Custom WordPress Docker Setup

Building an ideal Docker setup for WordPress, PHP, MySQL, and NGINX

Manny Codes
Dec 5, 2018 · 7 min read

Starting Alpine Setup & Configuration

Let’s start off by creating a fresh build of alpine to get PHP and NGINX configured correctly.

docker run -it -p 80:80 --name lemp alpine /bin/sh

While inside the container, we need to install nginx to start;

apk update;
apk add nginx;

To get nginx to work correctly it needs to assign a PID (process identification) number. It does this but automatically assigning it to a directory, but by default that directory does not exist, so we need to create it manually.

Before folder is created:

nginx# [Expected Output]
# nginx: [emerg] open() "/run/nginx/" failed (2: No such file or directory)

After creating the folder:

mkdir /run/nginx;
nginx;# [Expected Output]
# [blank]

We can now check the browser to see if it’s running, which a 404 should show.

nginx running on port 80 with 404 result

Next is to install PHP and have it configured with nginx:

apk add php-fpm;
apk add nano; # to edit files with

Next, let’s modify the /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf file to allow for php:

nano /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf;


# This is a default site configuration which will simply return 404, preventing
# chance access to any other virtualhost.server {
 listen 80 default_server;
 listen [::]:80 default_server;# Everything is a 404
 location / {
  return 404;
 }# You may need this to prevent return 404 recursion.
 location = /404.html {


# This is a default site configuration which will simply return 404, preventing
# chance access to any other virtualhost.server {
 listen 80 default_server;
 listen [::]:80 default_server;
 root   /var/www/localhost/htdocs;
 index  index.php index.html index.htm;location / {
  try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$query_string;
 }# You may need this to prevent return 404 recursion.
 location = /404.html {
 }# pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on ~ \.php$ {
  try_files $uri /index.php =404;
  fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
  fastcgi_index  index.php;
  fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
  include fastcgi_params;

Save the file and check if there are no errors with the config file with nginx:

nginx -t;# [Expected Output]
# nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok
# nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful

Restart nginx and start php-fpm:

nginx -s reload;# in case php-fpm is giving you issues, kill it and restart it
killall -KILL php-fpm7;

Create a new file in /var/www/localhost/htdocs:


<?php phpinfo();

Open up http://localhost

PHP Info Working

Connecting WordPress

At the time of this tutorial, we’ll be using WordPress 4.9.8

git clone;
cd WordPress;

Let’s start by creating a config folder and copying our default.conf file from our existing container to saves those configurations.

mkdir config;
docker cp lemp:/etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf config/default.conf;

Let’s kill our container and work on creating a Dockerfile;

docker rm -f lemp;

We’re create a base and add more libraries as we go along:


FROM alpineEXPOSE 80RUN apk update && \
    apk add nginx && \
    apk add php-fpm && \
    apk add php-mysqli && \
    mkdir /run/nginx;ADD config/default.conf /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.confCMD ["/bin/sh", "-c", "/usr/sbin/php-fpm7; exec nginx -g 'daemon off;';"]WORKDIR /var/www/localhost/htdocs

Now that we have our environment for Docker let’s do a build and work with that file:

docker build . -t lempenv

Run the application now to see WordPress installed. Run this command while in the repository directory:

docker run -it -d -v $PWD:/var/www/localhost/htdocs -p 80:80 --name mywp lempenv

Open up http://localhost:

WordPress working

Adding A Database

In order for us to connect a database we’ll need to work on creating a network so that they can refer to each other easier.

We’ll be using the latest image of MySQL from Docker Hub.

We’re going to set the root user with the password of MyPassword1! and a database name of wpdb:

docker run -d -p 3306:3306 -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=MyPassword1! -e MYSQL_DATABASE=wpdb --name mydb mysql --default-authentication-plugin=mysql_native_password

Let’s test the database by going into the container:

docker exec -it mydb /bin/bash;# while in the container run
mysql -u root -p# enter password when prompted
# [Expected Output]
# mysql># Execute the following to see the database
show databases;# [Expected Output]
# +--------------------+
# | Database           |
# +--------------------+
# | information_schema |
# | mysql              |
# | performance_schema |
# | sys                |
# | wpdb               |
# +--------------------+
# 5 rows in set (0.01 sec)

To exit the container, press ctrl + p and then ctrl + q.

Next we’ll need to create a docker network and add both containers to allow them to communicate with each other.

docker network create wp-network;# see the network created
docker network ls;# [Expected Output]
# NETWORK ID          NAME                DRIVER              SCOPE
# 14a495fa5eee        wp-network          bridge              local

Next let’s add the containers and give them the same alias names:

docker network connect wp-network mydb --alias mydb;
docker network connect wp-network mywp --alias mywp;

Now let’s start the installation process:

WordPress Database Settings

Wrap up with some website details to finish the install:

Installing WordPress

Et voilà:

WordPress Dashboard

If we want to see the database and connect to it, we can read up on the Docker Hub PhpMyAdmin settings:

# create the container
docker run -d -e PMA_HOST=mydb -p 8888:80 --name myadmin phpmyadmin/phpmyadmin;# add it to the network to recognize 'mydb'
docker network connect wp-network myadmin --alias myadmin;

Open up http://localhost:8888 and enter the same mysql username and password:

Newly created PhpMyAdmin Container

And now you should see the WordPress database:

PhpMyAdmin WordPress Database

Optimizing For Local Development

Now that we’ve successfully build the environment, the database, and PhpMyAdmin, let’s create one script that will perform this task to get everything up and running as soon as we clone this repository.

First we’ll need to save the state of the database to be loadable again:

# in the repository directory
mkdir database;

In PhpMyAdmin we’re going to do an Export and save our wpdb.sql file to our newly created database directory:

WordPress Database Dump

We’ll example Docker Compose later as well but for the sake of automating all our tasks for localhost development with one script, we’ll create a shell script to be run.


# create a network
docker network create wp-network;# create database but mount the local database to load at start
docker run -d -v $PWD/database:/docker-entrypoint-initdb.d -p 3306:3306 -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=MyPassword1! -e MYSQL_DATABASE=wpdb --network wp-network --name mydb mysql --default-authentication-plugin=mysql_native_password;# create phpmyadmin
docker run -d -e PMA_HOST=mydb -p 8888:80 --network wp-network --name myadmin phpmyadmin/phpmyadmin;# create environment
docker run -it -d -v $PWD:/var/www/localhost/htdocs -p 80:80 --network wp-network --name mywp lempenv;

Save the file and remove the other containers:

docker rm -f myadmin;
docker rm -f mydb;
docker rm -f mywp;

Let’s run the script

bash [Expected Output]
# Error response from daemon: network with name wp-network already exists
# 26c4a9676f62fa2bc1dbdb8eee2898668ca793b7b86f45128d6e68b5b6c1ccd9
# e0f96e80c0f365889e4b10940e85521b6e24d3f900bea5bb6237b46625eaf46d
# 935e4b4e934b5f3129af17a5e1f31eb7b579f116a50ebaf3e24a903aec94582e

Open up http://localhost

It’ll give us a database connection error. This is because the wp-config.php is configured to the old database. We’ll just need to re-initiate it:

WordPress Database Error Connection

We’ll need to remove the wp-config.php file and start the installation process again.

rm wp-config.php
WordPress Re-Install
WordPress Configuration
Re-enter WordPress Database Settings
WordPress will recognize existing installation

And it’s up and running:

WordPress Website Back Up

Saving Database Changes

Next we’re going to make changes to our database, export them, and save them to our git repository for tracking.

Creating A New Post

While in the main repo directory, we’ll overwrite the database and start the process up again.

docker exec mydb sh -c 'exec mysqldump wpdb -uroot -p"$MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD"' > database/wpdb.sql

Removing the containers:

docker rm -f myadmin;
docker rm -f mydb;
docker rm -f mywp;

Starting up the machines again with the new database:


Removing wp-config.php

rm wp-config.php

Open up http://localhost

See The New Post Is Persists

Wrapping Up

We’ve now successfully:

  1. Created NGINX & PHP environment for WordPress
  2. Connected a MySQL container
  3. Automated with a shell scripts to do local development
  4. Persisted the database in our git repository with a shell sc
  • We could add a docker compose file
  • Take things to the next level with Kubernetes
  • Work on packaging the container as an image for the deployment process

If you want to read how I usually package things for deployment check out this article I wrote NodeJS Docker Deployment Process.

Manny Codes

Written by

Web Application / Full Stack JavaScript Developer & Aspiring DevOps @