Express and Database with Docker for Local Development

How to use Docker for Local NodeJS development with Database

Today we will learn how we can create a full-fledged backend application using NodeJS and any Database (Postgres/MySQL etc.).

We will use docker-compose to get that application server and Database up and running at the same time, which can make our development experience so much better.

I assume you already know the basics of docker and have an idea of how to dockerize a basic NodeJS application. If not, you can take a look at the following article.

Get the boilerplate

First, clone the express-docker boilerplate repository where we have a working Express application with Typescript and a basic setup with docker-compose.

We will integrate the Database on top of this repository.

git clone

But Why?

When you are developing locally, every time going into the PostgreSQL server with pgadmin or MySQL server can be boring. We can use the power of docker-compose to integrate the Database very easily, which will ensure that all on the team have the same experience when developing.


Open the docker-compose.yml file where we already have a service up and running named express-typescript-docker. We will add another service for our Database on top of it.

We will also need a common network that these 2 services will share because our application server will need to communicate with the database server.

We will also need a volume for the database server. So in total we will need 3 things.

Define the database service.

Open the docker-compose.yml file and add the following database service under the already existing express-typescript-docker service

    image: mysql
    container_name: mysql-docker
      - MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=any_password
      - express-mysql-data:/var/lib/mysql
      - '3306:3306'
      - express-mysql-network
    restart: on-failure



Here there are several things that we can take a look at:

  1. environment -> Defines the MySQL root password. If you don't want to use root password you can create a new user and assign a password as well. You can even create a new database through this as well.
  MYSQL_DATABASE: "db_name"
  # So you don't have to use root, but you can if you like
  MYSQL_USER: "user"
  # You can use whatever password you like
  MYSQL_PASSWORD: "user_password"
  # Password for root access
  MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: any_password
  1. volumes -> We defined a volume at the end of the compose file and attached that volume to this docker image's /var/lib/mysql Because the internal memory of a docker image is ephemeral so if you stop the container all the data between the sessions will be lost which is not expected.

A volume can help us to avoid this by persisting the data between sessions.

  1. networks -> This helps us to connect the services together like a stitch

and on the express-typescript-docker service, add some new dependency

Use an alternative database

If you want to use another database (like PostgreSQL), this is very easy to do now. All you have to do is swap the MySQL service with something like the following.

  image: postgres
  container_name: postgres-docker
    - POSTGRES_PASSWORD=any_secret
    - postgresdata:/var/lib/postgresql/data
    - "5432:5432"
    - shared-network
  restart: on-failure

That's it! How easy was that? Are you interested in MongoDB? We can have that too!

  image: mongo
  container_name: mongo-docker
    - mongodata:/data/db
    - "27017:27017"
    - shared-network
  restart: on-failure

I hope you understand the power of docker in local development now. No installation, No configuration, No OS-specific Pain point!

Update the server

Now we will need to modify the configuration for a server like the following.

  - mysql-docker
  - express-mysql-network
restart: on-failure

The depends_on part defines that we should wait for the Database to get up and running and then start the application server.

Test it

So we have a good configuration now, but how to test that? Let's run the container first.

docker-compose up

This will correctly get the Database and the application server up.

Connect to Database using adminer.

Let's take advantage of docker a bit more. There is a good application called adminer that is a database tool that allows us to inspect many databases.

Let's add that to our docker-compose.yml file as well. Under the service add the following

    image: adminer
    container_name: adminer-docker
      - mysql-docker
      - '8080:8080'
      - express-mysql-network
    restart: on-failure

Let's run the docker-compose up again and go to http://localhost:8080/. There you will see a login page. Use the following credential there to log in to the Database.

server: MySQL-docker
username: root
password: any_password
database: test_db (optional)

And you should be able to log into the application.

Connect to Database using Sequalize.

Well. So we can now connect to the Database. But how can we connect to the Database internally? We will use the most popular ORM named Sequalize to do that. Let's install it first

yarn add sequelize mysql2
yarn add -D @types/sequelize

To connect to the Database, you must create a Sequelize instance.

Let's create a database utils file and add the following code there.

import { Sequelize } from "sequelize";

const sequelize = new Sequelize("test_db", "root", "any_password", {
  host: "mysql-docker",
  dialect: "mysql",

export const connectToDatabase = async () => {
  try {
    await sequelize.authenticate();
    console.log("Connection has been established successfully.");
  } catch (error) {
    console.error("Unable to connect to the database:", error);

And update the index.ts file to connect to Database first and then start the server

const startServer = async () => {
  try {
    await connectToDatabase();
    app.listen(PORT, (): void => {
      console.log(`Connected successfully on port ${PORT}`);
  } catch (error: any) {
    console.error(`Error occured: ${error.message}`);


Now you can just run the following command to get everything up and running.

docker-compose up

And see the following result!

express-typescript-docker    | Connection to Database has been established successfully.
express-typescript-docker    | Server running successfully on port 3000

Congratulations! Now you have a working NodeJS application up and running that works with Database, and we have a Database monitoring tool as a bonus!

Keep in mind

Don't forget that this setup is only for development environments. For production, you might want to separate your Database from your server. You can use a dedicated host or take help from cloud services like AWS.


If you have previously run containers, then you might face some issues with the password. In that case, you will need to remove previously created volumes.

docker volume prune
docker-compose down --volumes

Cleaning up:

Docker can take a significant amount of disk space. To see that

docker system df

You can remove stopped containers, unused networks, and dangling images by

docker system prune


Github repo

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Hi, I amMohammad Faisal, A full-stack software engineer @Cruise , working remotely from a small but beautiful country named Bangladesh.

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