Fluval Evo 13.5 Build - First Aquarium!

Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
 
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Ollie67

Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
On day 2, the tank water seems to have cleared very well. Everything seems to be going smoothly.

Day 2 Photo:
IMG_2024.jpeg
 
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Ollie67

Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
Since my tank has been running for a few days now, when I will be installing my ATO, I plan to change my media area around a little to a more permanent orientation. I have also plugged the little bypass hole in chamber 2 with a 3D-printed cover.

Future Media Setup Plans:
Chamber 1 - inTank media basket containing: filter floss, activated carbon (once established), and a small piece of live rock on the bottom area.
Chamber 2 - Water heater, bio media (on bottom of chamber) ~ my light mount will also be mounted on the glass portion here.
Chamber 3 - Water pump, ATO sensor and equipment.

Since I am talking about future plans here, I would also like to mention what livestock I would like to put in here once my tank is cycled and ready to go.

I have been thinking about adding:
Clownfish - I would most likely start with a basic species that is budget-friendly. Clowns are easier to maintain as well. Possibly in the future I could add a second if there isn't too much bio-load.
Mandarin Goby (POSSIBLY) - I spoke with a worker at my LFS and they claimed that my tank could have a mandarin goby, but I am unsure. Many say that they are harder to keep and need a larger rockscape to be happy and eat; also having a more expensive and extensive feeding requirement. Therefore, I am unsure if a goby would be happy in a tank like this. I am open to opinions and thoughts here!
Fire Shrimp - This shrimp would be a part of the CUC. Having one in the tank would be lovely, as they have such a nice color and look.

Possible CUC (and more):
2-4 Snails
Copepods
Hermits

I would love to hear some reefer's opinions on this setup plan for the future!
 
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Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
Day 8 Update!

Everything seems to be coming along well. No issues with any components. I have been testing every day and adding in distilled water (will have RODI water soon) to make up for evaporation. I use a refractometer (yes, it is calibrated with a standard of 1.0264 SG; 35ppt) for my salinity, and have been reading 1.025 SG (my target). At time it does rise to 1.026 or 27 but that is becuase I have no ATO installed at the moment. My temperature has been around 77 degrees F, maintained by my temperature controller (76-82F safe zone).

Testing on day 8 shows:
Ammonia ~ 3.0ppm
Nitrite ~ 4.0ppm

I am unsure of how accurate my API test kit is, as others have mentioned it is not the best, but I still have a general idea of parameters. I may invest in Hanna checkers and other testers in the future.

Comparing day 8 results to previous tests, ammonia seems to be consistent but slowly coming down from a high of 4.0ppm. Nitrite is also lower than the last three days, which were above 5.0ppm (readable levels on my kit).

Only other important mention is that some evidence of diatoms is present on one of my smaller rocks. I will attach a close-up below. This shouldn't be concerning as it is a normal part of cycling (the "ugly stage"), and hopefully will go away as the tank gets itself established.

IMG_2160.jpeg
IMG_2093.jpeg
 

_cpate3_

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Hello!!! This was my first tank and it worked so well I learned so much in such a small little box! I cannot wait to see where this goes.

As for stocking I would say 3 fish max. At the peak of mine (before I upgraded) I had 4 and that was too much and it got dirty and the fish were stressed and it was a lot more maintenance. A pair of clowns is so iconic it’s hard not to get them (just make sure they’re small so they can grow into it ;) and then I loved my watchman and pistol shrimp. You can get a smaller species like a high fin or go with a young watchman. I also had a fire shrimp (until it died randomly) and didn’t get another because of the price and I didn’t want it to die again but now that my cleaner shrimp has survived 3 tank moves I wish I went with another fire shrimp.

API test kits are horrible and I just stopped testing. When I did not have many fish, I did weekly water changes and that was it. No testing, no nothing, just weekly water changes and the tank was pristine. I’m not saying not to test but that was my personal experience.

Your stocking and tank sounds great, good luck with everything
 
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Ollie67

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Hello!!! This was my first tank and it worked so well I learned so much in such a small little box! I cannot wait to see where this goes.

As for stocking I would say 3 fish max. At the peak of mine (before I upgraded) I had 4 and that was too much and it got dirty and the fish were stressed and it was a lot more maintenance. A pair of clowns is so iconic it’s hard not to get them (just make sure they’re small so they can grow into it ;) and then I loved my watchman and pistol shrimp. You can get a smaller species like a high fin or go with a young watchman. I also had a fire shrimp (until it died randomly) and didn’t get another because of the price and I didn’t want it to die again but now that my cleaner shrimp has survived 3 tank moves I wish I went with another fire shrimp.

API test kits are horrible and I just stopped testing. When I did not have many fish, I did weekly water changes and that was it. No testing, no nothing, just weekly water changes and the tank was pristine. I’m not saying not to test but that was my personal experience.

Your stocking and tank sounds great, good luck with everything
Thank you!! I've already learned so much from researching and getting feedback from everyone! And I would agree, I would be most comfortable with 3 fish max. I know some people even don't go more than 2. But yes, I was planning on a pair of clowns at first :)

Then maybe down the road something small like a goby to join in. Thank you for the other recommendations! I'm sorry to hear about your fire shrimp, that's unfortunate. But yes, some shops sell them for a lot to be honest, I've seen some more than 100$! My local LFS has some for 40-50$ I think, which is still a decent amount for shrimp but still...

And darn, I wish I knew the hate of API test kits before spending over 40$ on one. It's honestly hard to read sometimes with the colors. But I do plan on doing weekly 10-20% water changes and cleaning. So hopefully once I read no ammonia I will be ready to go. I will keep updates on this thread!
 
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Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
Day 13 Update

Looks like cycling is finally making some progress. After dosing a little more MicroBacter Start XLM bacteria on day 10, today's testing results show:

Ammonia ~ >0.25ppm
Nitrite ~3.0ppm

Looks like ammonia will soon be reading zero (hopefully). I just need nitrite to drop to zero and I will be ready to add my first fish! My AmmoniaAlert reader is showing a safe reading of ammonia. Just before I add my first fish I will be planning to add my ATO, AI Prime, and change up the filtration a little (adding filter floss).

IMG_2224.jpeg
 
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Ollie67

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Hello fellow reefers! My name is Olivier, and as of this year, I have gained an interest in the reef-keeping hobby. This interest has spiked from my memory of my father's large aquarium at home when I was growing up. Now that I have access to adult money (lol), I have been inspired to get into the hobby. With limited space to work with, I needed a tank that could fit on top of a dresser in my bedroom. I ended up choosing the Fluval Evo 13.5 for it's shape, simplicity, clean look, and easy to work with filtration area (you could call it a sump?). Plus, there is a lot of information out there for this tank as people have done plenty of nano builds with them. I know that a nano tank may be challenging, but I am willing to take the leap.

When purchasing equipment, I wanted to keep things simple, clean, but also budget-friendly. At the same time, I would like to be able to provide the best space for the future inhabitants of this tank, so I am trying to purchase quality items. Here is my current setup and some of my future plans for the tank for anyone interested in following my journey!

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5

Equipment:
-Sicce Syncra Silent 0.5 Pump
-Cobalt Aquatics 75 watt Heater
-Tunze Nano ATO 3152 (Not installed yet)
-Stock Fluval Light (AI Prime 16HD Reef is on the way!)
-Elitech STC-1000 Temperature Controller (for heater)

Substrate/Aquascape:
-CaribSea Fiji Pink Life Reef Sand (about 1.5-2.0 inch layer)
-Dry Rock Pieces (2)
-LFS Wet Live Rock (3; one is in the sump)
-LFS Established Reef Water

Current Media Setup:
Chamber 1 - Heater
Chamber 2 - Stock filter sponge, stock bio-media
Chamber 3 - Pump

On day one, in order to start the cycle, I added 6mL of MicroBacter QuikCycl. It has only been a few days so far, ammonia and nitrite have been showing up on tests. On day 7, 18mL of Microbacter Start XLM was added to help the cycle. This is the most up-to-date information. It is currently day 8 of creating this thread.

Day 1 Photos:
IMG_1964.jpeg
IMG_1968.jpeg
Day 15 Update

No testing done today, however I installed the Tunze Nano ATO (3152) into chamber 3. I have this hooked up to a 2.5 gallon jug to take freshwater from.

I also installed the InTank Chamber 1 Media Basket with some filter floss on the first shelf. I moved one of my liverocks into the bottom of the chamber and moved my heater to chamber 2 along with the stock Fluval media.

Next week I plan on upgrading the lid and lighting, and then adding my first fish hopefully!

IMG_2271.jpeg
IMG_2285.jpeg
IMG_2270.jpeg
 

rennjidk

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Let me give you the greatest piece of advice I can, coming from someone who ran an Evo for a year. Remove the chamber 2 plug. Mechanical filtration is just not that important, and the small hole does little to nothing to bypass it. What it does do is prevent chamber 3 from draining when your intank pad clogs in 3 days, because it's only 2" square, and forces your ato to kick on, raising your tank volume and lowering your salinity. Stable salinity is far more important than any filtration in the sump chambers.
 
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Ollie67

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Let me give you the greatest piece of advice I can, coming from someone who ran an Evo for a year. Remove the chamber 2 plug. Mechanical filtration is just not that important, and the small hole does little to nothing to bypass it. What it does do is prevent chamber 3 from draining when your intank pad clogs in 3 days, because it's only 2" square, and forces your ato to kick on, raising your tank volume and lowering your salinity. Stable salinity is far more important than any filtration in the sump chambers.
Thank you for the advice, I will look into removing it in the next few days. How was your Evo experience?
 
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Ollie67

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Coming along nicely, looks great! You don’t have to be testing for nitrites, they are not important in salt water tanks like they are in freshwater tanks.
Thank you! I’ve been monitoring nitrites here and there since the tank has been cycling, but I’m probably going to stop testing for them soon and only check Nitrates.
 
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Ollie67

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Day 19 Update

Everything seems to be coming along well so far. There doesn't seem to be much growth of any algae as I have been keeping the light off. The diatoms present on one of my rocks have not spread nor grown noticeably. My ATO has been functioning properly and maintaining salinity well.

Test results
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0.25ppm
Nitrate: ~40ppm
pH: ~8.0

Nitrite is finally coming down from 2ppm, and should hopefully be gone in a day or two. Having no ammonia or nitrite will mean that my tank has finally cycled. I will be looking at adding a clown and shrimp at the end of this week! I am not sure why my nitrate is so high, this could be an inaccurate test result or just part of the cycle. I am hoping to get it down to 3-10ppm (any tips?). Also, what is a good pH level to maintain in a reef tank (and how can you do so?)?
 

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