Project EVO Marine Part 2: Aquarium Stand and Placement

We put quite a bit of thought and planning into the stand for our new EVO 13.5 nano reef as well as the location.  This is for good reason – Much of the enjoyment and functionality of our new aquarium setup will be influenced by the stand and it’s placement.  I’m going to run through some things that we considered when locating our saltwater tank.

Nano Reef Location Guidelines:

Nothing about these guidelines are set in stone and every person will have different ways of prioritizing this list, but there is one criterion for tank placement that is much more important than all others:

  1. Place the Aquarium where it will be enjoyed.  For all the money and effort that it takes to setup and maintain a nano-reef, you owe it to yourself to place it where you can easily and routinely relax and take in the experience of tank-watching.

Some of the criterion below may conflict with the point above and it will be up to you to work through risks and challenges:

  1. Place the aquarium near an outlet: This one is obvious.  The good thing is that a nano tank like a Fluval EVO 13.5 has a low electrical load that can be handled by a single outlet. Don’t feel constrained to be right at the outlet – a short extension cord will not be that noticeable (routed along the baseboard).
  2. Flooring Considerations:  This one is largely contingent on what your house/apartment has, but it can affect your decision if you have multiple flooring types. Hopefully, large water dumps will be avoided over the life of your tank; however, spills and splashes happen from time to time, especially during a water change.  Tile or stained concrete is the best.  I hear hardwood floors can be problematic. Carpet is ok but any splashes or spills may cause damage to the fibers.
  3. Temperature and Environment Control: Be mindful of the need to provide stable temperature conditions to your tank. If your home is older with marginal insulation performance, you might choose to avoid exterior walls (to limit temperature swings near the tank). A bigger issue for most people are windows.  Natural light can cause problems with algae growth and temperature swings.  It is ok to place in the vicinity of a widows; just be aware that you may need to be disciplined and close the blinds during certain times of the year to limit light exposure.
  4. Maintenance Access and Traffic Patterns:  Maintenance for a nano reef aquarium usually involves moving buckets to/from the tank for fills and water changes.  Make sure the tank is located where getting water to/from the area is reasonably convenient. Give yourself enough room around the tank to perform maintenance and comfortably view the tank.  Take into account the traffic patterns of the area to ensure the aquarium will not hinder movements in the space.

outline of aquarium stand for placement

  1. Storage Space: At a minimum, there are items for maintaining and operating your tank that will need to be stored.  These may include: food, test kits, power strips, cords, equipment (specialty controllers, make-up water container, etc.).  Maintaining your tank will be easier if the items you need the most are close at hand.  Storage would ideally be located in the aquarium stand.  If you have your tank placed on a countertop or a stand that doesn’t have storage, think about where you can utilize or create the necessary storage nearby.

Unconventional Aquarium Placements – Taking advantage of AIO Designs:

Don’t feel constrained to placing your AIO nano on a stand or separate furniture.  Being a small, AIO design, many people place their Spec’s and EVO’s on kitchen countertops, bars, or other places built into their homes.

Placing your AIO aquarium on a kitchen counter can be an especially good option for ‘Peninsula’ aquariums (such as the EVO 13.5) as they often can allow viewing on all three display sides.

The challenge to placement on a countertop will be hiding associated equipment and accessories.  It may be possible to utilize a nearby cabinet or you can use a storage box.

Choosing a Stand for the EVO 13.5:

One thing I love about nano aquariums is the versatility you have in placement and stands.  The EVO 13.5 has overall dimensions of 21.8″ (554 mm) long,  11.6″ (295 mm) wide, and 15.2″ (386 mm) tall.  An operating EVO 13.5 (with sand, rock, and water) will weigh around 140 lbs. (63 Kg).

This weight and size can be accommodated by a number of common furniture options.  You may already have an end table or breakfast cabinet that can serve as your aquarium stand.  I like being able to use conventional furniture as a stand because aquarium specific stands tend to be ugly, poorly constructed, and fit into one style (contemporary).

Here are some considerations for selecting a stand for your EVO 13.5:

  • Construction (weight capacity):  The stand needs to be able to support at least 140 lbs. (63 Kg) and possibly more to account for equipment and items stored below.  Avoid furniture made entirely of manufactured particleboard.  Look for solid, hardwood options. Most budget furniture has some particle board (such as to cover up the back); however, look for the main structure of the piece (top, leg sections) to be made of sturdy, solid wood.

Also, look for a construction that has a center support of some type.  This can help distribute the weight (of your aquarium) across the furniture structure.

It’s difficult to know if a piece of furniture has adequate strength for the weight of a working aquarium.  A few things to think about trying (and this is highly dependent on your weight) – I weight in the ballpark of a filled EVO 13.5.  So, I tested several items by sitting on them and having Valerie look to see if the top deflected.   Another test is we loaded up several 5 gallon buckets full of water and set those on top, checking for creaks, movement, or visible deflection.  If either of these tests makes you uneasy, you may want to keep looking for something more sturdy.

  • Dimensions: As I mentioned, the EVO 13.5’s footprint is 21.8″ (554 mm) long by 11.6″ (295 mm) wide.  Don’t fret about finding something with these exact dimensions; it is good to have some excess stand on all sides of the tank.  I like to have a place to place items as I perform maintenance and I find kids especially like to perch their arms on a ledge as they gaze into the tank.

We decided to look for something in the neighborhood of (16″ – 18″) by (30″ – 34″).  This would give us a margin of 2″ to 6″ on all sides.

fluval evo 13.5 before setup

Height is an important consideration.  Lots of end tables and cabinets are low (28″-30″ [71 – 76cm]).  This height is adequate for seated viewing, but you will want something taller for comfortable viewing when standing.  When utilizing conventional furniture, a compromise may need to be made as standing height options may be limited.

  • Peninsula Tank Viewing: The EVO 13.5 is a ‘Peninsula’ design, All-In-One (AIO) tank.  ‘Peninsula’ meaning the layout is such that viewing is through both of the long sides.  To take advantage of viewing through all three sides, you will need a stand who’s depth is greater than width.  We were not able to find a piece of furniture to meet these dimensions.

Stand and Placement for our EVO 13.5:

Adhering to the premise of locating the tank where we would enjoy it, we picked the kitchen as our prime area to put the aquarium. Sometimes, it’s hard to make time to just sit and enjoy your tank.  For this saltwater tank, we found a place right next to our dinner table, thus guaranteeing we will all notice and watch the fish at least once a day when we sit for dinner.

use painters tape on floor to visualize an aquarium stand

The spot we found is at the end of our kitchen counter and next to the table.  We were a bit concerned about impingement into the traffic pattern around the table.  To help visualize, we put some tape down to mark the outline of our potential stand (with a smaller outline showing the aquarium footprint).

aquarium stand placement outline near outlet

Later, we went a step further and put some tall cardboard boxes in the spot to make sure getting around a stand and tank wouldn’t be a problem.

The location we picked has a tile floor, so that is the best option from a spill standpoint. Also, compared to carpet, it will be easy to level the stand if we need to.

Valerie has an interior design background, so she was invaluable in helping to select a piece of furniture to serve as the stand.  We used an online furniture retailer, Wayfare, to narrow down some pieces.  Wayfare’s website has a tool that lets you enter a desired dimension range.  Super helpful as we could nail down ranges for depth, width, and height that we were comfortable with and not sift through hundreds of options that wouldn’t work. The category “Cabinets and Chests” had a lot of options.

cabinet furniture used as aquarium stand for fluval EVO 13.5

The final selection has alot going for it. I like the style as it doesn’t look like a conventional aquarium stand.  It has a lot of storage space.  The front door slides stage right to reveal two shelves on the left – this is where I will mount much of the equipment.

storage space for nano reef equipment

Slide that door back to the left and it conceals the equipment and reveals three drawers.  The drawers are a bonus that I can use to hide fish food, filter media, test kits, etc.

I considered making a stand using threaded pipe and pipe fittings; I’m glad that I didn’t as it would not have been as nice as this purchased option. If you have woodworking or fabricating skills, making your own stand can be very satisfying and can get you the perfect dimensions.

The stand is great but will require a few modifications to make it tank ready.  I will have a separate post for that effort.  Up next in the series will be Part III: RODI Setup for a Nano Aquarium.

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