for the db with quotes, that are escaped by phpmyadmin, so instead of connecting to host db it tries to connect to 'db' :

- PMA_HOST='db'

It should be :


That was a pretty lame problem, but the whole thing about networks in Compose isn't too clear, and I hope that finally getting a working conf will help others.

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