Project EVO Marine: Introduction and Index

The time has come.  When I first decided to get back into aquariums (as an adult) 6 years ago, I actually dreamed of getting a saltwater tank.  But, we had small kids – not enough time, probably not enough money.  Marine tanks seemed difficult – and mysterious.  I had done freshwater before, so starting with a planted aquarium seemed like a more reasonable place to start.  We ended up getting a Fluval Spec V and it turned into a canvas for learning and expressing myself through the beautiful world of high tech planted tanks.

I don’t regret any of our progress or where the planted Spec V sits now.  It is beautiful, and the desire to share tips and direction to other beginners has led to this website.  Along the way I became aware of Fluval’s Marine lineup – the EVO 13.5 caught my eye as a great project to not only fulfill a lifetime dream of having a saltwater aquarium, but also to breathe new life into instructing others about the hobby and maybe inspire others to take the plunge along with me into the saltwater world.

Project EVO Marine – What to Expect:

I’m going to begin a series of detailed articles to document and instruct how to setup a nano marine aquarium. Specifically, I’m going to stick with the Fluval family and be setting up one of their EVO 13.5 tanks.

Fluval EVO 13.5 Saltwater Aquarium Packaging

I will get into why the Fluval EVO 13.5 is a great beginner tank in the next installment, but for now, I would like to let you know what the goals are for this series.

Expect an Experience Through a Beginner’s Eyes:

Much of the instruction provided on the web comes from either experts (longtime and successful reef keepers), or people pretending to be an expert.  I am a beginner and I will present this from an unabashed viewpoint of a beginner.  I will try to show not only the successes but the failures (to learn from) as well.

Mix Saltwater for Nano Marine Aquarium

Even though I am a beginner in saltwater aquariums, some of what I have learned in freshwater planted tanks does cross over.  What doesn’t translate, I am having to figure out with a great deal of research, thought, and planning.  Despite my inexperience, I will be using carefully selected techniques that (based on input from other experienced reef-keepers) give the best chance for success.

Expect Detailed Instruction:

One frustrating thing about the internet these days, and I’m talking about websites, YouTube, and forums, is that experienced aquarist are not good at providing details.  I may learn that regular water changes need to be performed, but HOW?  Not just a general overview, but all the details. . . What do I mix the saltwater in, how do I get the old water out, do I just pour the new water in?  use a pump?  what kind of pump?  So much is a mystery to someone new in the hobby.  I will try to explain in detail everything that I acquired and how it is used.  I will break the process of setting up and operating a marine aquarium in logical steps and I will try to leave nothing out.

This Will Not Be a ‘Budget’ Build:

I have learned to think of some aquarium purchases like tools.  For things like auto repair or home improvement projects, if you don’t have good tools, getting the desired results can be very difficult or even impossible.  For this reason, I have decided to purchase all of what I need for this nano reef tank right off the bat.  An example is the Auto Top Off (ATO) system that I purchased for this setup.  I used to think of a system like an ATO as a luxury – something you get later on.  With this build, I want to give myself the best chance for success, so if I need something that will serve as a useful tool for reef-keeping, I’m going to go ahead and get it setup.

However, the Budget Will be Appropriate:

Just because I am getting all the accessories I need does not mean it is a sky’s-the-limit budget. An example is the wavemaker I have selected.  I almost dug in and purchased an EcoTech Vortech MP10W-QD.  It certainly is the best of the best, but at $300 USD, it is’t very logical on a first reef tank – especially when considering the tank only cost about $200 USD.

I instead chose an Aqamai KPS.  It cost a fraction and it does everything I could ever wish for.  You can program it from your phone and set it up for a full day of varying flow scenes and intensities. at $120 USD it is not cheap, but it is more in-line with my total budget and what I feel a nano reef-keeper would be willing to spend.

In addition, I will always try to offer a less expensive option where possible in this series.

One Way, but Certainly Not the Only Way:

One thing I like about this hobby is the ability to express myself.  The tanks that I put together are mine and express what I like to see.  They also reflect on how I have chosen certain equipment and philosophies to best achieve the goals I have set.

aquarium stand for a Fluval EVO marine aquarium

I’d hate for someone to try to follow this series exactly.  As I have discussed, with this being my first reef tank, mistakes will be made and there is no use following me exactly.  I would expect those following and experiencing their first saltwater aquarium to find solutions unique to them.

Marine Series Index:

This page will serve as the placeholder for all my saltwater articles.  This is what I have planned; I will add links here as they are published:

5 thoughts on “Project EVO Marine: Introduction and Index

  1. I found this website while doing research for a desktop aquarium, I ended up getting the spec V and this is an excellent choice. Thx Nate for this blog.

    Coming from a salt water tank keeper for almost 10 years, I’ll list several reasons why planted aquarium is best for most peoples, salt water tank may be best for those who have easy access to sea water if not considering the other costs.
    1) Salt water tank wastes 4 times more water than freshwater aquarium by using RO/DI. Now that I’m keeping the specV as planted tank I think it’s very likely a marketing scam that people need RO/DI water.
    2) marine animals and corals costs 10 to 100 times more than freshwater ones, and they are more difficult to keep. This is huge for most folks, I have spent at least 20k
    to 30k during my 10 years of keeping salt water aquarium. And I’m sure I’m among the frugal tiers.
    3) After all the extra efforts of salt mixing, high flow pump, high power lighting for SPS, the lists go on and on, the reward of a top notched salter aquarium is not much better than a similar planted aquarium.
    I’m in no way discouraging you from going the salt water route, in fact the Evo is a very good starting point for an salt water aquarium. I’m just sharing some of my experience and thoughts.
    Thank you again for making me choose the specV and I’d like very much to share a picture of my fluval if needed.

  2. Looking forward to this journey with you. Thanks for really teaching the basics of a freshwater. You are very much appreciated

  3. Any updates? I’ve had an Evo 13.5 gallon running for seven weeks now, and I used your journal as a template for equipment ideas and maintenance plans — very helpful. Based in part on your advice, I upgraded to an AI Prime light, the Aqamai powerhead, and the InTank media basket. All excellent upgrades. I also sprung for a Kraken Reef lid. I think the stock lights and lid would have been fine for my soft and LPS corals, but the AI is on a whole other level and makes the tank so much for fun. I could tell almost immediately that working on the tank — water changes, cleaning, feeding, etc. — was going to be annoying with the stock set-up. Raising the light above the tank and a separate lid solves all of that. I’d also recommend the Kraken evaporation cover, which has cut my evaporation loss from about 4 cups a day to less than a cup.

    Anyway, curious to see current photos and hear how the tank is doing!

    1. Thanks for the comment – excited to hear about your progress! Our EVO is doing very good. I’ve had the same 4 LPS corals in there for about a year. Same fish. Everything is doing well and we have established some Coralline.

      Yes – the AI Prime has been wonderful; I never thought about what you are saying but yes. . . it does help with tank access.

      I will need to look up that brand of tank lid.

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