Tips & tricks

Using multiple channels

It is quite common to install a package from conda-forge and, when trying to use it, see an error like (OS X example):

ImportError: dlopen(.../site-packages/rpy2/rinterface/, 2): Library not loaded: @rpath/libicuuc.54.dylib
  Referenced from: .../site-packages/rpy2/rinterface/
  Reason: image not found

That happens because either the correct version of icu, or any other package in the error, is not present or the package is missing altogether.

Once you can confirm by issuing the command conda list and searching for the package in question.

Why does that happen?

The conda-forge and defaults are not 100% compatible. In the example above it is known that defaults uses icu 54.* while conda-forge relies on icu 56.*, that mismatch can lead to errors when the install environment is mixing packages from multiple channels.

Note: All of conda-forge software pinning can be found at:

How to fix it?

Newer conda versions (>=4.6) introduced a strict channel priority feature. Type conda config --describe channel_priority for more information.

The solution is to add the conda-forge channel on top of defaults in your .condarc file when using conda-forge packages and activate the strict channel priority with:

$ conda config --set channel_priority strict

This will ensure that all the dependencies will come from the conda-forge channel unless they exist only on defaults.

Here is how a .condarc file would look like:

$ cat .condarc
channel_priority: strict
  - conda-forge
  - defaults

In addition to the channel priority, we recommend to always install your packages inside a new environment instead of the root environment from anaconda/miniconda. Using envs make it easier to debug problems with packages and ensure the stability of your root env.


In the past conda-forge used to vendorize some of defaults dependencies that were not built in our infrastructure, like compilers run-times, to avoid the mixing channel problem. However, with the strict option, we no longer have to vendorize those (this led to its own set of problems), instead, we removed everything that is not built in conda-forge and let strict pull those from defaults.

TL;DR if you are experiencing missing compilers run-times like libgcc-ng, that is probably because you removed defaults, just re-add it and activate strict for a smooth and stable experience when installing packages.