How to Setup Your Dev Environment

The best means of getting started with Ark development is to spin up your own local network, complete with 51 test delegates. This Cookbook recipe will show you how to do exactly that: we'll cover the tools you'll need to setup your testnet, along with how to use those tools to get your network up and running.


The following recipe will require you to have the following development tools installed on your machine:

  • NodeJS. As Ark Core is written exclusively in NodeJS, the server-side framework for JavaScript, installing Node is a necessity for core development.
  • Git. As the most popular version control software in existence, Git is a staple of many developer workflows, and Ark is no exception. Downloading Git will allow you to download the latest version of Ark Core, as well as update your local copy of Core to incorporate the latest code changes as they're released.
  • Docker. Docker is a container management tool that's rapidly becoming the industry standard. If you don't know what a container is or why managing them is important, fear not: when you install Ark Core, a robust Docker setup is provided for you out of the box. However, to use that setup, you'll need Docker on your machine already.
  • Lerna. In Greek mythology, Lerna was the home of the hydra, a fearsome beast with many heads. In JavaScript land, Lerna is a library used to tackle JavaScript projects with many packages. With Lerna installed as a global dependency, you're empowered to be fearless in the face of large JavaScript projects with many moving parts — including Ark Core.
  • Yarn. Yarn is a package manager that seeks to build upon the foundation of Node's npm. Although yarn isn't a strict requirement, in many cases it works faster and more elegantly than npm. Yarn is used by most Ark developers, and as such you'll see yarn commands sprinkled throughout our documentation.

Spinning Up Your First Testnet

With the above dependencies installed, you're all set to start your first testnet. Here are the steps to doing so:

  1. Navigate to a directory where you want to install Ark Core. This could be in a projects folder, or an ark folder, or something else entirely — the choice is up to you. Just make sure that you're in this folder before installing Core.
  2. Once in the directory that you've created, install Ark Core using Git: git clone [](
  3. Move inside the newly-created core directory.
  4. Run lerna bootstrap. This command will install all necessary JavaScript dependencies to get you up and running with Ark Core.
  5. Although we've now installed all required JavaScript dependencies, there are a couple more missing pieces that we'll need to fill in to get our testnet running. In particular, Ark Core makes use of the database technology Postgres. Installing Postgres the traditional way can be somewhat cumbersome. Fortunately, Docker has our backs here, and we've got your back with Docker.
  6. From core, navigate to docker/testnet. From within this directory, run the following command: docker-compose up -d postgres. This will install Postgres with the necessary settings to work with Ark Core.
  7. Return to the core directory.
  8. From core, navigate to packages/core. This is the starting point for all Ark nodes, relays and forgers alike.
  9. From core/packages/core, run the command yarn full:testnet.

This last command, yarn full:testnet, is where the magic happens. Let's do a quick walkthrough of what happens when this command is run:

  1. The full:testnet command is run within core, which as of the time of writing executes the following command in npm: cross-env ARK_ENV=test ./bin/ark start --config ./lib/config/testnet --network testnet --network-start
  2. As seen in the previous step, the ./bin/ark file is called with the start command. That command looks like this:
  .description('start a relay node and the forger')
  .option('-d, --data <data>', 'data directory', '~/.ark')
  .option('-c, --config <config>', 'core config', '~/.ark/config')
  .option('-t, --token <token>', 'token name', 'ark')
  .option('-n, --network <network>', 'token network')
  .option('-b, --bip38 <bip38>', 'forger bip38')
  .option('-p, --password <password>', 'forger password')
  .option('--network-start', 'force genesis network start', false)
  .action(async (options) => require('../lib/start-relay-and-forger')(options))
  1. Based on this command config and the options passed by the full:testnet command, we can see that the network sets the config directory to lib/config/testnet, the network option to testnet, and the network-start option to true, which starts our testnet from scratch with a new genesis block.
  2. The exported function from lib/start-relay-and-forger is loaded and called with the above options to start the network. Let's look at the function exported by start-relay-and-forger.js:

const container = require('@arkecosystem/core-container')

  * Start a node.
  * @param  {Object} options
  * @return {void}
module.exports = async (options) => {
  await container.setUp(options, {
    options: {
      '@arkecosystem/core-p2p': {
        networkStart: options.networkStart
      '@arkecosystem/core-blockchain': {
        networkStart: options.networkStart
      '@arkecosystem/core-forger': {
        bip38: options.bip38,
        address: options.address,
        password: options.password
  1. We'll delve more into the inner mechanics of core-container elsewhere in the docs. For now, let's take a brief look at the setUp method, found in the core-container package:
  * Set up the container.
  * @param  {Object} variables
  * @param  {Object} options
  * @return {void}
async setUp (variables, options = {}) {
  this.env = new Environment(variables)

  if (options.skipPlugins) {

  this.plugins = new PluginRegistrar(this, options)
  await this.plugins.setUp()
  1. After setting up environment variables based on the passed-in configuration, all Core plugins are loaded using the options key of the second argument to container.setUp. You can find the installed plugins in the plugins.js file located in the core package at lib/config/testnet.

This last step is where the meat-and-potatoes of ARK Core is loaded. During this step, the Postgres database is set up, all ARK-specific tables and fields are migrated, the genesis block is created, 51 forging delegates are created and setup to forge — all the blockchain goodness you'd expect out of a fully-formed testnet.

A full walkthrough of the node setUp process will be accessible in the Guidebook shortly, and futher recipes in this Cookbook will guide you through some of the most common functions you'll want to perform with your testnet. But by following the steps above, you'll be up and running with your very own network.

Last Updated: 10/27/2018, 9:15:14 PM