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Fulltang's First Tank (Fluval Evo 13.5)

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What's up everyone! I'm in the beginning stages of setting up my first tank, and I figure I'd start one of these things up.


This is my first aquarium I have ever owned, so I'm kind of jumping into the deep end, but I'm fairly diligent with my research and I try to do things ethically and to the best of my ability. My goals with this tank are to have something with a lot of biodiversity, lowish maintenance and fairly clean looking.


I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself, so my plan is to take it slow and just learn to care for a reef tank using the TBS live rock and its hitch hikers. Once the tank is stabilized and I'm feeling settled in my routine, I'll add a small fish or two and some coral.


You'll notice the lack of QT tank, and I'm undecided what I want to do here. I'm super tight on space and I pretty much went way over budget with this system, and I'm lucky enough to have a really great LFS who dips and quarantines most of his livestock. Going to stick with the TBS goodies until I decide on which way I want to go here.


I decided to go with the AutoAqua AWC as it was only $50 more than the ATO, so I'll be doing daily 2% water changes when I'm confident that it's working right. It'll be fed by a 4 gallon Aqua-tainer, with another 4 gallon Aqua-tainer next to it for waste, and a 1 gallon Tupperware container for the ATO. I estimate that the tank will hold about 10 gallons when the rock is in there, so that should give me about 2 weeks of water changes per reservoir fill.


I'll be making my own water using a Spectrapure unit,and I plan on having two 7 gallon aquatainers full at all times in case of emergency.


Let's start with my equipment, some of which I have and some is on order:


Tank gear:

Fluval Evo 13.5

Nanobox Tide Plus

Sicce .5 return pump

Neo-therm 75w heater

AutoAqua AWC/ATO

AutoAqua Smart Level Sensor

DIY media basket (w/ filter floss and carbon)

Inkbird temp controller


Custom stand (I'll be posting pics of this build as well):

Imagitarium 40 gallon

Custom bamboo plywood top, with magnetic bamboo panels for easy access


Various electronics:

Tripp lite Isobar 6 Ultra surge protector

WR GFCI outlet w/ weather resistant cover for the outlet next to the tank (for backup)

AFCI/GFCI dual function outlet further away that will power the tank


Chemicals/Test stuff:


Aqua Experts refractometer calibration fluid

Seachem Prime

Seachem Matrix Carbon

Ammonia badge

Salifert Nitrate test



Spectrapure MaxPure 90GPD Chloramine kit

Red Sea blue bucket


Misc gear:

2 x 4g Aqua-tainers for the AWC reservoir/waste

1g Sterilite tupperware ATO reservoir

Long tongs

Long Tweezers



TBS live rock/sand

Undecided beyond that



I'd like to make a note what I did to ensure my tank setup is safe. I'm extremely worried about electrical shock, so I did a few things to reduce the chances of that happening:


  1. No electrical connections will be made inside of the stand
  2. No electrical connections will be made below the water line within a foot of the tank
  3. Installed a weather resistant GFCI outlet with weather resistant cover on the outlet let to the tank, this one will not be used, except if I need it for a backup.
  4. The outlet that will power the tank is located behind the desk and is an AFCI/GFCI dual function outlet.
  5. I will be using a high quality Tripplite Isobar 6 surge protector.
  6. All submerged equipment and lights will be turned off before I put my hands in the tank.
  7. Drip loops


Here's my build/progress thus far:


I opted for the metal Imagatarium 40 gallon tank stand. Cheap, sturdy and easy to modify. While I prefer the aesthetics of a stand the same dimensions as the tank, I don't feel comfortable with that as I live in earthquake land. The top will consist of 3/4" natural bamboo plywood, side panels will be 1/4" natural bamboo plywood as well, with rare earth magnets to make them removable. All the bamboo will be finished in some oil based poly to protect from moisture. Still waiting on the quote as I'm having the panels CNC'd, so I'm doing what I can in the meantime. Bonus is that it'll match my desk right next to it!



Picture time!





Bracing the custom shelf I built out of some scrap 1/2" ply:




Scraping the honeycomb off the rim:




Tank placement in the bedroom:








Dry fitting the AWC/SML sensors, pump and water lines:




GFCI outlet and cover:



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Epic start. Rarely if ever are first tanks so well

executed and thought out. Your patience and planning will being paying its dividends soon enough! Nice work! 

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Extremely well done so far! You're on track for a lot of success with this tank.

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Welcome to the community @fulltang! 👋


Really impressive setup you've designed so far, very thoughtful details. I'm looking forward to watching the build progress, keep up the good work!

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Thanks for the kind words everyone.


Quick update post, still kind of in a holding pattern due to a delay in the bamboo, but I've got plenty to do in the meantime.


After mocking things up, I've had to rethink my control box positioning and wire management. My first plan would have left a bunch of wires visible, because I didn't have enough slack to run some of the cords along the floor. I'm returning the Isobar6 w/ 6ft cord, picking up the more expensive hospital grade Isobar 6 w/ 15ft cord, and a Bud Industries sheet metal junction box. This will allow me to route the Isobar down and around my tank and into an outlet that isn't in the spill zone:






The junction box will be mounted so that it's basically touching the molding to the right, so it'll be easily concealable my curtains and accessible. Inside will be the Isobar6, Autoaqua AWC and Inkbird controller.


As far as managing the hoses/cables in the rear chambers, I've decided I hate the clear tubing and have some black vinyl tubing on order. I Figure it'll look cleaner and prevent algae growth. Additionally, I'm either going to wrap the bundle in loom and run it through a desk grommet in the stand top, or use some of the nice black Formufit PVC with a 90 degree elbow as a cable way down through the top. Just a little test piece as an example:






Mocked up the reservoirs, tight fit but it'll work:






Finished up my DIY media basket:






Modified the Spectrapure manual flush kit with a second ball valve so that I can easily dial in and restrict the flow:



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Slowly but surely.. Still delayed getting the bamboo, debating switching over to some high quality maple plywood and painting it black. In the mean time, I'm mocking up my little control/junction box. I have my screen kit as well, I'll be building that this weekend.


Thinking about filling the tank with tap again to test out the AWC, return pump and run a bit of distilled white vinegar through the system.



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Unfortunately the bamboo deal fell through, so after giving it a ton of thought, I'm going to try one of the 1.25" thick Ikea countertops a shot. I know people are quick to dismiss Ikea stuff for tank stands, but I'm pretty confident that 1.25" laminated particle board, in combination with my steel frame that has horizontal cross members right underneath the tank will hold up fine. I'll have enough left over to use as a side panel for the short side, in addition to one of these which is perfect for the front, which is nice.


I heavily weight painting plywood, laminating particle board myself and having someone build a top for me, but given that my tank is only ~115lbs, this will be fine.


In other news, I built a screen top!









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11 hours ago, Lula_Mae said:

Looking good! This is a really well-thought-out build. 


Thank you 🙂


Made some more progress today..


















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Sorry if I missed it, what did you use for the DIY media basket?

Tank setup looks superb  and very well thought out!

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53 minutes ago, alpinestar said:

Sorry if I missed it, what did you use for the DIY media basket?

Tank setup looks superb  and very well thought out!

I used some black egg crate from Amazon and zipties.


Thank you!

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42 minutes ago, ninjamyst said:

wow, you really went all in with this setup.  great job!  


Yeah.. buy once cry once? At least that's what I've been telling myself..


Velcro'd in some of the electronics and mocked it up with a bit of nice mesh split loom. I'm going to be installing a pvc bulkhead in the top with a small section of 1.25" black formufit PVC that will act as cable management for all the tubing/cords going into the tank. Hoping it cleans things up nicely.






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I’d look into some cable raceway and paint the box and raceway to match the walls! 

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21 minutes ago, shaner014 said:

I’d look into some cable raceway and paint the box and raceway to match the walls! 

I did consider that, but the curtains will be concealing the box and loom at all times, except when I need to access it of course. I'll look into the raceway though!

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8 hours ago, fulltang said:

I did consider that, but the curtains will be concealing the box and loom at all times, except when I need to access it of course. I'll look into the raceway though!

Oh I didn’t catch the curtain! Yea i wouldn’t paint it either then. 

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Wow this makes my Fluval 13.5 look like a gold fish bowl. Great work. Cant wait to see how it turns out. 

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Testing all my systems with tap, the awc works well!


I also realized that I can do water changes with the reservoirs outside which is handy.



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