Troubleshooting and monitoring

Zulip uses Supervisor to monitor and control its many Python services. Read the next section, Using supervisorctl, to learn how to use the Supervisor client to monitor and manage services.

If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to read Zulip’s architectural overview, particularly the Components section. This will help you understand the many services Zulip uses.

If you encounter issues while running Zulip, take a look at Zulip’s logs, which are located in /var/log/zulip/. That directory contains one log file for each service, plus errors.log (has all errors), server.log (has logs from the Django and Tornado servers), and workers.log (has combined logs from the queue workers).

The section troubleshooting services on this page includes details about how to fix common issues with Zulip services.

If you run into additional problems, please report them so that we can update this page! The Zulip installation scripts logs its full output to /var/log/zulip/install.log, so please include the context for any tracebacks from that log.

Using supervisorctl

To see what Zulip-related services are configured to use Supervisor, look at /etc/supervisor/conf.d/zulip.conf and /etc/supervisor/conf.d/zulip-db.conf.

Use the supervisor client supervisorctl to list the status of, stop, start, and restart various services.

Checking status with supervisorctl status

You can check if the zulip application is running using:

supervisorctl status

When everything is running as expected, you will see something like this:

process-fts-updates                                             RUNNING   pid 2194, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-django                                                    RUNNING   pid 2192, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-senders:zulip-events-message_sender-0                     RUNNING   pid 2209, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-senders:zulip-events-message_sender-1                     RUNNING   pid 2210, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-senders:zulip-events-message_sender-2                     RUNNING   pid 2211, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-senders:zulip-events-message_sender-3                     RUNNING   pid 2212, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-senders:zulip-events-message_sender-4                     RUNNING   pid 2208, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-tornado                                                   RUNNING   pid 2193, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-confirmation-emails                  RUNNING   pid 2199, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-digest_emails                        RUNNING   pid 2205, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-email_mirror                         RUNNING   pid 2203, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-error_reports                        RUNNING   pid 2200, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-missedmessage_mobile_notifications   RUNNING   pid 2204, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-missedmessage_reminders              RUNNING   pid 2206, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-signups                              RUNNING   pid 2198, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-slowqueries                          RUNNING   pid 2202, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-user-activity                        RUNNING   pid 2197, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-user-activity-interval               RUNNING   pid 2196, uptime 1:13:11
zulip-workers:zulip-events-user-presence                        RUNNING   pid 2195, uptime 1:13:11

If you see any services showing a status other than RUNNING, or you see an uptime under 5 seconds (which indicates it’s crashing immediately after startup and repeatedly restarting), that service isn’t running. If you don’t see relevant logs in /var/log/zulip/errors.log, check the log file declared via stdout_logfile for that service’s entry in /etc/supervisor/conf.d/zulip.conf for details. Logs only make it to /var/log/zulip/errors.log once a service has started fully.

Restarting services with supervisorctl restart all

After you change configuration in /etc/zulip/ or fix a misconfiguration, you will often want to restart the Zulip application. You can restart Zulip using:

supervisorctl restart all

Stopping services with supervisorctl stop all

Similarly, you can stop Zulip using:

supervisorctl stop all

Troubleshooting services

The Zulip application uses several major open source services to store and cache data, queue messages, and otherwise support the Zulip application:

  • postgresql

  • rabbitmq-server

  • nginx

  • redis

  • memcached

If one of these services is not installed or functioning correctly, Zulip will not work. Below we detail some common configuration problems and how to resolve them:

  • If your browser reports no webserver is running, that is likely because nginx is not configured properly and thus failed to start. nginx will fail to start if you configured SSL incorrectly or did not provide SSL certificates. To fix this, configure them properly and then run:

    service nginx restart
  • If your host is being port scanned by unauthorized users, you may see messages in /var/log/zulip/server.log like

    2017-02-22 14:11:33,537 ERROR Invalid HTTP_HOST header: ''. You may need to add u'' to ALLOWED_HOSTS.

    Django uses the hostnames configured in ALLOWED_HOSTS to identify legitimate requests and block others. When an incoming request does not have the correct HTTP Host header, Django rejects it and logs the attempt. For more on this issue, see the Django release notes on Host header poisoning

  • An AMQPConnectionError traceback or error running rabbitmqctl usually means that RabbitMQ is not running; to fix this, try:

    service rabbitmq-server restart

    If RabbitMQ fails to start, the problem is often that you are using a virtual machine with broken DNS configuration; you can often correct this by configuring /etc/hosts properly.

Disabling unattended upgrades


We recommend that you disable Ubuntu’s unattended-upgrades and instead install apt upgrades manually. With unattended upgrades enabled, the moment a new Postgres release is published, your Zulip server will have its postgres server upgraded (and thus restarted).

Restarting one of the system services that Zulip uses (postgres, memcached, redis, or rabbitmq) will drop the connections that Zulip processes have to the service, resulting in future operations on those connections throwing errors.

Zulip is designed to recover from system service downtime by creating new connections once the system service is back up, so the Zulip outage will end once the system service finishes restarting. But you’ll get a bunch of error emails during the system service outage whenever one of the Zulip server’s ~20 workers attempts to access the system service.

An unplanned outage will also result in an annoying (and potentially confusing) trickle of error emails over the following hours or days. These emails happen because a worker only learns its connection was dropped when it next tries to access the connection (at which point it’ll send an error email and make a new connection), and several workers are commonly idle for periods of hours or days at a time.

You can prevent this trickle when doing a planned upgrade by restarting the Zulip server with /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/restart-server after installing system package updates to postgres, memcached, rabbitmq, or redis.

Few system administrators enjoy outages at random times (even if only brief) or the resulting distribution of error emails, which is why we recommend disabling unattended-upgrades.


Chat is mission-critical to many organizations. This section contains advice on monitoring your Zulip server to minimize downtime.

First, we should highlight that Zulip sends Django error emails to ZULIP_ADMINISTRATOR for any backend exceptions. A properly functioning Zulip server shouldn’t send any such emails, so it’s worth reporting/investigating any that you do see.

Beyond that, the most important monitoring for a Zulip server is standard stuff:

  • Basic host health monitoring for issues running out of disk space, especially for the database and where uploads are stored.

  • Service uptime and standard monitoring for the services Zulip depends on. Most monitoring software has standard plugins for nginx, postgres, redis, rabbitmq, and memcached, and those will work well with Zulip.

  • supervisorctl status showing all services RUNNING.

  • Checking for processes being OOM killed.

Beyond that, Zulip ships a few application-specific end-to-end health checks. The Nagios plugins check_send_receive_time, check_rabbitmq_queues, and check_rabbitmq_consumers are generally sufficient to point to the cause of any Zulip production issue. See the next section for details.

Nagios configuration

The complete Nagios configuration (sans secret keys) used to monitor is available under puppet/zulip_ops in the Zulip Git repository (those files are not installed in the release tarballs).

The Nagios plugins used by that configuration are installed automatically by the Zulip installation process in subdirectories under /usr/lib/nagios/plugins/. The following is a summary of the useful Nagios plugins included with Zulip and what they check:

Application server and queue worker monitoring:

  • check_send_receive_time: Sends a test message through the system between two bot users to check that end-to-end message sending works. An effective end-to-end check for Zulip’s Django and Tornado systems being healthy.

  • check_rabbitmq_consumers and check_rabbitmq_queues: Effective checks for Zulip’s RabbitMQ-based queuing systems being healthy.

  • check_worker_memory: Monitors for memory leaks in queue workers.

  • check_email_deliverer_backlog and check_email_deliverer_process: Monitors for whether scheduled outgoing emails (e.g. invitation reminders) are being sent properly.

Database monitoring:

  • check_fts_update_log: Checks whether full-text search updates are being processed properly or getting backlogged.

  • check_postgres: General checks for database health.

  • check_postgres_backup: Checks status of postgres backups.

  • check_postgres_replication_lag: Checks whether postgres streaming replication is up to date.

Standard server monitoring:

  • Basic HTTP check.

  • check_debian_packages: Checks whether the system is behind on apt upgrade.

If you’re using these plugins, bug reports and pull requests to make it easier to monitor Zulip and maintain it in production are encouraged!

Memory leak mitigation

As a measure to mitigate the potential impact of any future memory leak bugs in one of the Zulip daemons, Zulip service automatically restarts itself every Sunday early morning. See /etc/cron.d/restart-zulip for the precise configuration.