Send in the Clowns [Fluval Evo 13.5 setup and journal]

Seashelly

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Hello and welcome to anyone reading my build thread.

You may have noticed the title (Send in the Clowns), which refers to the two little clownfish that started it all.

Some backstory. My partner of 12 years is a reefer who has a 65 gallon display and a 50 gallon frag tank. Although I've always appreciated the beauty of the hobby, I haven't always been thrilled about the expense and the mess involved. Overall, I'd say my attitude toward his reefing could be summed up as "reluctantly supportive".

Here's where my own reefing story begins. One random day in late November, my partner came home from work with 2 adorable baby clownfish. Apparently, one of the reefers in the local Facebook group had a clutch of baby clowns, and needed to find homes for a few of the imperfect specimens. My partner happily brought a couple home intending to keep them in his frag tank.

The baby clowns were adorable. There was a larger dominant wyoming white, and a tiny submissive snowflake clown. Naturally, I named them Joker and Arthur. Perfect, not only because they are clowns, but also because these names suit their personalities and looks perfectly. Did I mention I am obsessed with the movie Joker?

Once I named the clowns destined for the frag tank, I started eyeing the empty Fluval Evo 13.5 sitting in the corner. Suddenly, the annoying surplus of reefing equipment cluttering up the basement seemed awfully convenient.

I sheepishly mentioned to my partner that I could start a nano tank by setting up the Evo for them. It would be such a shame for them to be hidden away in the basement frag tank....

And so my journey begins.

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Seashelly

Seashelly

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Setting up the Evo and starting the cycle:

My first order of business was prepping and cleaning the tank, which was empty but had never been properly sanitized.

I noticed that the black hatching pattern around the rim had flaked off in some places, which was an eyesore. I didn't take any "before" pictures, but I'll attach a picture of the remaining black paint on the overflow area which might give you an idea of how the flaking rim looked before. I used straight vinegar and a razor blade to remove it. My partner informed me that I had just completed my first "tank mod".

To sanitize the Evo I used a vinegar solution, followed by a good rinse.

While the tank dried, it was time to go back to the basement to "shop" for some dry sand and rock from my partner's stash. I know I am very fortunate to have all of this at my disposal. Most of the pieces were large pukani rocks. Beautiful, but not really the aesthetic I was looking for. A couple of pieces stood out from the rest. They were smaller branch-shaped rocks. I am still not sure what kind they are - maybe tonga? They were perfect for the little Evo.

When the tank was dry, I set it up on a table in our living room and placed a few rocks and a shallow sand bed inside. I added the 50 watt aqueon heater from my old freshwater betta tank (RIP Orbit). Then I filled the Evo with saltwater.

When I turned the pump on, the surface agitation was quite loud, so my partner brought me the original locline nozzle which allowed me to direct the flow better. Apparently he had borrowed it from the Evo.

You will soon find out why I regret this moment.

Next I started the cycle. I added 8oz of Fritz Zyme 9 and about 300mg of ammonium chloride powder, which I ordered from Amazon. While the tank cycled, I spent my time lurking on these forums and learning as much as I could.

I started to formulate some goals for my Evo.
  1. Create a healthy environment for the clowns and a few corals to live in.
  2. Minimize disease and pests as much as possible.
  3. Create a simple, low maintenance tank.
 

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Seashelly

Seashelly

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Clownfish quarantine - tank transfer method

While the Evo was cycling, I started Humblefish's tank transfer protocol to eliminate the possibility of ich and velvet from the clowns. Since the clowns were tiny (only 1-2 cm), I used small 2.5 gallon tanks. I purchased two flat 5 watt heaters, two PVC elbows, and a bulk package of 50 airstones so I could use a fresh one each time I made a transfer.

Before I started, I mapped out potential timelines for the transfers to ensure that my schedule would allow me to complete the transfers and clean the used tanks immediately afterward. I can't stress enough how glad I am that I thought to do this in advance. I've attached a picture of my timeline spreadsheet below.

My method for sanitizing between transfers:
  1. Empty dirty water from the 2.5g tank.
  2. Refill with tap water and put all the accessories back inside (heater, PVC pipe, airline tube).
  3. Add 1 cup of bleach.
  4. Soak everything in the bleach solution for at least 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with tap water.
  5. Refill the tank with fresh tap water and a healthy dose of seachem prime. Let the tank and accessories soak in prime water for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Rinse with RODI water.
  7. Lay everything on a clean dish mat to dry completely until the next transfer.
Things I learned and/or want to remember for next time:
  1. Check salinity of the active tank at least once daily. Salinity swings due to evaporation are a real issue with such a small tank, especially in the winter when the heat is on.
  2. Cover the tank to reduce evaporation.
  3. Check ammonia daily, or use an ammo alert badge.
  4. Match parameters before transferring fish. There will be no acclimation, so be sure to adjust the new tank's temperature, salinity, and pH to match the fish's current environment.
  5. Use gloves if catching the fish by hand.
  6. Observe the fish for any signs of disease. Make sure they are eating well.
I won't lie, completing the tank transfer method was a labour of love, but it was so worth it. I learned a lot from this process, and now have a bit more peace of mind.

I considered dosing prazi at the tail end of the TTM, but decided against it. No signs of worms were observed, and I wanted to avoid any chance of reducing the clowns’ appetites. They were so tiny! They survived the stress of the TTM at the hands of this newbie. I didn't want to push my luck.

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Seashelly

Seashelly

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Evo Setup and Cycle - Take Two

Needless to say, during my research about quarantining fish and corals, I learned a lot about parasites and tomots and algae spores and hitchikers and whatnot.

Then, it hit me: I added that locline nozzle without cleaning it first! With trepidation, I asked my partner where it came from, and he confirmed it had been in his own display tank moments before I put it in mine.

It was an oversight that could have introduced tomots and other baddies into my fresh Evo, effectively negating all of my tank transfer and future coral quarantine efforts.

I considered the fact that my partner, like many reefers, had become a bit lax with his quarantine procedures over time. I also knew he was dealing with a flatworm problem that I did not want to inherit. I decided not to succumb to the sunk cost fallacy. I cut my losses, and decided to clean everything and start over.

I know, I know... some of you will think I'm crazy. You're not wrong.

I emptied the tank and bleached the Evo, heater, pump, and nozzle. I had to take the nozzle apart to get it fully clean. This involved two pairs of pliers and a lot of muscle power, as the pieces seemed to be fused together with coraline algae. I put my rocks in a 5 gal bucket with bleach for 3 days. After rinsing, they spent another few days of soaking in tap water with a few capfuls of prime. I added a powerhead to the bucket as well. Then, I dried the rocks under a UV light while they sat in front of the dehumidifier. In a little over a week, my rocks were clean, dry, and completely odorless. I believe the dehumidifier expedited this process.

Next I worked on my new aquascape. I decided that I wanted less rock and more negative space.

After settling on my scape, I reassembled the tank, added saltwater, and started my cycle once again with 8oz Fritz Zyme 9 and 300 mg ammonium chloride. The only other change was that I opted for a bare bottom tank, and added some biomax cylinders to the back chamber to compensate for some of the lost surface area.

It was time to wait for the tank to cycle. Again.

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Seashelly

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Frag tank time

Meanwhile, I decided to set up a small tank in the basement to use as a future coral and invert quarantine. Lucky for me, my partner had a 5 gal fluval spec sitting around unused. Surprise, surprise!

I will skip all the details, but essentially, I repeated the process of cleaning and cycling as I described for the Evo above. No rocks, though, so it was much simpler. For this tank, I used 4oz of Fritz Zyme 9 and around 138mg of ammonium chloride. The ammonia test post dosing read >2ppm, so my cycle had begun!

In terms of lighting, I decided to try an inexpensive option: the NICREW 18-24 inch marine aquarium light for around $50 CAD. It seemed sufficient for a temporary QT situation. I also liked the ability to schedule the dual channels, and to control the intensity of the blues and whites separately. Also, the size and shape were ideal for the fluval spec.

Unfortunately, there was a crack in the clear acrylic cover when it arrived. So I exchanged it. And the next one was also cracked in the same place. I contacted the company directly, and they recommended that I exchange it once again, and offered a 50% off coupon for my trouble. The third light also had a minor crack, but I decided to keep it anyway. I figure for $25, it's worth a shot so I can share my thoughts on its performance.

I'll attach a current potato quality picture of my frag tank. There are some frags in there, but please ignore them for now. I forgot to take pictures when I first set it up about a month ago!
 

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Humble_Reefer

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Looks like it's coming along nicely, and you're doing everything by the book. Patience is key for those inevitable "learning experiences" you'll encounter along the way. Sounds like you have some good support from an experienced reefer at home, though. That should help immensely! ;)
 
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Seashelly

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Beginners luck!

Have I mentioned how handy it is to have a partner in the hobby?

My partner insisted that I join a Facebook group that was doing a "12 Days of Christmas" giveaway in partnership with some local businesses.

It was Day 1, and I submitted my entry with zero expectations. I've never won anything.

The livestream to reveal the winner started, and I didn't believe it when my name was called! I was the very first winner on the very first day! If that's not beginner's luck, I don't know what is.

I won this incredible pack of 9 different zoas courtesy of GTA Reef. Perfect for a beginner like me!

A heartfelt thanks to Thang Nguyen (from GTAreef.ca).

And thanks to my "experienced reefer" partner for pushing me to join the contest.
 

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Seashelly

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Evo Lighting Upgrade

Guess what my reefer partner gave me for Christmas? That's right, an AI prime! I'm happy to report that he purchased it used for a good price. These things are expensive when new. However, I'm starting to understand the hype, and I don't even have corals in the tank yet. This light will be an absolute game changer. Even my rocks look breathtakingly pretty.

I added some velcro strips to secure the cord more tightly against the bracket. I think it improves the aesthetics.

DIY Acrylic Lid

I also fashioned a clear acrylic lid to use instead of the stock hood. After my experience with the TTM, I officially despise evaporation. And I don't want any fish suicides (may Orbit the betta fish rest in peace).

I cut a piece of acrylic from (you guessed it) my partner's stash in the basement. I used the scoring method and snapped the piece off. Then I sanded all the edges and corners by hand. I rested the lid on clear 6mm clips I ordered from Amazon. They fit perfectly. I left the back chambers open to allow for some oxygen exchange. We will see if it works. The acrylic is very thin, so it may warp with time.

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Seashelly

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Evo Cycle is Complete
As of Dec 27th, the Evo was officially cycled. I had completed 3 rounds of ammonium chloride dosing until the tank was able to eliminate 2ppm of ammonia and 0 nitrites in less than 24 hours. It took around two weeks to achieve this. I waited a few extra days for good measure, as this seemed very brief. But the numbers don't lie. I'm guessing the speed was on account of the Fritz Zyme 9. Great stuff.

Summary of Current Setup
  • Light: AI prime light with bracket
  • Heater: Aqueon preset 50 watt in chamber 1
  • Media: biomax cylinders in chamber 2
  • Pump: Stock pump in chamber 3
  • Lid: DIY solid clear acrylic
  • Rock: tonga?
  • Substrate: bare bottom
  • Mods:
    • Removed black painted design around rim​
    • Added a piece of plastic grid/screen behind the overflow teeth to prevent little fish from being sucked in. Fastened with gel superglue.​
    • Plugged the hole to chamber 2 from the inside using epoxy putty.​

Send in the Clowns
On December 30th, Arthur and Joker finally moved into their home.

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Seashelly

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Devastating News
Arthur is gone. I don't know when or how, but he jumped out of the tank. He must have squeezed through a tiny crack between the lid and the wall of the tank. The gap is so miniscule, I honestly can't believe it or understand how it happened. I have to use my nails to lift the lid, that's how tight it is.

When I found his dried out body, I immediately put him in a bowl of water because I had read that someone's fish was revived this way. I was hoping he'd come back to life, but deep down I knew it was too late.

I feel so responsible for his death. I already lost my betta fish Orbit this way (and again, there was a solid lid on the tank). Because of my awful experience with Orbit, I always make a point to check that I can see both fish in the tank after lifting the lid or feeding them. But for some reason I didn't check today. Why didn't I check?! I deeply regret my mistake, and wish I could turn back time.
 

GoReefin

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Devastating News
Arthur is gone. I don't know when or how, but he jumped out of the tank. He must have squeezed through a tiny crack between the lid and the wall of the tank. The gap is so miniscule, I honestly can't believe it or understand how it happened. I have to use my nails to lift the lid, that's how tight it is.

When I found his dried out body, I immediately put him in a bowl of water because I had read that someone's fish was revived this way. I was hoping he'd come back to life, but deep down I knew it was too late.

I feel so responsible for his death. I already lost my betta fish Orbit this way (and again, there was a solid lid on the tank). Because of my awful experience with Orbit, I always make a point to check that I can see both fish in the tank after lifting the lid or feeding them. But for some reason I didn't check today. Why didn't I check?! I deeply regret my mistake, and wish I could turn back time.
May have jumped when you were maintaining the tank or feeding. Sorry for your loss always sucks to lose a little one.
 
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Seashelly

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May have jumped when you were maintaining the tank or feeding. Sorry for your loss always sucks to lose a little one.
Thanks very much for the condolences. He was my favorite. I'm determined never to let this happen again. I will always do a fish-check after I touch the tank from now on.
 

Humble_Reefer

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Devastating News
Arthur is gone. I don't know when or how, but he jumped out of the tank. He must have squeezed through a tiny crack between the lid and the wall of the tank. The gap is so miniscule, I honestly can't believe it or understand how it happened. I have to use my nails to lift the lid, that's how tight it is.

When I found his dried out body, I immediately put him in a bowl of water because I had read that someone's fish was revived this way. I was hoping he'd come back to life, but deep down I knew it was too late.

I feel so responsible for his death. I already lost my betta fish Orbit this way (and again, there was a solid lid on the tank). Because of my awful experience with Orbit, I always make a point to check that I can see both fish in the tank after lifting the lid or feeding them. But for some reason I didn't check today. Why didn't I check?! I deeply regret my mistake, and wish I could turn back time.
Don't be too hard on yourself. It sounds like you did your best to prevent it, and despite out best efforts, sometimes these things happen.

❤RIP Arthur❤
 
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Oh no! I was reading through your thread, really happy for you (because I'm hoping my obsession rubs off on my roommate) and then got to the jumper ... that sucks. They find the tiniest cracks sometimes and it blows my mind. Nice calls on the QT'ing and the TTM, though!

A few notes on cycling and rock/sand ... 1) For cycling, as long as your ammonia has gone up and then come down, you can add fish. With bottled bacteria, that full cycle usually takes just 1-2 days--but with bottled bacteria, you don't need to wait those 1-2 days, you can add fish immediately (New 2020 rules! Link below). The whole nitrite/stalled tank thing is a myth, holdover from the early days of reefing.

2) For the rock/sand, nearly ALL of your bio filtration is on your live rock, so you don't need to supplement that with bio bricks (though they're helpful if you have to quickly throw up a new tank ... just throw in a brick from the old tank and BAM *automatic cycle* :) , add fish 5 minutes later. I note this because with the Fluval, space is at a premium. If you need the space, you can always remove the bricks, with no impact to your tank's bio filtration.

You can read more about both points in this thread.
 
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Seashelly

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Oh no! I was reading through your thread, really happy for you (because I'm hoping my obsession rubs off on my roommate) and then got to the jumper ... that sucks. They find the tiniest cracks sometimes and it blows my mind. Nice calls on the QT'ing and the TTM, though!

A few notes on cycling and rock/sand ... 1) For cycling, as long as your ammonia has gone up and then come down, you can add fish. With bottled bacteria, that full cycle usually takes just 1-2 days--but with bottled bacteria, you don't need to wait those 1-2 days, you can add fish immediately (New 2020 rules! Link below). The whole nitrite/stalled tank thing is a myth, holdover from the early days of reefing.

2) For the rock/sand, nearly ALL of your bio filtration is on your live rock, so you don't need to supplement that with bio bricks (though they're helpful if you have to quickly throw up a new tank ... just throw in a brick from the old tank and BAM *automatic cycle* :) , add fish 5 minutes later. I note this because with the Fluval, space is at a premium. If you need the space, you can always remove the bricks, with no impact to your tank's bio filtration.

You can read more about both points in this thread.
Thanks for the info and the link. I was waiting for nitrites to go down during my cycle - apparently I didn't need to wait so long! I guess I'll know for next time. Also good to know about my rock being sufficient for biofiltration. I'll keep the cylinders in for now since I don't have a skimmer or anything taking up space yet. From what you say, it seems like they could be useful in an emergency if I ever need a cycled tank ASAP!

There's hope for your roommate still. I held out for almost 3 years before giving in and joining the club. ;Happy
 
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Seashelly

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I prepped my quarantine tanks for another round of the tank transfer method. Oh, joy.
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But it has to be done. I'm adding another clown to pair with Joker. He's lonely. I am hoping that a pairing will be a bit easier while he is still juvenile.

Meet my new Davinci clown (name TBD).
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Before I brought her home, I DIYed some tight fitting acrylic lids for the QTs. Safety first. :oops: Cut to size and sanded to smooth the sharp edges. There's a tiny space at the end to allow the heater cord and tubing to pass through.
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Really hoping she makes it.

Oh, I also got some snails to start quarantining in my frag tank! Hoping they'll be ready to go by the time I get algae in my display. There's definitely lots for them to munch on in the frag tank in the meantime. ;Hilarious
 
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