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The Shadowbox - A Low Maintenance Universal Fruiting Chamber Tek + Easy Ps. Mexicana Grow Tutorial

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#1 DonShadow



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Posted 26 February 2018 - 03:49 PM

How to build an effective low-maintenance fruiting chamber for tropical and subtropical psilocybin mushroom species




A basic guide to growing Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms



Building the Shadowbox


This fruiting chamber is easy to build, and requires minimal upkeep. It's ideal for someone with a busy lifestyle and a desire for the convenience of automation. It's designed to effectively grow most tropical and subtropical mushroom species, though each species will have slightly different misting/fanning requirements. Without misting, this chamber maintains 95% humidity at room temperature (70-72F).


Credit must be given to Elfstone for providing the inspiration to use an aquarium airpump/airstones, and credit goes to Anne Halonium for the inspiration to use blue LED lighting. This tek is not my property, it is merely a consolidation of all of the knowledge I've acquired through rigorous experimentation, and hundreds of hours spent researching others' techniques.


I originally designed this box specifically for growing Psilocybe mexicana, but I've also grown Psilocybe tampanensis, Psilocybe cubensisPanaeolus cyanescens, and Psilocybe semperviva/hoogshagenii successfully in this chamber. Psilocybe mexicana is used as the demonstrative species for this tutorial. Approximately the same method will also work for Psilocybe tampanensis, Psilocybe semperviva/hoogshagenii, and probably many other species that grow in similar environmental conditions.


This guide assumes that one has a basic working knowledge of sterile technique, agar work, and general mushroom cultivation.



*Note: You may notice that some images of the fruiting chamber show the exhaust fan placed at the back of the tote. These photos were taken before the latest revision to this TEK. The fruiting chamber performs much better when the fan is placed in the center of the lid. The revised tutorial reflects this adjustment, but some of the photos could not be updated. Thanks!*




Tools/materials list:


- Tape-measure


- Fine-tip permanent marker


- ISO alcohol for removing ink


- Straight-edge/ruler/yard-stick


- A clear plastic tote, preferably with a sealing lid. If you can't find one with a sealing lid, apply a narrow adhesive foam gasket or weatherstripping around the rim of the lid so that it will create a seal when latched. For this tek I will be using a 54 QT Sterilite gasket tote.


- 5V 2 1/4" (2.25") CPU fan (easily acquired at any computer or electronics shop).


- 5V power adapter. Samsung/Android phone chargers are perfect.


- 1/8" and 1/4" electrical heat-shrink tubing.


- Wire strippers


- Cigarette lighter


- 1/4" pilot-point drill-bit


- 1/8" drill-bit


- 2 1/4" (2.25") hole-saw


- Scalpel or sharp utility knife


- High-speed drill


- 80gal aquarium pump


- Aquarium airline hosing


- Two aquarium air-stones. I use 5" round stones with a plastic housing, the standard blue sandstone ones break very easily, avoid them.


- Blue actinic LED light in 450nm frequency range (not necessary but blue light has been shown to promote primordia formation). A 6500K daylight bulb will do just fine, or ambient daylight from a window (avoid direct exposure to sunlight).


- Two timers, one must be programmable to the minute.



  • Gasket tote:



  • 5V CPU fan:




  • 5V Adaptor/phone charger:




  • Heat-shrink Tubing:




  • Pilot-point drill-bit:




  • Hole-saw:




  • Air-pump:




  • Air-stones:




  • Blue LED light:




  • Programmable Timers:





Let's begin!


  • Set your tote on your work surface and begin making marks in each corner at 3 1/4" from the bottom:




  • Using your straight-edge and fine-tip marker, make a straight line from mark to mark on all four sides:





  • Now find the center of the line on each side and mark it. Make marks every 2" from the center on each side:





  • On one of the sides mark two extra holes for the airlines:




  • Using your 1/4" pilot point drill-bit, proceed to drill out every hole you marked. Use as little pressure as possible. A high-speed drill is essential here or you will risk cracking the tote.





  • Now find the exact center of the lid and make a mark to drill a hole for the CPU fan. It's very important to use a high-speed drill here, or you risk cracking the lid:





  • Place your CPU fan over the hole on the outside lid and mark out the holes for the screws on the inside:






  • Drill them out with the 1/8" drill-bit:




  • Use your utility knife or scalpel to shave off any excess plastic from all the holes you've just drilled, taking care not to slice through the lid:





  • Now it's time to wire up the fan to the adapter. Cut off the adapter plug and carefully strip the wires on both the adapter and the fan:





  • Attach the appropriate wires together. You can plug in the adapter and test the connection to make sure you get it right before shrink-tubing them. Don't forget to slide your heat-shrink tubes on first! The 1/8" tubes go on the individual colored wires, and the 1/4" tubes go on the main black wire. Bend over your wires, slide the shrink-tubing on and use your lighter to shrink them securely:







  • Now slide the larger heat-shrink tube over the two colored wires and shrink them:





  • Voila! Now mount your fan so that it blows air OUT of the chamber. Evacuation of air will allow for uniform evaporation from your casing because air will be drawn in through the perimeter holes, rather than blown in, which tends to dry out the center of the chamber more quickly than the sides:




  • Now it's time to rig up the airstones and add your perlite/water. Fill the tote so the perlite comes about a 1/2" above the holes, and fill about half-way with tap water:







*A note about Legionnaires' disease: Legionella bacteria can contaminate stagnant water and cause cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and if left untreated, death. It's a good idea to clean your fruiting chamber between grows or every three months, especially if the air pump and fan are left off for any extended duration. Soak perlite in a bucket with diluted bleach solution and rinse before returning it to the cleaned chamber. Adding a splash of bleach to the water in the chamber is also a good measure to prevent the growth of potentially dangerous airborne bacteria that may be exhausted into your home.*



  • Place your chamber in your growing area and hook up your air-pump to the airline tubing. I place my chamber on a plastic shelf and hang my airpump from a string to minimize vibration and noise:




  • Plug in your fan and light to your programmable timers. The fan plugs into the minute timer, and the light can be plugged into an hourly timer. The air-pump simply plugs in and stays on 24/7:



  • I like to use zip-straps to fasten my LED light to the underside of the shelf above. Do whatever you have to do to suspend the light above the chamber:






Congratulations! Your fruiting chamber is complete! Take good care of it and it will last you for years. 

Remember to watch the water level. Don't let it evaporate below the tops of the air-stones.


Now, let's grow some mushrooms in it!





Cultivating Psilocybe mexicana Mushrooms



The following tutorial is a very easy method for growing Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms. This technique is only slightly more difficult than growing Psilocybe cubensis, and yields a superior mushroom. This grow was the Jalisco strain, but the same method will work for all the sclerotia-producing species in the section mexicanae (Ps. tampanensis, galindoi, mexicana etc.)



Notes about substrates/casing:


Psilocybe mexicana will fruit on manure compost/coir based substrates, as well as coffee/coir, ryegrass seed, rye grain, and probably many others.


Probably just about any casing will do, though I've found that the addition of clean sand to any casing results in greater yields. I prefer a simple peat moss/calcium carbonate/sand casing, but a standard 50/50+ (peat moss/vermiculite + calcium carbonate and/or oyster shell) will do.


I have achieved the greatest success using the following recipes:



Supplemented Coir Substrate

Makes about 4 lightly-packed quarts.




  • 275g dry coir

  • 100ml used coffee grounds

  • 100ml grain flour or bran (eg. oat, brown rice, wheat, quinoa, millet. I like oat bran best)

  • 100ml clean dry sand

  • 25ml gypsum

  • 25ml Calcium carbonate (CaCO3)

  • Approximately 1300ml Reverse osmosis water




  • Place coir in large pail and break it apart as well as you can (1-inch chunks or smaller).
  • Add gypsum.
  • Pour in approximately 1 litre of boiling R/O water to hydrate.
  • Mix well and cover with lid for 10 mins.
  • After ten minutes has passed, mix again and and break up all chunks of coir by hand.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well by hand to soften all the lumps.
  • Bring to field capacity* and load into wide-mouth jars. Pack jars by tapping the bottom of the jar lightly on a firm surface and fill right to the brim.
  • Fit jars with wide-mouth metal lids, but leave the rings loose. DO NOT tighten lids, or your jars may explode. You'll tighten them once they have been sterilized.
  • Place in pressure cooker and sterilize 90mins at 15PSI.
  • As soon as pressure drops to zero, remove jars and tighten lids to create a vacuum seal. Use oven mitts or leather gloves and handle the jars very carefully. As long as a good seal is achieved, jars will store at room temperature indefinitely, so don't worry about making too much substrate.



*How to test for field capacity (proper soil hydration)

Once all ingredients have been combined and mixed well, grab a good handful of soil and squeeze tightly in your fist. If the soil is properly hydrated you should see a small amount of water pooling around your fingers/knuckles when you squeeze, but it should not trickle down your hand. One or two drops is ok.



10 : 1 : 0.1 Casing Soil:

Makes two quart jars 3/4 full



  • By volume: 10 : 1 : 0.5 = Peat moss : Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) : Sand

  • 1500ml finely crumbled peat moss (zero chunks)

  • 150ml CaCO3

  • 75ml sand (well-rinsed fine beach sand is good)




  • In a large pail, mix all ingredients well.
  • Add reverse osmosis water in small increments until field capacity is achieved.
  • Load equally into two wide-mouth jars. They should only be 3/4 full so that you can shake them to distribute moisture equally before use.
  • Fit jars with wide-mouth metal lids, but leave the rings loose. DO NOT tighten lids, or your jars may explode. You'll tighten them once they have been sterilized.
  • Place in pressure cooker and sterilize 90mins at 15PSI.
  • As soon as pressure drops to zero, remove jars and tighten lids to create a vacuum seal. Use oven mitts or leather gloves and handle the jars very carefully. As long as a good seal is achieved, jars will store at room temperature indefinitely, so don't worry about making too much casing.





Notes about lighting:


If you will be using blue LEDs, set your timer to turn on for one hour in the middle of the night. My reasoning is that blue actinic lighting is meant to simulate moonlight in fish habitats, and therefor it stands to reason that mushrooms may benefit more if exposed to the light at night when moonlight would naturally be present. Studies have shown that only brief exposure to blue light is necessary to trigger primordia formation and fruiting direction (lunartropism). Leaving the light on for only one hour prolongs the life of your light. Aside from this, diffuse daylight through a window is sufficient (not direct sunlight!)



Spawn run:


Spawn your colonized grain to a shallow tray (2" max) and use a trashbag liner to ensure evaporation from the casing only. I mix my substrate/grains in a glovebox or in front of a flowhood to reduce the chance of contamination, but I have found that Psilocybe mexicana mycelium is very resilient to contamination if your grain spawn is clean and incubation temperatures are steady, so this may be done quickly and carefully in open air.


  • I like to use these shallow (2" deep) square plastic PP5 trays with four 1/4" holes drilled in the lids and covered with micropore tape:






Mexicanae species prefer shallow substrates, 1.5" is ideal.

I mix my grain spawn/bulk at about a 1:3 ratio. If mixing in plain air, increase to 1:2.

Full colonization usually takes 8-12 days at 77-80F. I have found that Mexicana prefers 78F.


  • Here's what a healthy colonized tray looks like:





Primordia Formation:


  • Place cased tray in the fruiting chamber.
  • Maintain temperatures between 70-80F, 72-75F is the sweet spot.
  • Relative humidity should be 95%+ (the perlite and air-stones alone rarely let the RH fall below 95%)
  • Set your programmable timer to run the fan for 3-5 minutes 4-6 times per day. You will have to adjust the settings based on your own growing environment. 4x4 (4 minutes every 4 hours) is a good place to start. Increase/decrease duration/frequency as necessary.
  • REMEMBER: Evaporation triggers primordia formation. When you mist, you want the casing just glistening, NOT saturated. I like to run the fan for five to ten minutes immediately after misting, but this isn't necessary. Before misting again, wait until the casing looks light brown and spongey/fluffy (not dry/crusty). Misting two times daily is the maximum requirement. I usually mist once in the morning and once before bedtime.
  • Keep up this routine and you should see pins in 8-14 days.






Fruitbody Maturation:


  • After pins reach about 1/2" in average length, you may want to reduce your fanning schedule slightly, say three times per day. It may even be beneficial to cease fanning altogether at this point, do what works best for you.
  • Mist lightly two to three times daily, only when the caps look pale. You want to see shiny orange orbs right up until the caps open.
  • Maintain 95%+ relative humidity or caps will dry out VERY quickly!









  • Harvest mushrooms when the caps become plane and the gills start to darken. The easiest way to harvest is to twist and pull them gently, brush them off and then patch the casing where necessary. They are VERY fragile so be careful. Try to touch them as little as possible to reduce oxidization.
  • Fill your trays with reverse osmosis or distilled water overnight (12 hrs), and drain before patching the casing. Resume primordia formation conditions for consecutive flushes.









  • Using your scalpel, poke the center of a cap and cut the stipe with scissors as close to the gills as possible. The cap will remain on the tip of your scalpel.
  • Place on a sheet of aluminum foil on top of an upside-down plastic tub lid.
  • Mist the top tub lightly and place over the lid, but leave one corner unsealed or moisture will condense under the caps and ruin the print. Leave for 12-24 hours and you'll see nice dark prints. This is best performed in front of a flow-hood or inside of a glove-box.
  • You may use a syringe with sterile water to periodically place drops of water on the caps in order to prevent them from drying out. I've never found this to be necessary when using this approach, however.







Now all that's left to do is eat them. They'll take care of the rest  :smile:


From http://www.plaquesan...-and-tradition/


"Military shadow boxes were originally simple boxes in which sailors retiring from shipboard service carried their belongings ashore. Superstition held that if the sailor's shadow touched shore before he set foot upon it, he would suffer ill luck. By carrying his belongings, a metaphorical "shadow" of himself, enclosed within the box he could ensure he would touch land before his 'shadow'."



Edited by coorsmikey, 14 April 2020 - 01:41 PM.

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#2 PsyBearknot



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Posted 26 February 2018 - 04:36 PM

Very nice and well done

Thanks for posting
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#3 PinkMenace



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Posted 26 February 2018 - 11:35 PM

Holy crap, that was amazing. Thank you!
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#4 Tokapeli



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Posted 27 February 2018 - 02:54 AM

This is good, but how could you set up .2 micron filters on all intake and exhaust? I’ll post my slightly modified version soon

#5 tuftygrasses



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Posted 27 February 2018 - 04:13 AM

Saving this :)

#6 Microbe


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Posted 27 February 2018 - 01:05 PM

Like your style!

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#7 Cigarsam



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Posted 01 March 2018 - 04:48 AM

Nice work.
Thanks for sharing.

#8 MungoFungo


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Posted 02 March 2018 - 12:49 PM

Those are the most awesome things I've ever seen!!! Just read the time life account a few days ago..
Damn it now I'm all excited about this species.... That Dr guy ate 32 specimens... I wanna do that..

Edited by MungoFungo, 02 March 2018 - 01:02 PM.

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#9 DonShadow



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Posted 02 March 2018 - 03:05 PM

...That Dr guy ate 32 specimens... I wanna do that..

I highly recommend it :thumbs_up:

#10 Samwise



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Posted 29 March 2018 - 08:44 AM

So glad you shared this here Don! This will be a truly fantastic resource for Mexicana growers, excellent work! Bravo sir. :)

#11 Mushinist



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Posted 09 January 2019 - 03:28 PM

Very nice write up and grow Don!

#12 Deleena24



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Posted 09 January 2019 - 04:53 PM

I was going to build one, but had such success with my Martha I never got to it. Great write up, though.

#13 DonShadow



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Posted 25 June 2019 - 08:34 PM

I'd just like to point out that this fruiting chamber performs much better when the exhaust fan is repositioned to the center of the lid, and the fan schedule is lessened to 3 minutes, four times per day. (three minutes every six hours).

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#14 Phish



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Posted 28 June 2019 - 08:35 PM

I'd just like to point out that this fruiting chamber performs much better when the exhaust fan is repositioned to the center of the lid, and the fan schedule is lessened to 3 minutes, four times per day. (three minutes every six hours).

Thanks for the fan update Don. I’m just about to build my Shadowbox. But I’m wondering , with the fan directly over the sub trays, isn’t there more chance of airborne nasties/tams settling on our substrates ?

#15 DonShadow



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Posted 29 June 2019 - 12:27 AM

I haven't had any more or fewer problems with contamination, but I have seen greatly improved yields after adjusting the fan. After the spawn run the substrates are very resistant to contamination, and the air in the chamber is full of bacteria and fungal spores no matter which way the fan is situated. You're all good :)
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#16 Phish



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Posted 29 June 2019 - 07:32 AM

Beautiful, thanks. I guess I hadn’t really thought my question through.I open my dubtubs and monos to fan all the time, so I should’ve realized that. Lol
But glad I saw your update before I hacked up my tote
I’ve fruited small trays of p Mexicana in dubtubs with perlite that did great.But the Shadowbox will be perfect as I expand my Exotics grows
Thanks again for a great write up

#17 zenzen



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Posted 29 June 2019 - 08:04 AM

This is great work. And you made me feel lazy. Ha. Awesome stuff

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#18 deepblueseawhale



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Posted 29 October 2019 - 02:17 AM

DonShadow thank you for sharing this absolutely amazing tek. :smile:


Just two questions if you don't mind.

1. You mentioned you sterilize the casing, while most teks suggest pasteurization. Any special reason for this?

2. I see you don't use any polyfil in the holes. I assume that's because the perlite comes about a 1/2" above the holes and serves a similar function? Or it does not matter anymore after the spawn ran/casing is applied?

Thank you.

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#19 DonShadow



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Posted 29 October 2019 - 10:10 PM

I’ve never had any problems sterilizing casing soil, it’s easy and works well every time. My casings never contaminate. There is no need for polyfil, it would only inhibit airflow. The perlite is above the holes because the air passing through the holes stimulates evaporation from the perlite and holds humidity in. The tek is written the way it is because it works. Just make sure the ambient temperature is 72F or above if you’re growing Mexicana.
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#20 deepblueseawhale



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Posted 30 October 2019 - 10:47 AM

Great, thank you for clarifying. Much appreciated!


I'm wondering what you use in your 50/50+ casing though? Verm and coir or verm and peat moss?

Edited by deepblueseawhale, 30 October 2019 - 02:06 PM.

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