My First Saltwater Aquarium - Fluval Evo 13.5G

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I am starting this thread to document the progress of my first saltwater aquarium.

I started it late last year and have been documenting it in a notebook, but decided that I should join the digital revolution! I chose the tank I wanted to use (Fluval Evo 13.5G because it was the least expensive and had good reviews as a beginner tank) and then spent almost a month working on getting the rock work built the way I wanted...before I bought the tank!

Here's some examples of my initial rock layouts (Note: This is not the final rock work in the tank). FYI - At the beginning, I started with CaribSea LifeRock Shapes.

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Welcome to Reef2Reef and congrats on the first post in your new build thread! I love build threads as they serve as a permanent record for the tank, especially if you keep it relatively up to date and post lots of pictures. I love looking back at the progression of the tanks in the build threads here.

I like the rock you're working with there! It sounds like you're starting things slow which is the best way to approach reefing. I look forward to seeing the tank progress!
 
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I couldn't insert more pictures to the previous post for some reason so here they are. Still playing with rocks...I knew I wanted an arch in the tank, but couldn't seem to get the arch right. It looked like it was way too tight/small/short?

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After thinking about it some more, I came up with this version of the rock layout. Basically, I used a base rock (it's the white rock in the pictures) to prop up one end of the arch and another arch piece on its side to prop up the other end which rounded the arch the way I wanted. It also made the design much more stable and taller!

I marked off a 1" border on the cardboard template and chiseled off one of the round protrusions from the top of the arch because it would be too close to the glass. This insured that I could get a glass scraper between the rocks and glass for maintenance.

You can also see the template divided into thirds. I was trying to use the Rule of Thirds to make my rock structure more visually interesting. I placed a small island to the side to fill up the space, but...it looked a little sad.

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Welcome to Reef2Reef and congrats on the first post in your new build thread! I love build threads as they serve as a permanent record for the tank, especially if you keep it relatively up to date and post lots of pictures. I love looking back at the progression of the tanks in the build threads here.

I like the rock you're working with there! It sounds like you're starting things slow which is the best way to approach reefing. I look forward to seeing the tank progress!
Thanks! I like the purple rock as well...was drawn to it at the LFS over the white rock (I believe it's called MarcoRocks). I think it's because I didn't have to be too creative with the CaribSea rocks since they were already shaped.

I'm not clever or imaginative enough to be able to see/make a nice aquascape come together with the MarcoRocks, but I've seen some really nice designs online with MarcoRocks.
 
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Excited to see your build come together. The aquascape looks nice, archs are win. Only problem I potentially see is proximity to the glass just make sure you've got about 3/4 inch on all sides, so you can scrape off algae and for cleanings .
Thank you! Yes, I was worried about the maintenance aspect of including that much rock into the tank as well, but I've been able to run the scraper around the glass a few times now so it's all good ;Happy
 
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I was still not completely satisfied with the main rock structure design and felt like something was missing from the front view. I didn't like the gap between the two sides of the arch so I cobbled a couple of small pieces of rock together and made a "leg" to extend into that opening.

This is the "front" view (the filtration chamber is to the right). Notice the little leg/ledge extending towards the base rock to fill that empty space.

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This is the "back" view (filtration chamber to the left).

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The two islands were my first attempt to fill the space next to the main structure. I had read that there should be some islands to put fast growing corals on for isolation so that they do not take over the tank completely.

The vertical cardboard template was for the Rule of Thirds design visualization, but also to insure that my aquascape was not too tall for the tank.

You can see my gloves in the background. I highly recommend wearing gloves when handling these rocks...they will tear up your hands otherwise.
 
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Finally! My aquascape is complete!!!

I felt that the first set of islands I had created were too tall/big and almost the same scale as the main piece. I ended up smashing the MarcoRock into smaller pieces and then fit them together to make the two islands in my final aquascape design.

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Here's a close-up of the islands. I think the large island looks like a crouching dragon with the tail sticking up so I named it "Dragon Island"...very original I know.

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Now that the aquascape design was complete, I had to decide what to use to glue the pieces together. I didn't want my rocks to fall and crack the glass or crush my corals/livestock. I debated between epoxy and super glue and ultimately chose the BRS Extra Thick Super Glue Gel. I didn't realize until later that I could have also used a cement to glue my aquascape together.

I allowed the super glue to cure for 24+ hours before getting the rocks wet. After a few weeks in saltwater, here is what the super glue looks like on the two different types of rock.

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While I worked on my aquascape, I was also researching filtration techniques. I wasn't planning on using the foam block, carbon, or BioMax media that came with the tank.

Based on my research, I drew up a picture of how I wanted to set up my filtration system (assumes that I am using inTank media baskets for chambers 1 and 2 and that I plugged the hole in chamber 2).

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Well, it didn't quite work out the way I envisioned. Here is what my current filtration system looks like.

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Yeah, my heater is not in chamber 3. It is in the display tank. What I did not fully comprehend was that the water level in chamber 3 would not be at the same level as chamber 1 (had read about it and thought "no biggie" until I experienced it myself). There is a stair step down from chamber 1 to chamber 2 to chamber 3. FYI - I noticed the water level in chamber 3 changes slightly depending on how I tweak my flow (this is just from my personal experience).

When I tried to put a heater in chamber 3, I saw that the water level could "potentially" get below the top of the heater and cause it to malfunction. I wasn't willing to take that risk so I moved the heater to the display tank (and it doesn't look as bad as I thought it would).

There is also a "fin" that sticks out of the bottom of chamber 1 that I did not realize was there. I think this fin allows the Fluval protein skimmer to sit in chamber 1. Well, the fin kept snagging my mesh bag with the MarinePure Gems in it and didn't let me push the inTank basket to the bottom. I got so frustrated that I moved the Gems to chamber 2!
 
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Now, I needed to find a stand for my tank. I read that a gallon of saltwater was about 8.5 lbs so 13.5 gallons was roughly 115 lbs. Assuming the rocks added another 20 lbs (will displace some of the water) and that I had already bought a 10-lb bag of Nature's Ocean live sand, I needed a stand that would hold at least 150 lbs, preferably more.

I saw someone online recommend the Imagitarium Newport Wooden Tank Stand (for 20-gallon aquariums) specifically for the Fluval Evo 13.5G. Looking at the specifications, the stand was rated to hold up to 180 lbs and bonus, the tank would fit perfectly on the top! The price was also reasonable as I was just starting out in the hobby and wasn't sure if I would continue with it long term.

There were reviews concerning the stability (or lack thereof) of this stand and I was honestly worried about it, but I couldn't justify purchasing a more expensive stand. I also debated about using a piece of furniture like others have recommended, but ultimately went with the Imagitarium stand. FYI - some of the items shown underneath the tank did not make the final cut and were returned.

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After running this tank for a few weeks now, I am very thankful for the shelves as they allow me to store tank-related items to keep them close-at-hand. I also have not had problems with the stability of the stand with the tank on it, but I have not really put it to the test either. I try to be careful when working on the tank and so far, so good!
 
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Moving right along, I had to figure out how to route power to the aquarium (already knew I needed an extension cord and power strip) as there were no outlets near the tank location.

Through research, I realized that I wanted a power strip that had on/off switches for each outlet. That way, I can turn one piece of equipment off without impacting the others and I wanted that flexibility. I found a 7-outlet strip (Tripp Lite 7-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip) that I thought would work for me...six outlets had individual on/off switches while the seventh outlet was always on.

I then created a list of electronic equipment that I needed/wanted for my tank so that I could determine if seven outlets were sufficient.

Need power outlets for:
1. Water Pump - required
2. Light - required
3. Heater/Fan? - required
4. Wavemaker? - optional
5. Auto Top Off? - optional
6.
7. (always on)

I thought about attaching the power strip to one of the legs of the stand or on the side of the shelf, but was deathly afraid water could drip down onto it and cause a fire. So...

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I used double-sided velcro to secure the power strip to the underside of the top shelf to protect it from water while still keeping it accessible. The velcro is rated for all-weather, heavy-duty use, holding up to 15 lbs.

My OCD kicked in and I had to mark up the underside of the top shelf so the power strip would be evenly spaced and not crooked when I attached it. I went ahead and did the second shelf as well because they had to match, right? And no, I did not mark up the underside of the bottom shelf because that would just be silly...

Along with the power strip, I also chose the Tower Auto-Reset 15-Amp Inline GFCI Triple Tap extension cord. The cord is bright yellow, but it runs underneath my furniture so no one really sees it except me. For my little tank, I felt 15 amps were sufficient for all of the equipment I planned to use and the GFCI feature gives me peace of mind.
 
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Flow, Flow, Flow...I did not understand it when I jumped into this hobby and I still don't quite understand it now, but am learning as I go.

After reading different opinions about the stock water pump, I decided to go with the Eheim CompactOn 1000 because it would fit comfortably in chamber 3 and had a max flow of 260G/hr which was almost double the stock pump's max flow of 132G/hr.

I also stumbled upon a 1/2" Random Flow Generator (RFG) nozzle from VCA. I didn't even know what RFG stood for until I started this hobby! I was intrigued by a nozzle with no moving parts that could generate a random flow pattern (I wasn't planning to add any additional equipment for flow) so I got one to try out.

I bought a pack of 1/2" loc-line knuckles to connect the RFG to the return pump opening allowing me more flexibility to aim the nozzle than just connecting it directly to the return. Here's my initial set up with one RFG nozzle and two loc-line knuckles for flow.

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Another bonus with the Eheim pump was that it would allow me to use two RFG nozzles, if needed. The specifications for the RFG are a minimum of 120-150G/hr if using one nozzle, 250-400G/hr if using two nozzles. I would be cutting it close if I wanted to use two nozzles with the Eheim pump, but I figured it met the requirements (barely!).

FYI - those numbers listed are the absolute minimums. VCA recommends 300-450G/hr (one nozzle) or 640-670G/hr (two nozzles) for optimal flow so my pump was slightly undersized for optimal use with one nozzle...

When I went to install the Eheim pump into chamber 3, I found that it wouldn't lower into the chamber smoothly! What?!? I quickly realized that the suction cup feet caused the pump to be too big for the compartment (and I didn't feel like trying to cram it in) so I took the feet off and tried again. The pump went down further, but still not all the way.

I re-checked the dimensions of the pump and then the dimensions of the chamber compartment. It should fit! After failing again and again, I finally realized there was a "lip" that protruded out into chamber 3 in the opening between chambers 2 and 3. I got the pump to finally go to the bottom by tilting one end of the pump to get past the obstruction. Yay!

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Looking great! The scape is amazing!
Seems like all the proper upgrades have been done (and then some!).
Can’t wait to see it continue to grow!
Any thoughts for stocking yet?
Thanks! The big rock arch is my favorite thing in the tank although there are close seconds.

As for stocking, this may sound corny, but my original vision for this tank was to get a bubbletip anemone plus a clownfish or two to host it, a yellow watchman goby, and his pistol shrimp buddy. Maybe another little shrimp or crab to run around the tank. That was about it. I liked the symbiotic relationships between different types of animals and wanted to be able to view it in my tank.

Yeah, I was totally clueless! You can tell that I am completely new to the hobby and had no idea about corals, clean-up crews, rampaging bubbletip anemones, etc. Now as I learn more, I have revised and tweaked my vision slightly.

My tank currently houses a rampaging tuxedo urchin instead (who is also my avatar picture), a crocea clam (don't get me started on how that happened), two rock flower anemones, a walking dendro, one acan lord, an alveopora, two trochus snails, and one nassarius snail. I don't think I've forgotten anyone...

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The alveopora is still getting over being mad at me.
 
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