There seem to be a million different techniques to growing mushrooms—two of which are the infamous monotub and its little brother the shoe box.
But what is the difference between the two and which is best for you?
In short, the difference between the monotub and the shoebox is the size of the container. The shoe box typically uses 6 Quart totes, while the monotub uses something larger such as a 56 Quart tote.
Now each has its benefits and disadvantages and is ideal for specific situations.
Let's take a closer look and determine which you should use!
The monotub is one of the most popular fruiting chambers used by indoor mushroom cultivators today. It's cheap, effective, and doesn't require a ton of space nor special humidity or ventilation equipment. It's a self-regulating environment that can be used to grow a variety of mushrooms, including Oyster, Reishi, and Shaggy Mane.
They can also be easily created using any container you wish, however, the popular choice are large plastic totes—such as the Sterilite 80 Qt. Gasket Box.
There are some pretty cool benefits that the monotub has over the shoe box.
Firstly, it is cheaper. With a monotub, you are only using one container with a lid, while shoeboxes you will typically need to stack two on top of each other to give your mushrooms room to grow. This means you have to buy double the totes, and they are not the cheapest thing in the world. So if you're budget, the monotub might be your best choice.
The second benefit is that the monotub requires less maintenance.
Because you have significantly increased the volume, you have also increased the climate. While it may not seem like a lot, this increase can dramatically reduce the need to open them up for fresh air exchange.
This can also save your sanity if you live in an area of low humidity. Every time you open your tub, you lose precious moisture, and if you can reduce how often you need to exchange air you can ensure that your humidity will remain at its peak.
And the last benefit is a larger yield. Monotubs give you a significant increase in mushroom yield as your mycelium colony has more surface area to fruit.
The primary drawback of the monotube compared to the shoebox is the potential of losing everything to contamination. You are essentially putting all your eggs in one basket and if that basket does catch mold or any other contaminates, you will likely lose the entire thing.
The shoebox is the smaller version of the monotub that is best used for smaller batches for contamination control. A popular choice for shoebox totes is Sterilite's 6 Quart plastic totes. But any small container will work as well.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of using shoeboxes is that you isolate your colonies from each other, which can greatly reduce your losses if contamination arises. Losing one shoebox is far less than losing a monotub.
The final benefit is that you can grow fewer mushrooms if you desire. Monotubs kinda force you to grow larger yields—or at least enough to fill the tote—while shoe boxes allow you to grow as few as a single box.
The first drawback of the shoebox is that they are not very tall. This can be a problem as your mushrooms will not have the vertical space required to grow before smashing into the lid of your container. This requires you to use two containers as a dub tub, stacking them on top of each other to increase your container's volume, which sadly doubles the number of totes you need to purchase.
Shoeboxes can provide an excellent climate for mushrooms to thrive, however, because there is less space in a single tub, you're growing environments—such as humidity and fresh air exchange—take more effort and attention to control.
Failing to balance these environmental variables can cause your mushroom's growth to slow or even abort—stop growing completely. It can also cause other issues, such as fuzzy feet.