Beyond the basics that I covered in Part 1 of our EVO 13.5 series, I have a few other upgrade products that I wanted to include in our build. If you are on a budget, I’d consider all of these as ‘optional’. However, I believe they are still good value for the added convenience and stability each offers.
Increase Flow – Wavemaker:
My ultimate goal for this nano marine aquarium is to house not only fish but also a few corals. I think fish will be fine with just the stock EVO pump, but most corals will need some additional flow to stay happy and healthy.
There are cheaper circulation pumps that are suitable for a nano aquarium. However, the Aqamai KPS is able to be programmed for a number of intensities and flow patterns that can be varied throughout the day.
Programming is by a phone app. You can break the day up into 15 minute increments and customize each time slot for the flow pattern (Constant Flow, Wave, Smooth, Radom, Feed, Night) and intensity (as a percentage up to 100%).
This wavemaker provides flow up to 1,050 GPH [3,975 LPH], which should be plenty of flow for an EVO 13.5. There are cheaper circulation pumps that are constant flow, but I wanted a wavemaker that is programmable so I can adjust to the tank’s needs as it evolves.
I will be following up with a detailed review of the Aqamai KPS wavemaker in the future.
Automatic Top Off (ATO) System:
One huge difference between freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums is the effect of evaporation and the tank’s stability. With a freshwater tank, when water evaporates, it’s not too big of a deal since what is left is still freshwater – there is just less of it.
With marine aquariums, the impact of evaporation is greater. Water that evaporates from a saltwater tank is fresh (pure) water; the salt and minerals in the saltwater are left behind. Over time, as more had more freshwater leaves the tank, the salinity of the water in the tank will rise.
The solution to the freshwater leaving by evaporation is simply to replace with more freshwater (in our case – RODI water). The challenge is adding the water back often enough to not cause swings in salinity. I knew that we would not be able to add RODI top off water often enough (especially if we went away for vacation) to maintain stability; I made it a priority to get an Automatic Top Off (or ATO) System to automate freshwater replacement.
ATO’s have historically (in the marine aquarium hobby) been complicated, bulky, unreliable, and expensive. However, new technologies and manufacturers are now making available low cost and reliable ATO systems. The AutoAQUA Smart ATO Lite is one such ATO. It’s sensor based (as opposed to a float switch ATO) and is very small – perfect for a nano aquarium. The AutoAQUA has some safety capabilities build in to prevent an overflow. I will also give a full review of this ATO in the future.
One accessory needed for any ATO system is a reservoir to hold the makeup water. Just about anything will do, but I wanted to get one that fit efficiently in our stand. I found this 2-1/2 Gallon container that is the perfect capacity and shape for our stand and tank.
Going (Almost) Topless – Mesh Lid Kit:
The lid that comes with the Fluval EVO 13.5 is good, but it hinders a critical component that I’m going to add to our tank, and that is fans for cooling. I have used these fans on our Spec V for many years, and it’s a very effective method to maintain temperature stability. Unfortunately, the stock EVO cover fully envelops the tank and hinders airflow across the top.
That’s the main reason I want to go topless with this new tank, just as I’ve done with our Spec V. However, going full topless on a marine tank is a no-no. Fish are almost certain to jump out eventually with no top and that’s a risk I don’t want.
The best compromise that I found is a mesh material that you assemble inside a frame on the perimeter of your tank. Innovative Marine makes a great 24″ x 24″ kit that let’s you trim the frame to your aquarium size and assemble your own mesh top yourself. It’s a perfect compromise that allows plenty of light in, lets me enjoy the views into the tank from above, and lets air flow over the surface for cooling.
Future Upgrade – Lighting:
I have done light performance testing for the stock EVO 13.5 lights (that will be in an upcoming review) and they will do fine for the tank’s startup. At some point, I do want full programing capability for color and intensity. I’m looking at the AI Prime HD16 – a little pricy, but it seems like it has all the features and capabilities I’d ever need.
Thank goodness – I’m about out of things to acquire. About all I have left are Salifert Marine Test Kits and some Smart Plugs that I’m going to automate the light and pump functions.
Getting Closer! Next is Project EVO Marine Part 8: Setting up the Fluval EVO 13.5.