First foray into saltwater : Evo 13.5

MsBean

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After reading the forums for a few weeks (and having owned several freshwater tanks over the last 3 decades) I took the plunge and started my first saltwater tank, a Fluval Evo 13.5. Stock equipment for the moment (plus heater of course) but may upgrade gradually as needed.

Cycled really fast (under a week) with Bio Spira, and added our first residents, a pair of ocellaris clowns, yesterday. Here is a first look!

20211017_095859.jpg


Next steps will be to start recruiting a clean up crew, and then move gradually into corals (softies or easy LPS).

Would like to have some kind of shrimp, as well as hermit crabs and a snail, though I see mixed views on compatibility of all those things. (PS those are just empty shells in the photo)

Welcome views on what I should add next!
 
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MsBean

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So far I have added 3 blue legged crabs and 4 nassarius snails (based mainly on what my LFS had in stock). A little worried about shell battles breaking out, but the crabs are tiny so I'm hoping the snails will be able to hold their own, being about four times larger!

Planning for a cleaner shrimp next for their fun behaviours.
 
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MsBean

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Brown diatoms/algae are starting to take over the rocks, sand surface, and walls - I wipe the glass with my handy dandy mag-float every day (thankfully my kids adore this job) but it grows back within hours. Looking to add some algae eating snails that won't immediately fall prey to the (admittedly small) hermits. Any suggestions?

Also seeing lots of what I presume is hermit poop laying around. The largest of the three has already rehomed himself in one of the random beach shells I tossed in there. (Don't worry - these are shells that I collected in my younger days and they have been in storage for years if not decades, so there is no chance they are contaminated with pests or anything.)

I would also like to add that cleaner shrimp soon.

In terms of equipment upgrades I went for the Intank media basket in chamber 1, even though I found it a little pricy. This meant losing the ability to control my water level with the provided skimmer plate - unless anyone has figured a workaround for this?

Next I'm wondering about whether I should add a random flow generator. Is it worth it? Will it work with the stock pump?

As for the clowns, they are weirdos who mostly like to hang around the filter intake in upside down positions. The first night I thought they were dying, but I think they are actually just weird. I feed a mix of frozen mysis shrimp (which gets the nassarius all excited) and mini floating pellets, which sometimes do a lap of the tank and then just get sucked straight into the filter if the clowns are not paying attention.

I have taken a first tentative step into corals with a miniscule mushroom, which so far hasn't done much except emit slime.

Final thought, my LFS gives away little batches of chaeto for free. Should I stick a little clump into the main tank? Not quite ready to do a refugium in the sump with lights and the whole deal. Plus I have moved my heater into the vacated chamber 2 (stock filter gone) because I didn't love how it was squished up against the pump in chamber 3.
 
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MsBean

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Added a cleaner shrimp, 2 ninja star snails, and a little clump of chaeto. Then the water turned cloudy for a couple of days, perhaps a bacterial bloom due to the increased bioload. But parameters are all stable and the mushroom coral is starting to show signs of growth, so I'll just let things sit for a while and see how it goes.
 
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MsBean

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Have intermittently added some small corals over the past few weeks. Mostly easy stuff like mushrooms, clove polyps, GSP, xenia, all doing fine. I have high hopes for my 3 small hammers though the oldest one looks a little paler than when I brought him home.

A few mishaps: I may have slightly overdone it with a diluted hydrogen peroxide dip for a yellow trumpet coral as he looks like he is dying, or just unforgivably ticked off. And a rhodactis mushroom spat brown slime for two days after I brought him home, then jumped off his rock and ran away never to be seen again (genuine mystery). Finally one of my 4 nassarius snails bit the dust. Not sure if a hermit attacked him or if he starved to death... I was cutting back on feedings to get my nitrates under control, but may have slightly overcorrected and made the water TOO clean. Am now striving to get my phosphates and nitrates back up a little, to ensure everyone is adequately fed, so I'm gradually introducing some new foods like brine shrimp and reef roids, to dirty things back up a bit.

20211207_155700.jpg
 
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ISFNick

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Love your aquascape!
If you take things slow you will be successful.
One of the best tips I ever heard was from a wise reefer who said that he doesn't keep coral--he keeps water, and the corals follow :)

How are your water changes?
The 1/4'' VCA random flow generator is a great option, corals love it. One of the things I would personally recommend doing is upgrading the light, the stock light is actually quite powerful, too powerful for the type of tank it seems you might be going for.
 
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MsBean

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A VCA random flow generator is the next upgrade on my list.

I also invested in the Hanna nitrate and phosphate checkers, because I was going batty trying to guess the readings on an API nitrate test (which probably contributed to my doing more water changes than was necessary, and reducing my nitrates too much.)

Would consider upgrading the lights one day, but I really want to keep the stock hood to limit evaporation. It is very cold and dry here in the winter. So I'm not really sure what my lighting options are. I see a lot of chatter about the Evo stock lights being crummy, but I don't really understand why: are they too bright? not bright enough? color spectrum issue? something else?

In terms of livestock, I would love to be able to add a third fish someday (maybe a green clown goby or a tailspot blenny) but not sure that's a good idea. Will wait and see.

I started off with a notion that I wouldn't spend very much money on this (BWAHAHAHA), so may just let things settle for a while before making any other changes. I'm also definitely in the honeymoon stage where I just can't resist tinkering with it every time I walk by - a little more benign neglect would probably be a good thing honestly ;)
 

jfoahs04

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A VCA random flow generator is the next upgrade on my list.

I also invested in the Hanna nitrate and phosphate checkers, because I was going batty trying to guess the readings on an API nitrate test (which probably contributed to my doing more water changes than was necessary, and reducing my nitrates too much.)

Would consider upgrading the lights one day, but I really want to keep the stock hood to limit evaporation. It is very cold and dry here in the winter. So I'm not really sure what my lighting options are. I see a lot of chatter about the Evo stock lights being crummy, but I don't really understand why: are they too bright? not bright enough? color spectrum issue? something else?

In terms of livestock, I would love to be able to add a third fish someday (maybe a green clown goby or a tailspot blenny) but not sure that's a good idea. Will wait and see.

I started off with a notion that I wouldn't spend very much money on this (BWAHAHAHA), so may just let things settle for a while before making any other changes. I'm also definitely in the honeymoon stage where I just can't resist tinkering with it every time I walk by - a little more benign neglect would probably be a good thing honestly ;)
The tank's looking great!

The move to Hanna was a good one - I use them for Phosphate, Alkalinity, and Calcium (which requires an extra step compared to the former two).

I have the same tank and I am one of the crowd that updated the lights. I have the AI Prime 16HD and the Kraken Reef mesh top. Evaporation isn't terrible. I manually topped off daily (like 12-16 oz. or so of water per day) for a while and then I got a Tunze ATO. I go through maybe a gallon every 8-10 days. It's really hands off and easy. I live where we have pretty warm often humid summers and cold winters (it's dry in our condo). The evaporation is not a big issue.

The Prime is the most popular upgrade and for good reason (others like the Red Sea 50, Kessil a80, etc.). For starters, the stock light does not run on a schedule and the spectrum isn't adjustable. It's also not ideal for more light-needy corals (like most SPS). If you don't care about any of those things, you're probably fine with the stock. With lights like the Prime you can set a schedule (mine automatically powers on and ramps up at 10am and ramps down/powers off at 10pm), set your own intensity and spectrum (or download and use one of the many available preset schedules), and support just about any coral (I have several SPS in my EVO). If you do decide to upgrade, I'd suggest going all-in with one of the nicer ones. There are other "upgrade" options (like the Current USA lights which I had on mine to start) that are half measures and you'll want to upgrade again before too long (and end up spending more in the long run).

You can definitely do a 3rd fish. I have a single clown, an orchid dottyback, and a tailspot blenny in my EVO. The tailspot would make a great addition. It would hang mostly around the rockwork and it shouldn't really have issues with your clowns. They have a ton of personality and will perch and watch you. The green clown would also be a good one, but I'd personally pick the blenny.
 

Sharkbait19

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Aquascape is great! It makes the tank look so much bigger than it is!
If you haven’t yet, get the intank media baskets, much better than the stock filtration. I still haven’t upgraded the light on mine. Only problem is that I can’t keep acros and corals aren’t super colorful, but otherwise good.
I will suggest keeping gsp and Xenia away from the main rocks unless you want everything to be covered in weeks…
I have 3 fish in my evo:
Mocha clown (previously a pair - female killed male)
Royal gramma
Aurora goby
I also have a firefish in qt, he will go in soon.
I also have a lot of snails, trochus, astrea, and nassarius, and 8 hermits.
Also have a tiger pistol shrimp, definitely recommend even though he flips my corals over…
So definitely room for more in yours! The added inverts really help to both dirty up and clean up the tank. What is your w/c rate, at this point you may be able to cut back.
 
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MsBean

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Thanks for all the tips, will refer back to this as I go, esp. on the lights. And will consider that 3rd fish after the holidays. Or maybe Santa will surprise me.

I was doing 10%+ water changes twice a week, am now cutting back frequency while monitoring nitrates and phosphates. Using grocery store bottled RODI and Red Sea Coral Pro salt.

I know that almost all the corals I have put in there so far could be considered invasive, though for a beginner fast-growing and hard to kill sound like good selling points :). That said I deliberately stuck the GSP on the back of an old clam shell so I can monitor how fast it spreads and move it easily if need be. The xenia are also on a little rock branch of their own.
 
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