Sometimes, during the project lifecycle, there is a need to quickly start a Neo4j docker with seeded data for QA or UAT environments. Creating a “vanilla” neo4j docker and executing all the data loader cypher queries takes huge amount of time.

To save time, we can bootstrap or seed the docker with all the required data.

Docker “COPY” command can copy a file from current working directory to a folder inside docker.

Docker “RUN” command can execute shell scripts. Note – There can be only ONE “RUN” command.


To load the data during the start, the neo4j initial password needs to be set before starting neo4j.

for demo, we will load countries.csv file into neo4j. This file is saved in the current directory.

AS,American Samoa
AG,Antigua And Barbuda

to load the countries.csv file, we will create the respective cypher query.

LOAD CSV WITH HEADERS FROM 'file:///countries.csv' AS row
MERGE (c:Country {,countryName:});

then we create a Dockerfile to copy the csv and cypher query into docker and execute cypher-shell.

FROM neo4j

ENV NEO4J_HOME="/var/lib/neo4j" \
COPY countries.csv ${NEO4J_HOME}/import/
COPY data_loader.cypher ${NEO4J_HOME}/import/

# set initial-password to start loading the data
# sleep for 10 secs for neo4j to start without any overlapping

CMD bin/neo4j-admin set-initial-password ${NEO4J_PASSWD} && \
    bin/neo4j start && sleep 10 && \
    if [ -f "${NEO4J_HOME}/import/data_loader.cypher" ]; then  \
        cat ${NEO4J_HOME}/import/data_loader.cypher | NEO4J_USERNAME=neo4j NEO4J_PASSWORD=${NEO4J_PASSWD} bin/cypher-shell --fail-fast && rm ${NEO4J_HOME}/import/*; \
    fi && /bin/bash

build the dockerfile

docker build -t neo4j:seed . 

+] Building 11.7s (9/9) FINISHED
  => [internal] load build definition from Dockerfile                                                                                                                 0.0s 
  => => transferring dockerfile: 686B                                                                                                                                 0.0s 
  => => transferring context: 2B                                                                                                                                      0.0s 
  => [internal] load metadata for                                                                                                     11.3s 
  => [auth] library/neo4j:pull token for                                                                                                         0.0s 
  => [1/3] FROM                                                       0.0s 
  => [internal] load build context                                                                                                                                    0.0s 
  => => transferring context: 230B                                                                                                                                    0.0s 
  => CACHED [2/3] COPY countries.csv /var/lib/neo4j/import/                                                                                                           0.0s 
  => [3/3] COPY data_loader.cypher /var/lib/neo4j/import/                                                                                                             0.1s 
  => exporting to image                                                                                                                                               0.1s 
  => => exporting layers                                                                                                                                              0.1s 
  => => writing image sha256:ac7113b7e0ae6abe7145f2d112dfbbe9b45aa6c6eb4e4147cfffbff691185cde                                                                         0.0s 
  => => naming to                                                                                                                        0.0s 

Once the build is successful, run the tagged “neo4j:seed” image

docker run -it -d  neo4j:seed

Verify the data –

PS C:\Users\domin> docker ps
 CONTAINER ID   IMAGE        COMMAND                  CREATED         STATUS         PORTS                     NAMES
 6c848fee3c72   neo4j:seed   "/sbin/tini -g -- /d…"   7 seconds ago   Up 6 seconds   7473-7474/tcp, 7687/tcp   ecstatic_neumann

 PS C:\Users\domin> docker exec -it 6c848fee3c72 cypher-shell
 username: neo4j
 password: **
 Connected to Neo4j 4.2.0 at neo4j://localhost:7687 as user neo4j.
 Type :help for a list of available commands or :exit to exit the shell.
 Note that Cypher queries must end with a semicolon.
 neo4j@neo4j> match (n) return (n);
 | n                                                         |
 | (:Country {id: "AF", countryName: "Afghanistan"})         |
 | (:Country {id: "AL", countryName: "Albania"})             |
 | (:Country {id: "DZ", countryName: "Algeria"})             |
 | (:Country {id: "AS", countryName: "American Samoa"})      |
 | (:Country {id: "AD", countryName: "Andorra"})             |
 | (:Country {id: "AO", countryName: "Angola"})              |
 | (:Country {id: "AI", countryName: "Anguilla"})            |
 | (:Country {id: "AQ", countryName: "Antarctica"})          |
 | (:Country {id: "AG", countryName: "Antigua And Barbuda"}) |
 9 rows available after 42 ms, consumed after another 4 ms

From the data, it is verified that the data is seeded / bootstrapped with neo4j database.

Happy Graphing …..

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