Fluval Evo 13.5 build thread (March 2021 until now)



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Sep 27, 2021
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Columbus, Ohio
Hey guys! I've been a freshwater fishkeeper for about 5 years, and always wanted to get into reef keeping, but was afraid of the startup costs. I saved up and finally pulled the trigger in March 2021. I decided to start a build thread to document my progress so far :)

tank april 2021.jpg
clowns may 2021.jpeg


Started the Fluval Evo 13.5 with live sand, dry rock, used water, 2 bags of bio media and mechanical filtration (used sponge) from an established tank.
Upgraded/additional equipment included the Fluval Reef 3.0 LED light, Eheim 50w heater, Sicce Syncra 0.5 pump, Fluval CP1 powerhead, AutoAqua Smart ATO Lite, and Fluval mini PS2 Skimmer.

I added 2 nassarius snails, and fed flake foods and pellets daily for over a week, checking my parameters daily to make sure that I didn't lose any of the beneficial bacteria from the established media. Once I felt the tank was stable (Ammonia and Nitrites consistently at 0, and Nitrates consistently around 5ppm)

APRIL 2021:
I added 2 clowns and a firefish, 2 cerith snails, 2 trochus snails, a GSP frag, and a green ricordea mushroom in May 2021.I struggled to dial in the Fluval mini PS2 skimmer for the first month, so I decided to take it out, and order the InTank Media basket for chamber one. I started running filter floss in the top chamber, chemipure blue and seachem purigen in the second chamber. I moved the bio media bags to the second chamber with the heater, and have the pump and ATO in the third chamber.

june 2021.jpg

MAY 2021:
My first two coral hauls! I added a Neon Green Candy Cane, Kenya Tree, Aussie Multicolor Branching Hammer, Mini Teal Cristata Torch, Indo Toxic Splatter Branching Hammer, Blue Florida Ricordea Mushroom, Watermelon Discosoma Mushroom, and Pin Wheel Candy Cane. I acclimated them in the sand bed for two weeks, then moved them up on the rockwork. After these were placed, I added a Purple Tipped Branching Hammer, Rose Gold Hammer, Orange Florida Ricordea Mushroom, Mandarin Firework Clove Polyps, Blue Candy Cane/Trumpet, Candy Apple Green Zoa's, and Radioactive Dragon Eye Zoa's.

aussie multicolor july 2021.jpg
purple tip july 2021.jpeg
torch and rose july 2021.jpeg
ricordea splitting july 2021.jpeg
zoa july 2021.jpeg

firefish july 2021.jpeg

july 2021.jpeg

I left everything alone until late July, and saw some nice growth and coloration in my corals. I ended up adding a small Royal Gramma to the tank without QT. It wouldn't eat anything I tried to feed (flakes, pellets, frozen mysis, brine, worms,etc.) and it ended up dying within a week. It died within the rockwork (even though the tank is small, there are a ton of holes and small caves) and I wasn't able to find it. I did two big water changes that week, and just hoped that the CUC was able to take care of it. I never saw a spike in ammonia higher than .25, and never saw the nitrites or nitrates raise, even with daily testing. Unfortunately, the smaller clown died overnight a few days later, with no signs of issues.
sept 2021 12.jpg

I saw some more growth in some coral - my Aussie Multicolored Hammer split into two heads (see below pic), had since nice growth with my Zoa's, GSP, Kenya Tree, and Teal trumpets. I've been struggling with the neon green candy cane growing, and the Mini Teal Cristata Torch isn't looking great - i'm not sure if I bleached it (it looks transparent) so I moved it back down to the sand. I've also noticed some green color loss in my Purple Tipped Hammer. See below pics for the splitting pink hammer, and the others that are struggling:

hammer splitting sept 2021.jpeg
sept 2021 9.jpg
sept 2021 7.jpg
sept 2021 5.jpg

When doing water tests, recently these are the results i've been getting:

Salinity: 1.025
PH: 8.0
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0-5
Calcium: 380 ppm
Alkalinity/dKH: 7 dKH, 125.3 ppm
Phosphate: 0

My next goal is to raise the calcium in my tank, and try to get some traceable levels of phosphate and a bit higher nitrates in the tank, as I'm thinking it could be the cause of some of the issues with my corals. I don't feed my fish a lot, and do weekly 25% water changes, so i'm thinking that the feeding and water change habits, along with the Purigen and Chemipure Blue are bottoming out the phosphates and nitrates. I just added another clown to try and help get the nitrates up (a tiny more feeding and a tiny more waste). So now my stock list is currently 2 small ocellaris clowns, 1 firefish, and 1 yellow watchman goby. I know that 4 fish is too many long-term, but the YWG is only about an inch, and I plan on upgrading in the future when the clowns and YWG get bigger. I'm also diligent on water testing and water changes, and have upgraded filtration, so I think I can handle the bioload in the tank right now.

If any of you have other suggestions for me based on my parameter readings, i'm all ears! I don't feed anything like Reef Roids, Coral Frenzy, or AB+, as i'm afraid to throw off parameters in my small tank, but I do spot feed mysis and brine about once a week.


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Aug 13, 2020
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Looking good! Always happy to see another fluval 13.5!
It’s possible the clown killed the other clown, females are known to do this. Your current stocking is fine, 4 fish is safe. I have a clown and aurora goby in mine, and a gramma in qt. I’ll likely be getting a firefish for it eventually.
Increased feedings and extra cuc will help to boost the nitrates (and the cuc will help clean up detritus and algae). I definitely suggest a pistol shrimp to go with the goby, it’s a fun pair.


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Welcome to R2R and thanks for sharing your progress. Your tank looks great. Sorry about the loss. There will be some learning curve as we all learn how to look for signs of health and diseases in our fish and corals.

One ”rule” that is pretty set in stone for me now is to never buy a fish that I could not see eat in the store. If they’ve eaten in the store (*really* eating, and not just nibbling on the food), then there’s always hope that I could replicate that success at home. Not eating could be normal stress reaction, but it could be the last thing that happen before the fish perish.
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