Tips for installing NEST with conda

This page provides a series of recommendations for installing pre-built NEST with conda or to set up conda environments for building NEST and NEST documentation.

Basic conda setup

Choice of conda base installation

We test NEST in conda environments using Miniconda installations and thus recommend that you do the same. The recommendations that we provide here will also likely work with a full-sized Anaconda installation, but we can only provide limited support for this.

You can either install

For Apple systems with an M1 chip, you must at present use Miniforge and select the arm64 (Apple Silicon) installer to create a conda environment that will support native builds of NEST.

Keep your base environment empty

Your base environment should be as empty as possible in order to avoid conflicts with other environments. Always install packages only in the new environments (don’t worry about duplicates, conda will link the packages if they are used in multiple environments, and not produce disk eating copies).

Get familiar with conda environments

Conda environments are a powerful tool. See the Conda documentation on Managing Environments for more information.

To see which environments are installed on your system, use

conda info --envs

Installing NEST with Conda

We provide pre-built versions of NEST on Conda Forge. Follow these instructions to install NEST from Conda Forge.

Creating a Conda environment for running and building NEST

If you want to compile NEST yourself, you can create an environment containing all necessary software for running and building NEST by executing the following command from the NEST source directory

cd <nest-source-dir>
conda env create -p conda

This will create an environment in the folder conda/. If you would like to activate the environment, use

conda activate conda/

Note that the trailing slash is required for conda not to confuse the path with a named envionment (for example when using --name).

Get a good overview

Obtain a good overview of which packages are installed where. You can use conda env export -n base and conda env export -n yournestenv (replacing the yournestenv name with whatever you chose). Make sure each environment contains all dependencies. One way to make this obvious would be to reduce conda stack to 0 (conda documentation on nested activations), and/or to a certain degree by not auto-activating the base environment (conda documentation on conda-init). Then packages from base do not ‘leak’ into your new environments.


Packages from your system will usually also be available in your conda environment and may cause similar conflicts.