Monotubs Explained: Easy, Efficient, Effective
If you’ve been looking into or involved with the DIY mushroom cultivation community for any length of time, there’s little doubt that you’ve heard of one of the most common tools of the trade… the mighty monotub!
But what is a monotub, exactly? Why are they so popular? Why are they recommended for both absolute beginners and expert fungi cultivators alike?
In this Monster Mushroom Company article, we’ll explore the monotub in its entirety and answer all of the above questions and more—by the time we’re done here, you’ll know everything you ever wanted to know about monotubs (and then some). Furthermore, if you’re at all considering purchasing our leading All-in-One kit, which includes a professionally prepared monotub, you’ll be able to place your order with confidence, knowing that this deceptively simple “Tek” is one of the best options out there for home mushroom growers.
We’ll begin by describing a monotub and looking at its key features, but first, a quick recommendation:
Stop! Familiarize Yourself With Common Mushroom Growing Terminology With This Free Guide
Throughout this article and many of the other resources here on the Monster Mushroom Company website, we use terminology that you may not be familiar with if this is your first foray into the wonderful hobby of mushroom cultivation. We’ll be using terms like fruiting body, inoculation, incubation, substrate, and many more technical terms.
Pause for a moment and download our absolutely free eBook using the button below. Within it, alongside some other really great information, you’re going to find a glossary of terms—all the mycological words you need to know to establish a solid foundation of understanding. Download the free guide and if you get stumped, you can reference it as you read the rest of this article. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
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The Key Features of a Monotub
Monotubs really do embody the three “E’s” you saw in the title of this article: easy, efficient, and effective.
A monotub is a modified plastic tub, like those ones you see at big box stores, typically used for storing or moving items. They look like huge Tupperware, essentially. In the context of mushroom cultivation, a monotub is used as a fruiting chamber (the container in which fungi is cultivated).
You may see monotubs referred to as “monotub tek”. The word tek is a slang term used in the mushroom growing community that just means technique, although some like to think it’s a fancier acronym that stands for “Technical Educational Knowledge”. Either way, monotubs have been perfected over the years and they’re so commonly recommended because they work.
All monotubs have holes cut or drilled into them, typically four to six, with two on each side of the length of the tub and one on each side of the width. The number of holes depends on the size of the tub, but usually one every eight or so inches is right. The purpose of the holes is to allow air flow to enter the monotub, since fungi, like humans, require fresh air to survive. These holes must be approximately an inch and a half in diameter or thereabouts—large enough to let air through, but not so large that they can’t be properly filtered.
That’s the other part of a monotub that’s necessary to customize: the fresh air holes (or “ports” if you prefer) need to be stuffed with a breathable material, thick enough to prevent the introduction of airborne contaminants and particulates into the rest of the chamber, but porous enough to allow air to pass through. Typically, we use Polyfil. A batch is included with every All-in-One kit.
Next, the monotub needs to have a lid. Most plastic tubs include them, but it’s a good idea to use lids that have latches or otherwise strongly “clasp” onto the tub itself; this is, again, to prevent contamination from entering the tub. The monotub we include with our kits has a very sturdy, latch-style lid.
Finally, monotubs need to have the bottom darkened or blacked out. If you’ve never cultivated mushrooms before, the reason may surprise you: fungi is an incredibly enterprising organism, and will try to grow anywhere it can. Since clear plastic tubs aren’t exactly abundant in nature, mushrooms aren’t used to them—they just grow upward toward the sunlight. However, in the case of a clear tub, light will be hitting the sides, ergo mushrooms will try to grow into the side of the tub. This ultimately results in waste, since those mushrooms will never grow to full maturity.
In any event, some people prefer to paint the outside of the tub black (never the inside, as chemicals from the paint may leach into your fruiting substrate) with spray paint or something similar. However, an easier and just as effective method is to tape a black bag (like a garbage or lawn bag) into the inside of the tub. As long as it can block light from the lower portion of the monotub, it’ll work just fine.
This is our preferred method, as it doesn’t involve any additional painting or preparation on behalf of the end user. It also offers the benefit of being able to fill your monotub with fruiting substrate to whatever height you prefer on subsequent grows—if you paint the outside bottom of the monotub, that’s pretty much the height you’re stuck with forever on that particular tub.
That about does it for the must-have, critical features of a monotub. Now you understand what we meant by deceptively simple! While it’s true that a monotub is “just” a plastic bin, it’s so much more than that.
But What About Outdoor Growing? Do I HAVE to Have a Monotub?
No, you don’t “have” to have a monotub, but the reason that so many mushroom growers use them is simple: they work.
We’ll be blunt: if you’re a first-time mushroom grower, please save yourself the heartache and don’t attempt to cultivate outside! You can later, once you’ve developed a bit more of an intimate relationship and understanding of fungi, its needs, and how all of this works. Learn how to grow mushrooms indoors using a monotub first, then go and try outside. Monotubs are a tried-and-true method; the hard work of figuring everything out has been done for you.
Cultivating mushrooms outside is more difficult because you don’t have control over the elements in the same way that you do indoors—you obviously can’t prevent contaminants and bacteria and the neighbor’s cat from messing up all of your hard work in the same way that you can with an indoor growing setup. Many mushroom cultivators do have successful outdoor grows, and you can be one of them, but learn the ropes first.
Just our two cents!
Getting a Professionally Prepared Monotub vs. Making Your Own
Many mushroom cultivators choose to DIY their own monotubs rather than buying a professionally made tub. If you really and truly want to DEY (do everything yourself), this can be a fine option—however, there are a few compelling reasons as to why you would want to get a professionally made monotub like the one included in The Monster Mushroom Company All-in-One Kit.
Consider for a moment that:
- Cutting the air holes is an absolutely critical, can’t-skip step to making a viable monotub. Getting them cut correctly is actually a bit more difficult than you might think—even when using a decent drill, many would-be home mycologists have cracked and ruined their brand new tubs. You also want the holes to be smooth and free from plastic debris. You also have to get the measurements just right. As you can see, there’s more to it than just punching a few holes in a box!
- Finding a plastic tub with the right lid type can be difficult. If you’ve ever used plastic bins before to store or transport items, you likely already know exactly how flimsy they can be—we suggest strong lids with latching mechanisms, and that’s what we use for our monotubs. These tubs are more expensive (if you can even find them at retail stores), but well worth the effort and expense.
- Finally, you may not be able to find the right size tub at your local stores. Too small of a tub and your harvest won’t be as successful as it could be—your fungi will be essentially competiting with itself for resources, and you’ll ultimately get less pinning and fruiting. A monotub should be 54 quarts, more or less. That’s the size of monotub we always use, and we highly recommend that you do the same, whether you’re planning on ordering our All-in-One kit or not!
Once again, monotubs prove to be deceptively simple. If you’re a first time cultivator, we really do believe that the best thing you can do for yourself to ensure that you get a “fair shake” at experiencing the mushroom growing hobby properly for the first time is to pick up our All-in-One kit; there’s nothing more discouraging than attempting to cultivate fungi for the first time and having the whole endeavor result in failure.
Besides, the All-in-One kit comes with everything else you need to grow mushrooms at home successfully the first time you try, including detailed instructions, our awesome fruiting and spawning substrates, and more. We truly stand behind our product—and we know from experience that first-time growers can use it successfully, since we’ve had hundreds of satisfied customers tell us themselves that they were able to grow big, meaty, juicy mushrooms for the first time using it!
Items & Accessories You’re Going to Want Alongside Your Monotub
A monotub is a very important piece of the mushroom cultivation “puzzle,” but it’s far from the last thing you’re going to want to have before you get started. We strongly recommend taking a moment to read our detailed article Everything You Need for Amateur Mycology at Home.
In that article, you’ll learn about all of the items and equipment you’ll want alongside your monotub. Don’t worry—none of the items are particularly exotic or expensive (after all, cultivating mushrooms at home is actually one of the most affordable and accessible hobbies around), but you do want to at least know what other things you need.
All of the items discussed in that article, including our Super Shroom Final Fruiting Substrate and our Super Spawn Sterilized Grain Paks are included in the All-in-One kit. To learn more about substrates and why they’re so important to the overall process of cultivating mushrooms—at home or even in a professional setting—please read our article What is a Fruiting Substrate for Mushroom Cultivation?
Our fruiting and spawning substrates the end result of years of experimentation, research, and good old fashioned trial-and-error. We’ve taken the hard work out of this one for you, because we really don’t think our substrates can be beat!
How to Start Growing Mushrooms at Home With a Professional Monotub & Other Accessories Immediately
We think you probably already know the answer to this question if you’ve been paying attention throughout this article!
Yes, the way to get started growing mushrooms at home is with our All-In-One Mushroom Grow Kit, which really does include everything you need, hand-picked by professional mushroom cultivators.
Trust us, we’ve thought of everything—you’ll even get a digital hydrometer/temperature gauge, sterilizing spray, and a drying, curing, and storage system for your mushrooms after you’ve grown them. And make no mistake about it… you’ll grow them with this kit! (Maybe more than you’ll know what to do with!).
Combine that with the excellent resources we’ve prepared for you here on the Monster Mushroom Company website, and you have a can’t-fail project on your hands. If you’re excited to get your monotub and start growing your very own mushrooms at home, get started here. We can’t wait for you to join this wonderful community!