How To Setup Cron And Docker Correctly [A How To Guide]

What do I do if I use need to use linux cron and execute command in one of my containers?

When I started to google this, I found 2 solutions right away, but both seemed quite bad:

Bad option 1:

Build custom crontab image, copy crontab file inside, and then run a command towards other container.

Problem with this approach is – I will need to rebuild this image every time I need to change my cron command or add a new one. Also it will be quite problematic to make calls from my cron container to other containers, where I really need command to run.

Bad option 2:

Modify container to run crontab.

Problem with this approach is – my container will have to run 2 commands (crontab + whatever container used to run) – this contradicts philosophy of docker, each container is supposed to be responsible only for 1 task.

Good option:

Run cron on host machine where I start my docker containers.

I can do it using command like this, right in crontab:

* * * * * docker exec -t {containerID} {command} >> /dev/null 2>&1

For example:
* * * * * docker exec -t $(docker ps -qf "name=docker_php_1") php artisan schedule:run >> /dev/null 2>&1


  • normally I would run “docker exec -t <container_id> php artisan schedule:run” – but container id will change every time I restart container, and I do not want to change crontab everytime
  • $(docker ps -qf “name=docker_php_1”) – allows to get container id based on search by container name
  • $(docker ps -qf “ancestor=php:7.2-fpm”) – allows to get container id based on search by image name
  • php artisan schedule:run – Laravel specific command to run scheduled tasks, used here just as example

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