How I Fixed: Docker-Compose Exec ERROR: No container found for…

This is a pretty specific problem to my infrastructure, but it may come to bite you, too.

There’s a very simple fix to the problem whereby you run a command like:

docker-compose exec mysql /bin/bash

And you see:

ERROR: No container found for mysql_1

But I’m going to assume you have run docker-compose up -d already 😉

In my case, this one is a little bit more subtle.

Multiple Docker Compose Projects

In my case, I’ve recently migrated various prod servers from Rancher v1.x to running docker-compose behind Traefik.

One of the early gotchas was that if I have a directory structure like this:


And say I go into the dir and run docker-compose up, all is good.

Then I go to the dir and run docker-compose up, and docker compose would first shut down the containers because, by default, docker compose uses the basename of the directory where your docker-compose.yaml file lives as the project name.

To put it another way:

basename /docker/

basename /docker/

So docker-compose assumes these two different projects are the same thing.

There’s a fix to this.

We can pass in a project name when running docker-compose, like so:

docker-compose up -d...

Of course, make sure your project name differs for each of your projects. And once done, your individual docker-compose projects should run in the way you would intuitively expect.

But, this creates another problem. The subtle problem I mentioned above.

Once you start docker-compose projects in this way, all subsequent docker-compose commands need to the -p my_project_name flag. Or they will do the (apparently) unintuitive thing.

cd /docker/
docker-compose up -p my_project_name -d

Starting my_project_name_nginx … done

docker-compose top
# ??? - nothing shown

docker-compose exec mysql /bin/sh
ERROR: No container found for mysql_1
# ??? wtf

This confused me for a good half an hour or so, even leading me to upgrade docker-compose, try restarting docker, try rebooting the production server… the works.

Of course, none of that worked.

What did work was to include the project name with the command!

docker-compose -p my_project_name top

999 9998 9973 0 10:30 ? 00:00:01 mysqld

# and 

docker-compose -p my_project_name exec mysql /bin/bash

Not that this isn’t a bit of a ball ache, but still, at least now it makes sense.


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