Self-host Gitea on Amazon Lightsail

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Learn how to self-host Gitea on Amazon Lightsail for only $3.50 USD per month.
Table of Contents

Shortly after the buzz of MS purchasing GitHub I started self-hosting a {{ external “" “Gitea” />}} stack using a Docker Compose file I threw together just for the occasion. The hosting I chose at the time was a $5 Vultr VPS with the following specs:

  • CPU: 1 vCore
  • RAM: 1024 MB
  • Storage: 25 GB SSD
  • Bandwidth: 1000 GB

I chose Vultr partly because they’ve been shown to be faster than DigitalOcean and Lightsail. But really I just needed a testbed to prove things out to finally feel confident enough to abandon GitHub.

But Vultr isn’t cutting it anymore. Their $5/month VPS option, while arguably a great deal, isn’t delivering enough storage. Sure I could add block storage at $0.50 per GB or even consider switching to Linode. But I don’t see the point of either when Amazon offers a 40 GB SSD option at $5 an instance with double the bandwidth offered by Vultr and half the cost of the Linode equivalent plan.

As luck would have it, last night I ran out of disk space on Vultr. What better a time to make the switch over to Amazon Lightsail? And if you’re looking to self-host Gitea on Lightsail, here’s how you can too.

Create an Instance

To run anything on Lightsail you first need to create an instance. For the purposes of this tutorial let’s assume the following about your instance:

  • Region: Any
  • Image: Linux/Unix
  • Blueprint: OS Only (Debian)
  • Plan: $3.50/month

Once you choose a blueprint you’ll have the ability to select, create, or upload the RSA key pair you would like to use to SSH into your Lightsail instance. If you leave the default settings Amazon will generate a key pair for you.

Save: If this is your first time opt for the $3.50/month plan. 512 MB RAM and 20 GB storage should be plenty for most first-time Gitea installations.

When you’re finished, name your instance and choose Create instance. From there you’ll be navigated to the Instances page to see your new Lightsail instance:

Lightsail Instances

Once the instance changes from Pending to Running it’s ready for use.

While you’re waiting choose the vertical ellipsis icon ⋮ on the instance card to reveal a context menu, select Manage and scan down for the Accounts Page link. Follow the link and download your SSH key pair if you don’t have it already.

With the instance started and any AWS-generated SSH key pair downloaded you’ll be able to connect to the Debian remote from your machine to install Gitea. But first you need to be able to connect to the instance via SSH.

Connect to Instance

To connect to your new Lightsail instance over SSH you’ll need an SSH client such as dropbear, openssh or Cmder (Windows) installed on your machine.

Initiate the connection from a Terminal using ssh like so:

$ ssh admin@

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:gaFZjGJkN97iDCl8w4UVCIaLqFrr1UU/XSlHkhnuhxI.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

Type yes and press Enter to update known_hosts and attempt connection.

If you see a Permission denied (publickey) you need to configure the key pair downloaded in Create an Instance. Otherwise, skip ahead to Install Gitea.

Configure SSH Keys

To configure your key pair rename the key downloaded to lightsail_rsa, move it to your local SSH directory and update file permissions using chmod 600 like so:

mkdir ~/.ssh && \
cp ~/Downloads/LightsailDefaultKey-ap-southeast-1.pem ~/.ssh/lightsail_rsa && \
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/lightsail_rsa

Alias the host as aws-ls-debian by appending a mapping to /etc/hosts file, replacing with the IP obtained in Created an Instance:

echo ' aws-ls-debian' | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

And configure ssh to use the lightsail_rsa key and admin user automatically:

touch ~/.ssh/configure && \
entry=`echo "\nHost lightsail aws-ls-debian\n    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/lightsail_rsa\n    User admin"` && \
echo $entry | tee -a ~/.ssh/config

Providing you password-less access to your instance using ssh aws-ls-debian.

cat ~/.ssh/configure
Host github
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
    User github

Host lightsail aws-ls-debian
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/lightsail_rsa
    User admin

Go ahead and try it now. When you’re able to connect you may continue.

Install Gitea

Once connected to your Debian instance on Lightsail you can install Gitea. The official documentation provides a variety of installation methods. We’ll be using the Docker method with a docker-compose.yml to simplify installation:

Expand to view contents
version: "2.1"
    image: gitea/gitea:1.6
        condition: service_healthy
      - USER_UID=1000
      - USER_GID=1000
    restart: always
      - web
      - default
      - /opt/gitea:/data
      - "3000"
      - "2222:22"
      - ""
      - "traefik.enable=true"
      - ""
      - "traefik.port=3000"
      - "traefik.protocol=http"

    image: postgres:9.6
    restart: always
      - POSTGRES_USER=gitea
      - POSTGRES_DB=gitea
      - /opt/postgres:/var/lib/postgresql/data
      test: "exit 0"

    external: true

Debian does not ship with Docker so you’ll need to install it first.

Install Docker and Compose

Official Docker installation instructions for Debian are available on Docker Docs and the convenience script is by far the fastest installation method:

curl -fsSL -o && \
sh && \
sudo gpasswd -a admin docker

When the script is finished run command docker -v to confirm installation and use groups to verify docker appears in the list. If you do not see docker in the list of groups exit and ssh back into the instance and check again.

Tip: Install Docker automatically when creating new Lightsail instances using the above script by choosing Add launch script after selecting the blueprint.

Once you’ve got Docker installed go ahead and Install Docker Compose. Don’t forget to chmod +x the binary after installation. Without it Compose won’t have enough permission to bring up the Gitea stack on your Debian instance.

With Docker and Compose installed it’s time to bring up your Gitea stack.

Bring Up Your Gitea Stack

Using Compose to bring up Gitea can seem magical for first-time users. If you want to demystify how it works please spend some time reading through Docker Compose on Docker Docs and looking over Sample apps with Compose. A general understanding of Docker and Compose, and familiarity with the Docker Docs, will go a long way should you hit any stumbling blocks during the installation.

Start by copying the contents of docker-compose.yml to the instance:

url= && \
curl $url -o ~/docker-compose.yml

Validate the file with docker-compose config then open it for editing, change the version of gitea to latest and set the documented postgres version:

    image: gitea/gitea:latest # will install latest tagged release
    # ...

    image: postgres:9.6 # see for postgres version
    # ...

Optionally, update the postgres environment variables as well.

Note: If you’re not sure what to do here go ahead and leave the defaults.

Next, attempt to bring up the stack with docker-compose up -d. If the docker network named web doesn’t exist yet Compose will throw the following error:

ERROR: Network web declared as external, but could not be found. Please create the network manually using docker network create web and try again.

The error is expected. Run docker network create web as advised to create the external network, then bring up the stack again using docker-compose up -d.

You’ll see a flurry of activity as layers are pulled and services started:

Creating network "admin_default" with the default driver
Pulling db (postgres:9.6)...
9.6: Pulling from library/postgres
27833a3ba0a5: Pull complete
a5a0479e602b: Pull complete
Pulling gitea (gitea/gitea:latest)...
latest: Pulling from gitea/gitea
8e402f1a9c57: Pull complete
fa6a1305d196: Pull complete
Creating admin_db_1 ... done
Creating admin_gitea_1 ... done

Once gitea and postgres services are done you’ll be returned to the prompt. Confirm the containers are running with docker ps. You should see output like:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                  CREATED              STATUS                   PORTS                            NAMES
6226db03e891        gitea/gitea:1.6     "/usr/bin/entrypoint…"   About a minute ago   Up About a minute        3000/tcp,>22/tcp   admin_gitea_1
ac7628804914        postgres:9.6        "docker-entrypoint.s…"   2 minutes ago        Up 2 minutes (healthy)   5432/tcp

If you do you’ve successfully brought up your Gitea stack. If not, go back and review earlier steps to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Service containers must be up and running before you can finalize your installation.

Finalize Gitea Installation

Now that you’ve gotten you the stack running it’s time to finalize your Gitea installation from a web browser. For security reasons the provided Compose file does not expose Gitea over HTTP to your Lightsail instance. The following steps explain how to loosen the security restrictions and finalize the install:

  1. Navigate to Lightsail Instances to Manage the Firewall rules for the instance you created earlier. Add a Custom rule to accept TCP traffic on port 2222 and another Custom rule to accept TCP traffic on 3000.

  2. Modify docker-compose.yml to forward traffic on port 3000 from the host (Lightsail instance) to port 3000 for the gitea service:

        # ...
          - "2222:22" # HOST:CONTAINER
          - "3000:3000" # </== add this line here

    Save the file then run docker-compose down followed by docker compose up -d to recreate the network and restart your services:

    admin@ip-172-26-5-153:~$ docker-compose down
    Stopping admin_gitea_1 ... done
    Stopping admin_db_1    ... done
    Removing admin_gitea_1 ... done
    Removing admin_db_1    ... done
    Removing network admin_default
    Network web is external, skipping
    admin@ip-172-26-5-153:~$ docker-compose up -d
    Creating network "admin_default" with the default driver
    Creating admin_db_1 ... done
    Creating admin_gitea_1 ... done

    Confirm the port forward>3000/tcp is in place with docker ps.

  3. Finally, navigate to aws-ls-debian:3000/install in a web browser and complete the installation with the following installation settings:

    • Database Type: PostgreSQL
    • Host: db
    • Username: gitea
    • Password: gitea
    • Database Name: gitea
    • SSH Server Domain: aws-ls-debian
    • SSH Server Port: 2222
    • Gitea Base URL: http://aws-ls-debian:3000/
    • Administrator Username: [your username]
    • Password: [your password]
    • Confirm Password: [your password]
    • Email Address: [your email address]

Upon completion you’ll be logged in as Administrator on your new Gitea site:

Gitea Site Administration
Gitea Administration Dashboard following a new installation.

Accessing via Git

To interact with your Gitea server via git from the command line generate a public key and upload it using the Gitea web interface, add an alias to /etc/hosts as you did in Configure SSH Keys and update ~/.ssh/config like:

cat ~/.ssh/configure
Host github
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
    User github

Host lightsail aws-ls-debian
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/lightsail_rsa
    User admin

Host gitea gitea
    Port 2222
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/gitea_rsa
    User poweruser

Set Port to the value specified for SSH Server Port during Gitea installation, the same value specified in docker-compose.yml and one of the same ports unblocked from the Lightsail instance Firewall while finalizing installation.

Customizing Gitea

Despite its rather spartan documentation Gitea is extremely customizable. Want to use a dark theme? No problem. Email registration? Sure, why not. What about Single Sign-On with GitHub? Yep, you can do that too…

Learn more about Customizing Gitea and check out Gitea compared to other Git hosting options to get a feel for what’s possible. And because the core of Gitea is open source the sky is the limit.


In this tutorial your learned how to self-host Gitea using Amazon Lightsail. From creating and managing Lightsail instances to installing and running Docker you now have what it takes to manage your own source code in the Amazon cloud. When I started using Gitea over 9 months ago I had no idea how much I would come to appreciate it as GitHub continues to grow more and more clamped down.

Have fun out there!