Project EVO Marine Part 1: Planning and Gathering Parts for Set-Up

Successfully starting up a saltwater aquarium takes planning.  Lots of planning – as well as acquiring lots of parts and pieces.  (ouch – so many Amazon orders).  In part 1 of this series, I will give an overview of first steps to setup the EVO marine, which in my case was ordering critical pieces for tank setup and necessary tools for making and mixing salt water.

parts and supplies to startup a Fluval EVO 13.5 saltwater nano aquarium

This installment is going to be an overview – much of what is touched on here will be covered in depth in future chapters and related product reviews.

Aquarium: Fluval EVO 13.5 All In One

Clearly with the focus of this site being Fluval’s Spec line of aquariums, I wanted to stick with them for my first Saltwater nano.  For several years, Fluval has offered a version of their Spec V as a saltwater version (called the Fluval EVO V).  A 5 gallon nano is do-able for freshwater, but it never sounded that enticing to try as saltwater – just didn’t seem like enough room for the ancillary equipment needed.

Since, Fluval has released a larger version – the EVO 13.5.   13.5 refers to the design capacity of the aquarium (in gallons). This tank seems to be in the sweet spot for an all-in-one nano beginner tank.  It is low cost, simple, relatively small and mostly comprehensive in what it comes with.  However, it is large enough to give sufficient room in the filter / pump sections to house all the items I had planned (filter media rack, heater, wavemaker, Auto Top Off (ATO) sensor, etc.).

Fluval EVO 13.5 nano reef aquarium with packaging box

This tank was not readily available in stores in my area, so I did something new – I ordered it online.  Honestly, I’ve always been hesitant to order an aquarium over the internet because of the fear it will arrive in pieces.  However, the price was so much lower through an Amazon retailer, I couldn’t pass it up.

Fluval EVO 13.5 aquarium with packaging as received from Amazon

It arrived in perfect condition. It was actually triple boxed!  Outer box, layer of air packets, inner cardboard box, then inside that was the glossy ‘showroom’ box.

SaltWater: RODI unit and Instant Ocean 

I’ve got a number of detailed post coming up that discuss aquarium saltwater.  As a quick overview, my options for filling the tank with saltwater (for the first fill and maintenance water changes) are:

A) Purchase saltwater from my fish store.

B) Purchase RODI (Reverse Osmosis-Deionized) water from my fish store and mix that with salt mix, or. . .

C) Get my own RODI unit and control all aspects of making my own saltwater.

It is a better financially (in the short run, especially for a low-volume nano tank) to just purchase the saltwater from the store. That is a fine option for many people, but didn’t sit well with me for a few reasons.  First is that the fish store is not open all the time and it is quite a drive.  This means potential logistical challenges getting the saltwater on-hand everytime I need it.  Second, I basically don’t trust any store to mix the saltwater correctly.  Odds are they are better at it than I am, but I’m skeptical like that.

So that left me with some research and planning to do to get an RODI unit installed and running.

The RODI pieces I got were as follows:

  • Liquigen 6-Stage RODI Unit (Dual Use):  This unit has all the capabilities I could wish for.  5 Stages (for RODI production) ensures that it will strip our tap water down to bare-bones H2O and I don’t have to worry about anything else leftover.  The ‘Dual Use’ feature lets you switch between making RODI water (for the aquarium) and drinking water (RO water that is re-mineralized).  I thought this would be a good feature to add value to the unit.  If you are not interested in the drinking water capability, you can go with Liquigen’s 5-Stage RODI unit.  If you are on a budget, you can save big and go with their 4-Stage unit.

Liquigen 6 Stage RODI water system for reef aquarium

  • I wanted to mount this in our laundry room next to the utility sink, so I got two other pieces that will allow connection to the water / drain of the sink.  The first piece is the Angle-Stop adapter valve.  This puts an on/off valve at your sink (cold water) connection to provide water (by way of an on/off valve and a standard 1/4″ push tubing connector used as standard for RODI systems).  On the drain side, I got a clamp saddle to 1/4″ push connector to dispose of the reject water into the sink’s drain.

For making the saltwater, I got the following:

  • Instant Ocean Salt Mix: This is a budget salt mix (compared to some other brands) but I have repeatedly heard testimonials of reefers who have used this salt mix for years with great results.  It might not be the last salt mix I use, but I think it’s a great choice for a first saltwater tank.

Instant Ocean Sea Salt Mix

  • Power Head: This 1,300 Gallons Per Hour beauty is used to stir up the water and help thoroughly mix salt into the water.

power head to mix salt water for nano aquarium

  • Refractometer:  This is probably the most important tool for making and maintaining saltwater.  It is used to accurately measure the salinity of your saltwater.  There is a cheaper option (swing hydrometer) but I don’t want to leave such a critical measurement to chance.

refractometer to measure aquarium water salinity

Accessories for Startup and Cycle:

If you study the pictures of all the stuff I got, you will see much more there than what I am discussing here. I’m presenting parts that I needed right off the bat to setup the EVO marine and start cycling; some of the other accessories (like the Aqamai KPS wavemaker and the AutoAQUA Smart ATO Lite) are optional or can wait.

To get rolling with tank setup and cycling, I got the following parts that I deemed high-priority:

  • In-Tank Chamber 1 Media Basket: This is somewhat of an odd thing to include on the ‘must-have’ list, but I think it’s critical that the EVO’s stock media design be delt with.  This is something that I will expand on when I present the full review of the EVO 13, but the filter system that the tank comes with has the same filter media as all other Spec aquariums: foam, activated charcoal, and Biomax Ceramic Rings.  Everything I have read tells me the stock foam filter block is not a path to success.  For this reason, I decided to take the financial hit and get this media rack.  It will let me use any number of filter media options in the future based on the tank’s evolving needs.  For setup and cycle, I will only need the In-Tank bonded blue & white filter pad, which I already use on our freshwater Spec V.

In Tank Media Tray for Chamber 1 of Fluval EVO 13.5 Aquarium


  • Hydor Theo Heater – 100 Watt: I will use an Inkbird temperature controller with fans in similar fashion to what we have on the Spec V. I’ve used the same Hydor Theo 50 watt in our Spec V for over 6 years with no problems.  Don’t see a reason to change, and the price is right.
  • CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Aquariam Sand (20 lbs.): This sand has very good reviews and recommendations online.  It seems to be a good weight and grain size with a natural color.
  • MarcoRock’s Reefsaver Dry Rock: I got 16 lbs of this from Bulk Reef Supply.  Lots of people insist you have to start with ‘Live’ rock from another established tank.  I don’t like some of the disadvantages of using ‘Live’ rock, the biggest of which is introducing algae and pests to your tank.  I’m willing to start from scratch and control what comes into my aquarium with the trade-off of a slower maturation time for the tank.
  • Instant Ocean Bio-Spira: I’m very interested and excited to try this product.  It is bottled bacteria to help jump start your tank cycle.  I’m going to do a fishless cycle the same as I have performed with our freshwater tank.  This time, using this additive, along with dosing pure ammonia, I expect the cycle process to be quick and easy.

Instant Ocean Bio-Spira for Reef Aquarium Cycle

That about does it for the essential supplies to setup the EVO Marine.  Next up is Part II: Selecting a Stand and Placing the Tank.

2 thoughts on “Project EVO Marine Part 1: Planning and Gathering Parts for Set-Up

  1. Love your website! I recently got a planted Spec V , and really enjoy all the produuct reviews and upgrades you provide. I’m quite detail oriented and thorough with products myself, and your reviews save me a lot of research time and headache. Looking forward to your reef tank!

    1. Cool! Glad you found this site – Thanks for the kind words.

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