I'm using this docker image https://hub.docker.com/_/mongo/. That image provides a way of initializing a mongodb root database user with env variables which I can specify in the compose file as follows:


It seems storing the password in config files is not very secure. How can I use more secure ways (i.e. docker secrets) to init the root user in this case? Same thing for initdb files, which I need to copy to the container and may as well contain more credentials.

I wonder if anyone here found a more secure way of handling this.

2 Answers 2


Secrets support for mongo is built in. You can see in that image's entrypoint script that if you add _FILE to end of username/password values it will pull from those secret files.

As for .js files, if you're storing decrypted passwords in those files, you'd need to make a custom entrypoint script or something that will take envvars you're passing in for which secrets to use and run a jq or sed on the file to replace I guess. You can store the .js files themselves in a secret as longas its smaller than 500Kb (max size of a secret).


Here's a solution I've used in cases like this - I utilize Ansible to manage Docker containers, and Ansible Vault to store secrets for those containers.

Ansible Playbook to run MongoDB container

Your playbook.yml may look something like this:

- name: run mongodb docker container
    name: mongo-container
    image: mongo
      - "27017:27017"
      MONGO_INITDB_DATABASE: "{{secret_db_name}}"
      MONGO_INITDB_ROOT_USERNAME: "{{secret_db_user}}"
      MONGO_INITDB_ROOT_PASSWORD: "{{secret_db_pass}}"
  • As you might notice, the docker_container syntax looks a lot like what you'd write in a Docker Compose YML file.
  • The difference is that your secrets are managed in variables (the {{}} is Ansible Jinja2 variables).
  • Here's a list of Ansible Modules for interacting with Docker.

Vault file to manage your mongodb secrets

The vault.yml file would contain the definitions of your secrets in an encrypted form.

secret_db_name: foodb
secret_db_user: foo
secret_db_pass: bar@123

You can use ansible-vault commands to create encrypted files (for e.g in version-control).

Getting it all together

When you want to run your Docker container, you would run an Ansible command

ansible-playbook playbook.yml --ask-vault-pass

Which would

  • ask you for your vault password file,
  • decrypt the vault file and pass the variables to the playbook;
  • run the docker mongodb container with your secret credentials

All whilst ensuring your credentials are not publicly visible.


  • I've used this approach to provision Dockerized databases on remote managed servers in a declarative way.
  • You introduce one more tool, a 'wrapper' around Docker. In my experience DevOps toolchains work better than utilizing single tools. However, this may or may not be a constraint for you.

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