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Mastodon Production Guide


This guide was written for Ubuntu Server 18.04, you may run into issues if you are using another operating system. We are welcoming contributions for guides to other distributions.

This document is also written with the expectation that you have a technical level high enough to administrate Linux servers.

If you need help setting up your instance, you may want to try tooting at the #MastoAdmins hashtag.

What is this guide?

This guide is a walk through of the setup process of a Mastodon instance.

We use to represent a domain or sub-domain. should be replaced with your instance domain or sub-domain.


You will need the following for this guide:

  • A server running Ubuntu Server 18.04.
  • Root access to the server.
  • A domain or sub-domain to use for the instance.


DNS records should be added before anything is done on the server.

The records added are:

  • A record (IPv4 address) for
  • AAAA record (IPv6 address) for

A Helpful And Optional Note

Using tmux when following through with this guide will be helpful.

Not only will this help you not lose your place if you are disconnected, it will let you have multiple terminal windows open for switching contexts (root user versus the mastodon user).

You can install tmux from the package manager:

apt -y install tmux

Dependency Installation

All dependencies should be installed as root.

sudo -i

Extend Ubuntu repositories when using Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS

Starting with .1-release Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (not 18.04), Canonical has removed the multiverse, universe and restricted repository from the sources.list file in /etc/apt/. It is now necessary to add those repositories, otherwise the installation of the following dependencies will fail. Simply run the following commands:

add-apt-repository multiverse
add-apt-repository restricted
apt update

node.js Repository

You will need to add an external repository so we can have the version of node.js required.

We run this script to add the repository:

apt -y install curl
curl -sL | bash -

The node.js repository is now added.

Yarn Repository

Another repository needs to be added so we can get the version of Yarn used by Mastodon.

This is how you add the repository:

curl -sS | apt-key add -
echo "deb stable main" | tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/yarn.list
apt update

Various Other Dependencies

Now you need to install Yarn plus some more software.

Explanation of the dependencies

  • imagemagick - Mastodon uses imagemagick for image related operations
  • ffmpeg - Mastodon uses ffmpeg for conversion of GIFs to MP4s
  • libprotobuf-dev and protobuf-compiler - Mastodon uses these for language detection
  • nginx - nginx is our frontend web server
  • redis-* - Mastodon uses redis for its in-memory data structure store
  • postgresql-* - Mastodon uses PostgreSQL as its SQL database
  • nodejs - Node is used for Mastodon's streaming API
  • yarn - Yarn is a Node.js package manager
  • Other -dev packages, g++ - these are needed for the compilation of Ruby using ruby-build.
apt -y install imagemagick ffmpeg libpq-dev libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev file git-core g++ libprotobuf-dev protobuf-compiler pkg-config nodejs gcc autoconf bison build-essential libssl-dev libyaml-dev libreadline6-dev zlib1g-dev libncurses5-dev libffi-dev libgdbm5 libgdbm-dev nginx redis-server redis-tools postgresql postgresql-contrib certbot yarn libidn11-dev libicu-dev

Dependencies That Need To Be Added As A Non-Root User

Let us create this user first:

adduser mastodon

Log in as the mastodon user:

sudo su - mastodon

We will need to set up rbenv and ruby-build:

git clone ~/.rbenv
cd ~/.rbenv && src/configure && make -C src
echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc
echo 'eval "$(rbenv init -)"' >> ~/.bashrc
# Restart shell
exec bash
# Check if rbenv is correctly installed
type rbenv
# Install ruby-build as rbenv plugin
git clone ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build

Now that rbenv and ruby-build are installed, we will install the Ruby version which Mastodon uses. That version will also need to be enabled.

To enable Ruby, run:

rbenv install 2.5.1
rbenv global 2.5.1

This will take some time. Go stretch for a bit and drink some water while the commands run.

node.js And Ruby Dependencies

Now that Ruby is enabled, we will clone the Mastodon git repository and install the Ruby and node.js dependancies.

Run the following to clone and install:

# Return to mastodon user's home directory
cd ~
# Clone the mastodon git repository into ~/live
git clone live
# Change directory to ~/live
cd ~/live
# Checkout to the latest stable branch
git checkout $(git tag -l | grep -v 'rc[0-9]*$' | sort -V | tail -n 1)
# Install bundler
gem install bundler
# Use bundler to install the rest of the Ruby dependencies
bundle install -j$(getconf _NPROCESSORS_ONLN) --deployment --without development test
# Use yarn to install node.js dependencies
yarn install --pure-lockfile

That is all we need to do for now with the mastodon user, you can now exit back to root.

PostgreSQL Database Creation

Mastodon requires access to a PostgreSQL instance.

Create a user for a PostgreSQL instance:

# Launch psql as the postgres user
sudo -u postgres psql

# In the following prompt

Note that we do not set up a password of any kind, this is because we will be using ident authentication. This allows local users to access the database without a password.

nginx Configuration

You need to configure nginx to serve your Mastodon instance.

Reminder: Replace all occurrences of with your own instance's domain or sub-domain.

cd to /etc/nginx/sites-available and open a new file:

nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/

Copy and paste the following and make edits as necessary:

map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
  default upgrade;
  ''      close;

server {
  listen 80;
  listen [::]:80;
  root /home/mastodon/live/public;
  # Useful for Let's Encrypt
  location /.well-known/acme-challenge/ { allow all; }
  location / { return 301 https://$host$request_uri; }

server {
  listen 443 ssl http2;
  listen [::]:443 ssl http2;

  ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
  ssl_ciphers HIGH:!MEDIUM:!LOW:!aNULL:!NULL:!SHA;
  ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
  ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;

  ssl_certificate     /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
  ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/;

  keepalive_timeout    70;
  sendfile             on;
  client_max_body_size 80m;

  root /home/mastodon/live/public;

  gzip on;
  gzip_disable "msie6";
  gzip_vary on;
  gzip_proxied any;
  gzip_comp_level 6;
  gzip_buffers 16 8k;
  gzip_http_version 1.1;
  gzip_types text/plain text/css application/json application/javascript text/xml application/xml application/xml+rss text/javascript;

  add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";

  location / {
    try_files $uri @proxy;

  location ~ ^/(emoji|packs|system/accounts/avatars|system/media_attachments/files) {
    add_header Cache-Control "public, max-age=31536000, immutable";
    try_files $uri @proxy;
  location /sw.js {
    add_header Cache-Control "public, max-age=0";
    try_files $uri @proxy;

  location @proxy {
    proxy_set_header Host $host;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;
    proxy_set_header Proxy "";
    proxy_pass_header Server;

    proxy_buffering off;
    proxy_redirect off;
    proxy_http_version 1.1;
    proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
    proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;

    tcp_nodelay on;

  location /api/v1/streaming {
    proxy_set_header Host $host;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;
    proxy_set_header Proxy "";

    proxy_buffering off;
    proxy_redirect off;
    proxy_http_version 1.1;
    proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
    proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;

    tcp_nodelay on;

  error_page 500 501 502 503 504 /500.html;

Activate the nginx configuration added:

cd /etc/nginx/sites-enabled
ln -s ../sites-available/

This configuration makes the assumption you are using Let's Encrypt as your TLS certificate provider.

If you are going to be using Let's Encrypt as your TLS certificate provider, see the next sub-section. If not edit the ssl_certificate and ssl_certificate_key values accordingly.

Let's Encrypt

This section is only relevant if you are using Let's Encrypt as your TLS certificate provider.

Generation Of The Certificate

We need to generate Let's Encrypt certificates.

Make sure to replace any occurrence of '' with your Mastodon instance's domain.

Make sure that nginx is stopped at this point:

systemctl stop nginx

We will be creating the certificate twice, once with TLS SNI validation in standalone mode and the second time we will be using the webroot method. This is required due to the way nginx and the Let's Encrypt tool works.

certbot certonly --standalone -d

After that successfully completes, we will use the webroot method. This requires nginx to be running:

systemctl start nginx
# The certbot tool will ask if you want to keep the existing certificate or renew it. Choose to renew it.
certbot certonly --webroot -d -w /home/mastodon/live/public/

Automated Renewal Of Let's Encrypt Certificate

Let's Encrypt certificates have a validity period of 90 days.

You need to renew your certificate before the expiration date. Not doing so will make users of your instance unable to access the instance and users of other instances unable to federate with yours.

We can create a cron job that runs daily to do this:

nano /etc/cron.daily/letsencrypt-renew

Copy and paste this script into that file:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
certbot renew
systemctl reload nginx

Save and exit the file.

Make the script executable and restart the cron daemon so that the script runs daily:

chmod +x /etc/cron.daily/letsencrypt-renew
systemctl restart cron

That is it. Your server will renew your Let's Encrypt certificate.

Mastodon Application Configuration

We will configure the Mastodon application.

For this we will switch to the mastodon system user:

sudo su - mastodon

Change directory to ~/live and run the Mastodon setup wizard:

cd ~/live
RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake mastodon:setup

The interactive wizard will guide you through basic and necessary options, generate new app secrets, setup the database schema and precompile the assets.

The assets precompilation takes a couple minutes, so this is a good time to take another break.

Mastodon systemd Service Files

We will need three systemd service files for each Mastodon service.

Now switch back to the root user.

For the Mastodon web workers service place the following in /etc/systemd/system/mastodon-web.service:


ExecStart=/home/mastodon/.rbenv/shims/bundle exec puma -C config/puma.rb
ExecReload=/bin/kill -SIGUSR1 $MAINPID


For Mastodon background queue service, place the following in /etc/systemd/system/mastodon-sidekiq.service:


ExecStart=/home/mastodon/.rbenv/shims/bundle exec sidekiq -c 5 -q default -q push -q mailers -q pull


For the Mastodon streaming API service place the following in /etc/systemd/system/mastodon-streaming.service:


ExecStart=/usr/bin/npm run start


Now you need to enable all of these services:

systemctl enable /etc/systemd/system/mastodon-*.service

Now start the services:

systemctl start mastodon-*.service

Check that they are properly running:

systemctl status mastodon-*.service

Remote media attachment cache cleanup

Mastodon downloads media attachments from other instances and caches it locally for viewing. This cache can grow quite large if not cleaned up periodically and can cause issues such as low disk space or a bloated S3 bucket.

The recommended method to clean up the remote media cache is a cron job that runs daily like so (put this in the mastodon system user's crontab with crontab -e.)

@daily cd /home/mastodon/live && /home/mastodon/.rbenv/shims/bundle exec rake mastodon:media:remove_remote

That rake task removes cached remote media attachments that are older than NUM_DAYS, NUM_DAYS defaults to 7 days (1 week) if not specified. NUM_DAYS is another environment variable so you can specify it like so:

@daily cd /home/mastodon/live && /home/mastodon/.rbenv/shims/bundle exec rake mastodon:media:remove_remote

Email Service

If you plan on receiving email notifications or running more than just a single-user instance, you likely will want to get set up with an email provider.

There are several free email providers out there- a couple of decent ones are, which requires a credit card but gives 10,000 free emails, and, which gives 15,000 with no credit card but requires you not be on a .space tld.

It may be easier to use a subdomain to setup your email with a custom provider - in this case, when registering your domain with the email service, sign up as something like ""

Once you create your account, follow the instructions each provider gives you for updating your DNS records. Once you have all the information ready to go and the service validates your DNS configuration, edit your config file. These records should already exist in the configuration, but here's a sample setup that uses Mailgun that you can replace with your own personal info:
SMTP_PASSWORD=HolySnacksAPassword Mastodon Admin <>

Finally, to test this, spin up a Rails console (see the administration guide) and run the following commands to test this out:

m = to:'', subject: 'test', body: 'awoo'

That is all! If everything was done correctly, a Mastodon instance will appear when you visit in a web browser.

Congratulations and welcome to the fediverse!