Command Line Tools NOSYNTAX


RabbitMQ ships with multiple command line tools, each with a set of related commands:

they can be found under the sbin directory in installation root.

On Windows, the above tool names will end with .bat, e.g. rabbitmqctl in a Windows installation will be named rabbitmqctl.bat.

Additional tools are optional and can be obtained from GitHub:

  • rabbitmqadmin for operator tasks over HTTP API
  • rabbitmq-collect-env which collects relevant cluster and environment information as well as server logs. This tool is specific to Linux and UNIX-like operating systems.

Different tools cover different usage scenarios. For example, rabbitmqctl is usually only available to RabbitMQ administrator given that it provides full control over a node, including virtual host, user and permission management, destructive operations on node's data and so on.

rabbitmqadmin is built on top of the HTTP API and uses a different mechanism, and only requires that the HTTP API port is open for outside connections.

Even though CLI tools ship with the server, most commands can be used to operate on remote nodes. Plugins can provide CLI commands that will be discovered by CLI tools for explicitly enabled plugins.

System and Environment Requirements

RabbitMQ CLI tools require a compatible Erlang/OTP version to be installed.

The tools assume that system locale is a UTF-8 one (e.g. en_GB.UTF-8 or en_US.UTF-8). If that's not the case, the tools may still function correctly but it cannot be guaranteed. A warning will be emitted in non-UTF-8 locales.


Except for rabbitmqadmin, all of the tools above ship with RabbitMQ and can be found under the sbin directory in installation root. With most package types that directory is added to PATH at installation time. This means that core tools such as rabbitmq-diagnostics and rabbitmqctl are available on every node that has RabbitMQ installed.

Generic UNIX package users have to make sure that the sbin directory under installation root is added to PATH for simpler interactive use. Non-interactive use cases can use full or relative paths without modifications to the PATH environment variable.

rabbitmqadmin is a standalone tool (no dependencies other than Python 3) that can be downloaded from a running node or directly from GitHub.

If interaction from a remote node is required, download and extract the generic UNIX package or use the Windows installer.

Besides authentication, all configuration for core CLI tools is optional.

Commands that require specific arguments list them in the usage section and will report any missing arguments when executed.

Discovering Commands Using the Help Command

To find out what commands are available, use the help command:

rabbitmqctl help
rabbitmq-diagnostics help

The command can display usage information for a particular command:

rabbitmq-diagnostics help status

Alternatively, the --help option can be used:

rabbitmqctl --help

including for individual commands:

rabbitmq-diagnostics status --help


rabbitmqctl is the original CLI tool that ships with RabbitMQ. It supports a wide range of operations, mostly administrative (operational) in nature.

This includes

  • Stopping node
  • Access to node status, effective configuration, health checks
  • Virtual host management
  • User and permission management
  • Policy management
  • Listing queues, connections, channels, exchanges, consumers
  • Cluster membership management

and more.

rabbitmqctl uses a shared secret authentication mechanism (described below) with server nodes.


rabbitmq-plugins is a tool that manages plugins: lists, enables and disables them. It ships with RabbitMQ.

It supports both online (when target node is running) and offline mode (changes take effect on node restart).

rabbitmq-plugins uses shared secret authentication (described below) with server nodes.

Offline Mode

--offline is a flag supported by rabbitmq-plugins commands. When provided, the tool will avoid contacting the target node and instead operate on plugin files directly.

When the --offline flag is used, the command will rely on environment variables to determine where to find the plugins directory of the local node.

For example, it will respect and use the RABBITMQ_PLUGINS_DIR environment variable value just like a RabbitMQ node would. When RABBITMQ_PLUGINS_DIR is overriden for server nodes, it must also be set identically for the local OS user that invokes CLI tools.


With the exception of rabbitmqadmin, RabbitMQ tools use a shared secret authentication mechanism. This requires that inter-node and CLI communication ports (by default) is open for external connections on the target node.

Using CLI Tools against Remote Server Nodes

CLI tools can be used to talk to remote nodes as well as the local ones. Nodes are identified by node names. If no node name is specified, rabbit@{local hostname} is assumed to be the target. When contacting remote nodes, the same authentication requirements apply.

To contact a remote node, use the --node (-n) option that rabbitmqctl, rabbitmq-diagnostics and other core CLI tools accept. The following example contact the node rabbit@remote-host.local to find out its status:

rabbitmq-diagnostics status -n rabbit@remote-host.local

Some commands, such as

rabbitmq-diagnostics status

can be used against any node. Others, such as

rabbitmqctl shutdown


rabbitmqctl wait

can only be run on the same host or in the same container as their target node. These commands typically rely on or modify something in the local environment, e.g. the local enabled plugins file.

Node Names

RabbitMQ nodes are identified by node names. A node name consists of two parts, a prefix (usually rabbit) and hostname. For example, rabbit@node1.messaging.svc.local is a node name with the prefix of rabbit and hostname of node1.messaging.svc.local.

Node names in a cluster must be unique. If more than one node is running on a given host (this is usually the case in development and QA environments), they must use different prefixes, e.g. rabbit1@hostname and rabbit2@hostname.

CLI tools identify and address server nodes using node names. Most CLI commands are invoked against a node called target node. To specify a target node, use the --node (-n) option. For example, to run a health check on node rabbit@warp10.local:

rabbitmq-diagnostics -n rabbit@warp10 check_alarms

Some commands accept both a target node and another node name. For example, rabbitmqctl forget_cluster_node accepts both a target node (that will perform the action) and a name of the node to be removed.

In a cluster, nodes identify and contact each other using node names. See Clustering guide for details.

When a node starts up, it checks whether it has been assigned a node name. This is done via the RABBITMQ_NODENAME environment variable. If no value was explicitly configured, the node resolves its hostname and prepends rabbit to it to compute its node name.

If a system uses fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) for hostnames, RabbitMQ nodes and CLI tools must be configured to use so called long node names. For server nodes this is done by setting the RABBITMQ_USE_LONGNAME environment variable to true.

For CLI tools, either RABBITMQ_USE_LONGNAME must be set or the --longnames option must be specified:

# this example assumes that host1.messaging.eng.coolcorporation.banana is a hostname
# that successfully resolves
rabbitmq-diagnostics -n rabbit@host1.messaging.eng.coolcorporation.banana check_alarms --longnames

Options and Positional Arguments

RabbitMQ CLI tools largely follow existing, long established command line argument parsing conventions. This section provides some examples and focuses on edge cases and lesser known features.

Different commands take different arguments. Some are named options such as --node (aliased as -n), others are positional arguments, such as the username and password arguments in

rabbitmqctl add_user <username> <password>

A specific example:

rabbitmqctl add_user "a-user" "a-pa$$w0rd"

Options can be provided before or after positional arguments with one exception: anything that follows a double hyphen (--) will be treated as positional arguments:

# all values after the double hyphen (--) will be treated as positional arguments,
# even if they begin with a hyphen or a double hyphen
rabbitmqctl add_user --node rabbit@host1.messaging.eng.coolcorporation.banana -- "a-user" "a-pa$$w0rd"

The explicit positional argument separator must be used when positional arguments begin with a hyphen or a double hyphen (such as generated passwords), to make sure they are not parsed as options:

# Since "--!a-pa$$w0rd" is explicitly provided as a positional argument, it won't
# be mistakenly considered for an unsupported option, even though it starts with a double hyphen
rabbitmqctl add_user --node rabbit@host1.messaging.eng.coolcorporation.banana -- "a-user" "--!a-pa$$w0rd"

Option values can be passed as --option <value> or --option=<value>. The latter variant must be used when the value begins with a hyphen (-), otherwise it would be treated as an option:

# an alternative way of providing an option value
rabbitmqctl add_user --node=rabbit@host1.messaging.eng.coolcorporation.banana -- "a-user" "a-pa$$w0rd"

rabbitmqctl, rabbitmq-diagnostics, rabbitmq-plugins, and rabbitmq-queues support command aliases.

RabbitMQ nodes and CLI tools (with the exception of rabbitmqadmin) use a cookie to determine whether they are allowed to communicate with each other. For a CLI tool and a node to be able to communicate they must have the same shared secret called the Erlang cookie. The cookie is just a string of alphanumeric characters up to 255 characters in size. It is usually stored in a local file. The file must be only accessible to the owner (e.g. have UNIX permissions of 600 or similar). Every cluster node must have the same cookie.

If the file does not exist, Erlang VM will automatically create one with a randomly generated value when the RabbitMQ server starts up.

Erlang cookie generation should be done at cluster deployment stage, ideally using automation and orchestration tools.

Linux, MacOS, *BSD

On UNIX systems, the cookie will be typically located in /var/lib/rabbitmq/.erlang.cookie (used by the server) and $HOME/.erlang.cookie (used by CLI tools). Note that since the value of $HOME varies from user to user, it's necessary to place a copy of the cookie file for each user that will be using the CLI tools. This applies to both non-privileged users and root.

RabbitMQ nodes will log its effective user's home directory location early on boot.

Community Docker Image and Kubernetes

Docker community RabbitMQ image uses RABBITMQ_ERLANG_COOKIE environment variable value to populate the cookie file.

Configuration management and container orchestration tools that use this image must make sure that every RabbitMQ node container in a cluster uses the same value.

In the context of Kubernetes, the value must be specified in the deployment file. For instance, this can be seen in the RabbitMQ on Kubernetes examples repository.


On Windows, the cookie location depends on a few factors:

  • Whether the HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH environment variables are both set
  • Erlang version: prior to 20.2 (these are no longer supported by any maintained release series of RabbitMQ) or 20.2 and later
Erlang 20.2 or later

With Erlang versions starting with 20.2, the cookie file locations are:

  • %HOMEDRIVE%%HOMEPATH%\.erlang.cookie (usually C:\Users\%USERNAME%\.erlang.cookie for user %USERNAME%) if both the HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH environment variables are set
  • %USERPROFILE%\.erlang.cookie (usually C:\Users\%USERNAME%\.erlang.cookie) if HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH are not both set
  • For the RabbitMQ Windows service - %USERPROFILE%\.erlang.cookie (usually C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\systemprofile)

If the Windows service is used, the cookie should be copied from C:\Windows\system32\config\systemprofile\.erlang.cookie to the expected location for users running commands like rabbitmqctl.bat.

Overriding Using CLI and Runtime Command Line Arguments

As an alternative, the option "-setcookie <value>" can be added to RABBITMQ_SERVER_ADDITIONAL_ERL_ARGS environment variable value to override the cookie value used by a RabbitMQ node:


CLI tools can take a cookie value using a command line flag:

rabbitmq-diagnostics status --erlang-cookie "cookie-value"

Both are the least secure options and generally not recommended.

CLI Tools

Starting with version 3.8.6, rabbitmq-diagnostics includes a command that provides relevant information on the Erlang cookie file used by CLI tools:

rabbitmq-diagnostics erlang_cookie_sources

The command will report on the effective user, user home directory and the expected location of the cookie file:

Cookie File

Effective user: antares
Effective home directory: /home/cli-user
Cookie file path: /home/cli-user/.erlang.cookie
Cookie file exists? true
Cookie file type: regular
Cookie file access: read
Cookie file size: 20

Cookie CLI Switch

--erlang-cookie value set? false
--erlang-cookie value length: 0

Env variable  (Deprecated)


Server Nodes

When a node starts, it will log the home directory location of its effective user:

node           : rabbit@cdbf4de5f22d
home dir       : /var/lib/rabbitmq

Unless any server directories were overridden, that's the directory where the cookie file will be looked for, and created by the node on first boot if it does not already exist.

In the example above, the cookie file location will be /var/lib/rabbitmq/.erlang.cookie.

Hostname Resolution

Starting with RabbitMQ 3.8.6, CLI tools provide two commands that help verify that hostname resolution on a node works as expected. The commands are not meant to replace dig and other specialised DNS tools but rather provide a way to perform most basic checks while taking Erlang runtime hostname resolver features into account.

The commands are covered in the Networking guide.

Authentication Failures

When the cookie is misconfigured (for example, not identical), RabbitMQ nodes will log errors such as "Connection attempt from disallowed node", "", "Could not auto-cluster".

For example, when a CLI tool connects and tries to authenticate using a mismatching secret value:

2020-06-15 13:03:33 [error] <0.1187.0> ** Connection attempt from node 'rabbitmqcli-99391-rabbit@warp10' rejected. Invalid challenge reply. **

When a CLI tool such as rabbitmqctl fails to authenticate with RabbitMQ, the message usually says

* epmd reports node 'rabbit' running on port 25672
* TCP connection succeeded but Erlang distribution failed
* suggestion: hostname mismatch?
* suggestion: is the cookie set correctly?
* suggestion: is the Erlang distribution using TLS?

This means that TCP connection from a CLI tool to a RabbitMQ node succeeded but authentication attempt was rejected by the server. The message also mentions several most common reasons for that, which are covered next.

An incorrectly placed cookie file or cookie value mismatch are most common scenarios for such failures.

RabbitMQ node logs its cookie hash on start. CLI tools print their cookie hash value when they fail to authenticate with the target node.

When a recent Erlang/OTP version is used, authentication failures contain more information and cookie mismatches can be identified better:

  * connected to epmd (port 4369) on warp10
  * epmd reports node 'rabbit' running on port 25672
  * TCP connection succeeded but Erlang distribution failed

  * Authentication failed (rejected by the remote node), please check the Erlang cookie

current node details:
- node name: 'rabbitmq-cli-63@warp10'
- home dir: /home/username
- cookie hash: Sg08R8+G85EYHZ3H/9NUfg==

Possible Reason 2: Node Name Type Mismatch

If RabbitMQ nodes are configured to use long node names (RABBITMQ_USE_LONGNAME is exported to true), so should CLI tools via the same environment variable or the --longnames command line flag introduced in 3.7.0.

Possible Reason 3: Inter-node Connections Require TLS

If RabbitMQ is set up to encrypt inter-node and CLI connections using TLS, CLI tools also must use TLS and therefore require additional options. Non-TLS connections from other nodes and CLI tools will fail.

Possible Reason 4: Hostname Mismatch

Other reasons include a hostname mismatch in node name used by the target RabbitMQ node and that provided to the CLI tool (e.g. via the -n flag). For example, if a node runs using rabbit@rmq1.eng.megacorp.local as its name but rabbitmqctl is invoked as

rabbitmq-diagnostics status -n rabbit@rmq-dev.eng.megacorp.local

then even if rmq-dev.eng.megacorp.local and rmq1.eng.megacorp.local resolve to the same IP address, the server will reject rabbitmqctl's authentication attempt. This scenario is relatively rare.

When a recent Erlang/OTP version is used, authentication failures contain more information and hostname mismatches can be identified better:

  * connected to epmd (port 4369) on localhost
  * epmd reports node 'rabbit' running on port 25672
  * TCP connection succeeded but Erlang distribution failed

  * Hostname mismatch: node "rabbit@warp10" believes its host is different. Please ensure that hostnames resolve the same way locally and on "rabbit@warp10"

current node details:
- node name: 'rabbitmq-cli-30@warp10'
- home dir: /Users/antares
- cookie hash: Sg08R8+G85EYHZ3H/9NUfg==

Other Possible Reasons

Just like with any network connection, CLI-to-node connections can fail due to

  • Hostname resolution failures
  • Incorrect IP routing
  • TCP port access blocked (firewalls, etc)

and so on.

RabbitMQ Networking guide contains a section on troubleshooting of networking-related issues.

Managing Nodes

Getting node status

To retrieve node status, use rabbitmq-diagnostics status or rabbitmq-diagnostics.bat status with an optional --node target:

rabbitmq-diagnostics  status
rabbitmq-diagnostics  status --node rabbit@target-hostname.local
rabbitmq-diagnostics .bat status
rabbitmq-diagnostics .bat status --node rabbit@target-hostname.local

Starting a node

How RabbitMQ nodes are started depends on the package type used:

  • When using Debian and RPM packages on modern Linux distributions, nodes are managed using systemd
  • When using Windows installer, nodes are usually managed by the Windows service manager
  • When using Homebrew formula, nodes are managed using brew services
  • When using generic UNIX build or binary Windows build, nodes are started using sbin/rabbitmq-server and sbin/rabbitmq-server.bat, respectively, in the installation root

Stopping a node

To stop a node, consider using the same service management tooling used when starting the node, which depends on the package typed used when RabbitMQ was installed.

To stop a node using RabbitMQ CLI tools, use rabbitmqctl shutdown or rabbitmqctl.bat shutdown with an optional --node target:

rabbitmqctl shutdown
rabbitmqctl shutdown --node rabbit@target-hostname.local
rabbitmqctl.bat shutdown
rabbitmqctl.bat shutdown --node rabbit@target-hostname.local


rabbitmqadmin is a command line tool that's built on top of RabbitMQ HTTP API. It is not a replacement for rabbitmqctl and provides access to a subset of most commonly performed operations provided by the management UI.

The tool requires Python 2.7.9 or a more recent version.

rabbitmqadmin uses HTTP API authentication mechanism (basic HTTP authentication). It has to be downloaded separately from a running node or GitHub.

"Node-local" and "Clusterwide" Commands

Client connections, channels and queues will be distributed across cluster nodes. Operators need to be able to inspect and monitor such resources across all cluster nodes.

CLI tools such as rabbitmqctl and rabbitmq-diagnostics provide commands that inspect resources and cluster-wide state. Some commands focus on the state of a single node (e.g. rabbitmq-diagnostics environment and rabbitmq-diagnostics status), others inspect cluster-wide state. Some examples of the latter include rabbitmqctl list_connections, rabbitmqctl list_mqtt_connections, rabbitmqctl list_stomp_connections, rabbitmqctl list_users, rabbitmqctl list_vhosts and so on.

Such "cluster-wide" commands will often contact one node first, discover cluster members and contact them all to retrieve and combine their respective state. For example, rabbitmqctl list_connections will contact all nodes, retrieve their AMQP 0-9-1 and AMQP 1.0 connections, and display them all to the user. The user doesn't have to manually contact all nodes.

Assuming a non-changing state of the cluster (e.g. no connections are closed or opened), two CLI commands executed against two different nodes one after another will produce identical or semantically identical results. "Node-local" commands, however, likely will not produce identical results since two nodes rarely have entirely identical state.

Commands Provided by Plugins

A RabbitMQ plugin can provide CLI commands that will be discovered by tools such as rabbitmq-diagnostics, rabbitmq-queues, rabbitmqctl, and others. For plugin commands to be discoverable, the plugin must be explicitly enabled.

When performing command discovery, CLI tools will consult the Enabled Plugins File to determine what plugins to scan for commands. If a plugin is not included into that file, e.g. because it was enabled implicitly as a dependency, it won't be listed in the enabled plugins file and thus its CLI commands will not be discovered and will not be available.

Use the help command to see what commands are available, both core and provided by plugins.

Command Aliases

rabbitmqctl, rabbitmq-diagnostics and rabbitmq-plugins support command aliases. Aliases provide a way to define abbreviated versions of certain commands and their arguments. For example, instead of typing rabbitmqctl environment it may be more convenient to define an alias, rabbitmqctl env, that would expand to rabbitmqctl environment.

Aliases are loaded from a file specified via the RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE environment variable:

export RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE=/path/to/cli_aliases.conf

The aliases file uses a very minimalistic ini-style alias = command format, for example:

env = environment
st  = status --quiet

lp  = list_parameters --quiet
lq  = list_queues --quiet
lu  = list_users --quiet

cs  = cipher_suites --openssl-format --quiet

With this alias file in place it will be possible to use

rabbitmqctl env

which would expand to

rabbitmqctl environment


rabbitmqctl lq

which would expand to

rabbitmqctl list_queues --quiet

The last alias in the example above configures a rabbitmq-diagnostics command:

rabbitmq-diagnostics cs

would expand to

rabbitmq-diagnostics cipher_suites --openssl-format --quiet

All tools process aliases the same way. As long as the expanded command is recognized, aliases can be used with any tool or even more than one. For example, both rabbitmqctl and rabbitmq-diagnostics provide the environment command so the env alias works for both of them exactly the same way:

rabbitmq-diagnostics env

would expand to

rabbitmq-diagnostics environment

The file will be consulted only if the command invoked is not provided by the tool.

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