I have not been able to find a way to up/down just one container in a docker-compose.yml file. I can off-course start and stop a single container, but I cannot make changes to a containers configuration between restarts (environment variables, mount points etc.)

What am I missing here? What is the best practice in this case?

  • docker-compose build <service-name> followed by docker-compose up. This would only build the changes to a single container instead of rebuilding all the containers – John Doe May 12 at 14:37

I had this need recently and solved it by having a separate docker-compose-production.yml file to deal with tweaks. Then remember to launch with docker-compose -f docker-compose-production.yml...

  • How does this work when it comes time to do docker-compose down? Wouldn't it bring down all the containers which have been brought up in all .yml files? – Jordan Morris Sep 15 '17 at 10:17
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    You can do docker-compose -f docker-compose-production.yml down – icarito Sep 17 '17 at 18:20
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    And where do you specify the container you would like to get up/down? -f is the selector of compose file, not container. – astrowalker Dec 11 '19 at 12:02

I found this to have the same affect as docker-compose down for a single service:

docker-compose rm -s -v yourService

docker-compose rm

Usage: rm [options] [SERVICE...]

-s, --stop Stop the containers, if required, before removing
-v Remove any anonymous volumes attached to containers

You can condense all the flags into a single - param: docker-compose rm -sv yourService

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    I think disposes the disk, btw – Jordan Morris Sep 5 '18 at 12:02
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    Could you please explain the flags, what they would do? – Semo May 22 '19 at 13:23
  • Jordan Morris, according to the manual -v disposes of anonymous volumes only when used with 'rm'. When used with 'down' it is stronger, also disposing of named volumes. The former is pretty safe. – Markus-Hermann Aug 7 '20 at 12:47
  • This should be the answer. docker-compose down only does all or nothing...this points to the service and stops it. – eco Feb 7 at 6:05
  • @eco and importantly, docker-compose down applies to all the containers, not just one – Jordan Morris May 23 at 22:30

I would suggest you check out this excellent thread on stackoverflow.com. The quick answer here to rebuild the single container and restart it is:

docker-compose up -d --build worker

This would be the ideal solution if, for example, your changes involved your Dockerfile and not just docker-compose.ymll

  • I wish I'd seen this before. This is the correct answer!! In any case I've created my version, which will probably get triaged and deprecated with a step by step explanation. – eco Feb 7 at 9:04

You can use

$ docker-compose -f docker-compose.yml up yourService

to start just yourService and all dependencies required by it.

So if yourService depends on mysql container, the above command would start both the containers.


There's no need to delete anything. To address the OP's question: You need to rebuild the image then use up to replace the container with the newly configured imaged.

IMPORTANT: notice that the new image will automatically be tagged with latest.

Step 1: Edit Docker file
Step 2: docker-compose build
Step 3: docker-compose up

The docker-compose up will leave all the unchanged containers alone and replace only the containers that have a newly created image.

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