Build Environment


You may wish to customize your build environment by doing things such as specifying a custom cache directory for images or sending your Docker Credentials to the registry endpoint. Here we will discuss these and other topics related to the build environment.

Cache Folders

To make downloading images for build and pull faster and less redundant, Singularity uses a caching strategy. By default, Singularity will create a set of folders in your $HOME directory for docker layers, Cloud library images, and metadata, respectively:


If you want to cache in a different directory, set SINGULARITY_CACHEDIR to the desired path. By using the -E option with the sudo command, SINGULARITY_CACHEDIR will be passed along to root’s environment and respected during the build. Remember that when you run commands as root images will be cached in root’s home at /root and not your user’s home.

Temporary Folders

Singularity uses a temporary directory to build the squashfs filesystem, and this temp space needs to be large enough to hold the entire resulting Singularity image. By default this happens in /tmp but the location can be configured by setting SINGULARITY_TMPDIR to the full path where you want the sandbox and squashfs temp files to be stored. Remember to use -E option to pass the value of SINGULARITY_TMPDIR to root’s environment when executing the build command with sudo.

When you run one of the action commands (i.e. run, exec, or shell) with a container from the container library or an OCI registry, Singularity builds the container in the temporary directory caches it and runs it from the cached location.

Consider the following command:

singularity exec docker://busybox /bin/sh

This container is first built in /tmp. Since all the oci blobs are converted into SIF format, by default a temporary runtime directory is created in:


In this case, the SINGULARITY_TMPDIR and SINGULARITY_CACHEDIR variables will also be respected.

Pull Folder

For details about customizing the output location of pull, see the pull docs. You have the similar ability to set it to be something different, or to customize the name of the pulled image.

Environment Variables

  1. If a flag is represented by both a CLI option and an environment variable, and both are set, the CLI option will always take precedence. This is true for all environment variables except for SINGULARITY_BIND and SINGULARITY_BINDPATH which is combined with the --bind option, argument pair if both are present.

  2. Environment variables overwrite default values in the CLI code

  3. Any defaults in the CLI code are applied.


The following variables have defaults that can be customized by you via environment variables at runtime.


SINGULARITY_DOCKER_LOGIN Used for the interactive login for Docker Hub.



RUNSCRIPT_COMMAND Is not obtained from the environment, but is a hard coded default (“/bin/bash”). This is the fallback command used in the case that the docker image does not have a CMD or ENTRYPOINT. TAG Is the default tag, latest.

SINGULARITY_NOHTTPS This is relevant if you want to use a registry that doesn’t have https, and it speaks for itself. If you export the variable SINGULARITY_NOHTTPS you can force the software to not use https when interacting with a Docker registry. This use case is typically for use of a local registry.


SINGULARITY_BUILDER Used to specify the remote builder service URL. The default value is our remote builder.

SINGULARITY_LIBRARY Used to specify the library to pull from. Default is set to our Cloud Library.

SINGULARITY_REMOTE Used to build an image remotely (This does not require root). The default is set to false.