2.2. Cluster Set Up

This section describes everything you need to know to prepare, install, and set up your first CouchDB 2.x/3.x cluster.

2.2.1. Ports and Firewalls

CouchDB uses the following ports:

Port Number


Recommended binding




As desired, by default localhost

Standard clustered port for all HTTP API requests



localhost for single node installs. Private interface if clustered

Erlang port mapper daemon (epmd)

Random above 1024 (see below)


Private interface

Communication with other CouchDB nodes in the cluster

CouchDB in clustered mode uses the port 5984, just as in a standalone configuration. Port 5986, previously used in CouchDB 2.x, has been removed in CouchDB 3.x. All endpoints previously accessible at that port are now available under the /_node/{node-name}/... hierarchy via the primary 5984 port.

CouchDB uses Erlang-native clustering functionality to achieve a clustered installation. Erlang uses TCP port 4369 (EPMD) to find other nodes, so all servers must be able to speak to each other on this port. In an Erlang cluster, all nodes are connected to all other nodes, in a mesh network configuration.

Every Erlang application running on that machine (such as CouchDB) then uses automatically assigned ports for communication with other nodes. Yes, this means random ports. This will obviously not work with a firewall, but it is possible to force an Erlang application to use a specific port range.

This documentation will use the range TCP 9100-9200, but this range is unnecessarily broad. If you only have a single Erlang application running on a machine, the range can be limited to a single port: 9100-9100, since the ports erlang assigns are for inbound connections only. Three CouchDB nodes running on a single machine, as in a development cluster scenario, would need three ports in this range.


If you expose the distribution port to the Internet or any other untrusted network, then the only thing protecting you is the Erlang cookie.

2.2.2. Configure and Test the Communication with Erlang Make CouchDB use correct IP|FQDN and the open ports

In file etc/vm.args change the line -name couchdb@ to -name couchdb@<reachable-ip-address|fully-qualified-domain-name> which defines the name of the node. Each node must have an identifier that allows remote systems to talk to it. The node name is of the form <name>@<reachable-ip-address|fully-qualified-domain-name>.

The name portion can be couchdb on all nodes, unless you are running more than 1 CouchDB node on the same server with the same IP address or domain name. In that case, we recommend names of couchdb1, couchdb2, etc.

The second portion of the node name must be an identifier by which other nodes can access this node – either the node’s fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or the node’s IP address. The FQDN is preferred so that you can renumber the node’s IP address without disruption to the cluster. (This is common in cloud-hosted environments.)


Changing the name later is somewhat cumbersome (i.e. moving shards), which is why you will want to set it once and not have to change it.

Open etc/vm.args, on all nodes, and add -kernel inet_dist_listen_min 9100 and -kernel inet_dist_listen_max 9200 like below:

-name ...
-setcookie ...
-kernel inet_dist_listen_min 9100
-kernel inet_dist_listen_max 9200

Again, a small range is fine, down to a single port (set both to 9100) if you only ever run a single CouchDB node on each machine. Confirming connectivity between nodes

For this test, you need 2 servers with working hostnames. Let us call them server1.test.com and server2.test.com. They reside at and, respectively.

On server1.test.com:

erl -name bus@ -setcookie 'brumbrum' -kernel inet_dist_listen_min 9100 -kernel inet_dist_listen_max 9200

Then on server2.test.com:

erl -name car@ -setcookie 'brumbrum' -kernel inet_dist_listen_min 9100 -kernel inet_dist_listen_max 9200
An explanation to the commands:
  • erl the Erlang shell.

  • -name bus@ the name of the Erlang node and its IP address or FQDN.

  • -setcookie 'brumbrum' the “password” used when nodes connect to each other.

  • -kernel inet_dist_listen_min 9100 the lowest port in the range.

  • -kernel inet_dist_listen_max 9200 the highest port in the range.

This gives us 2 Erlang shells. shell1 on server1, shell2 on server2. Time to connect them. Enter the following, being sure to end the line with a period (.):

In shell1:


This will connect to the node called car on the server called

If that returns true, then you have an Erlang cluster, and the firewalls are open. This means that 2 CouchDB nodes on these two servers will be able to communicate with each other successfully. If you get false or nothing at all, then you have a problem with the firewall, DNS, or your settings. Try again.

If you’re concerned about firewall issues, or having trouble connecting all nodes of your cluster later on, repeat the above test between all pairs of servers to confirm connectivity and system configuration is correct.

2.2.3. Preparing CouchDB nodes to be joined into a cluster

Before you can add nodes to form a cluster, you must have them listening on an IP address accessible from the other nodes in the cluster. You should also ensure that a few critical settings are identical across all nodes before joining them.

The settings we recommend you set now, before joining the nodes into a cluster, are:

  1. etc/vm.args settings as described in the previous two sections

  2. At least one server administrator user (and password)

  3. Bind the node’s clustered interface (port 5984) to a reachable IP address

  4. A consistent UUID. The UUID is used in identifying the cluster when replicating. If this value is not consistent across all nodes in the cluster, replications may be forced to rewind the changes feed to zero, leading to excessive memory, CPU and network use.

  5. A consistent httpd secret. The secret is used in calculating and evaluating cookie and proxy authentication, and should be set consistently to avoid unnecessary repeated session cookie requests.

As of CouchDB 3.0, steps 4 and 5 above are automatically performed for you when using the setup API endpoints described below.

If you use a configuration management tool, such as Chef, Ansible, Puppet, etc., then you can place these settings in a .ini file and distribute them to all nodes ahead of time. Be sure to pre-encrypt the password (cutting and pasting from a test instance is easiest) if you use this route to avoid CouchDB rewriting the file.

If you do not use configuration management, or are just experimenting with CouchDB for the first time, use these commands once per server to perform steps 2-4 above. Be sure to change the password to something secure, and again, use the same password on all nodes. You may have to run these commands locally on each node; if so, replace <server-IP|FQDN> below with

# First, get two UUIDs to use later on. Be sure to use the SAME UUIDs on all nodes.
curl http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_uuids?count=2

# CouchDB will respond with something like:
#   {"uuids":["60c9e8234dfba3e2fdab04bf92001142","60c9e8234dfba3e2fdab04bf92001cc2"]}
# Copy the provided UUIDs into your clipboard or a text editor for later use.
# Use the first UUID as the cluster UUID.
# Use the second UUID as the cluster shared http secret.

# Create the admin user and password:
curl -X PUT http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_node/_local/_config/admins/admin -d '"password"'

# Now, bind the clustered interface to all IP addresses available on this machine
curl -X PUT http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_node/_local/_config/chttpd/bind_address -d '""'

# If not using the setup wizard / API endpoint, the following 2 steps are required:
# Set the UUID of the node to the first UUID you previously obtained:
curl -X PUT http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_node/_local/_config/couchdb/uuid -d '"FIRST-UUID-GOES-HERE"'

# Finally, set the shared http secret for cookie creation to the second UUID:
curl -X PUT http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_node/_local/_config/chttpd_auth/secret -d '"SECOND-UUID-GOES-HERE"'

2.2.4. The Cluster Setup Wizard

CouchDB 2.x/3.x comes with a convenient Cluster Setup Wizard as part of the Fauxton web administration interface. For first-time cluster setup, and for experimentation, this is your best option.

It is strongly recommended that the minimum number of nodes in a cluster is 3. For more explanation, see the Cluster Theory section of this documentation.

After installation and initial start-up of all nodes in your cluster, ensuring all nodes are reachable, and the pre-configuration steps listed above, visit Fauxton at http://<server1>:5984/_utils#setup. You will be asked to set up CouchDB as a single-node instance or set up a cluster.

When you click “Setup Cluster” you are asked for admin credentials again, and then to add nodes by IP address. To get more nodes, go through the same install procedure for each node, using the same machine to perform the setup process. Be sure to specify the total number of nodes you expect to add to the cluster before adding nodes.

Now enter each node’s IP address or FQDN in the setup wizard, ensuring you also enter the previously set server admin username and password.

Once you have added all nodes, click “Setup” and Fauxton will finish the cluster configuration for you.

To check that all nodes have been joined correctly, visit http://<server-IP|FQDN>:5984/_membership on each node. The returned list should show all of the nodes in your cluster:

  "all_nodes": [
  "cluster_nodes": [

The cluster_nodes section is the list of expected nodes; the all_nodes section is the list of actually connected nodes. Be sure the two lists match.

Now your cluster is ready and available! You can send requests to any one of the nodes, and all three will respond as if you are working with a single CouchDB cluster.

For a proper production setup, you’d now set up an HTTP reverse proxy in front of the cluster, for load balancing and SSL termination. We recommend HAProxy, but others can be used. Sample configurations are available in the Best Practices section.

2.2.5. The Cluster Setup API

If you would prefer to manually configure your CouchDB cluster, CouchDB exposes the _cluster_setup endpoint for that purpose. After installation and initial setup/config, we can set up the cluster. On each node we need to run the following command to set up the node:

curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json" http://admin:password@ -d '{"action": "enable_cluster", "bind_address":"", "username": "admin", "password":"password", "node_count":"3"}'

After that we can join all the nodes together. Choose one node as the “setup coordination node” to run all these commands on. This “setup coordination node” only manages the setup and requires all other nodes to be able to see it and vice versa. It has no special purpose beyond the setup process; CouchDB does not have the concept of a “master” node in a cluster.

Setup will not work with unavailable nodes. All nodes must be online and properly preconfigured before the cluster setup process can begin.

To join a node to the cluster, run these commands for each node you want to add:

curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json" http://admin:password@<setup-coordination-node>:5984/_cluster_setup -d '{"action": "enable_cluster", "bind_address":"", "username": "admin", "password":"password", "port": 5984, "node_count": "3", "remote_node": "<remote-node-ip>", "remote_current_user": "<remote-node-username>", "remote_current_password": "<remote-node-password>" }'
curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json" http://admin:password@<setup-coordination-node>:5984/_cluster_setup -d '{"action": "add_node", "host":"<remote-node-ip>", "port": <remote-node-port>, "username": "admin", "password":"password"}'

This will join the two nodes together. Keep running the above commands for each node you want to add to the cluster. Once this is done run the following command to complete the cluster setup and add the system databases:

curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json" http://admin:password@<setup-coordination-node>:5984/_cluster_setup -d '{"action": "finish_cluster"}'

Verify install:

curl http://admin:password@<setup-coordination-node>:5984/_cluster_setup



Verify all cluster nodes are connected:

curl http://admin:password@<setup-coordination-node>:5984/_membership


    "all_nodes": [
    "cluster_nodes": [

If the cluster is enabled and all_nodes and cluster_nodes lists don’t match, use curl to add nodes with PUT /_node/_local/_nodes/couchdb@<reachable-ip-address|fully-qualified-domain-name> and remove nodes with DELETE /_node/_local/_nodes/couchdb@<reachable-ip-address|fully-qualified-domain-name>

You CouchDB cluster is now set up.