ahh, lets see if I can answer most of these for you...
1) you don't need special lighting until you become concerned with corals / anenomes, pc
lighting would ecourage coralline algae growth on the rock, however - so you can get the lighting later
2) actually the dry base rock would become live even if you put no lr
in the tank (bacteria would settle there just like it would on your biowheel), lr
will just provide a greater variety of beneficial life that can reproduce and spread to the base rock, so its good to put at least a small (say 10-20%) of good quality lr
3) I also run a emporer 400 & skimmer in my 45 sw
, along with 55lb lr
. I have removed the biowheels and just use it a few hours a day for gac
filtering (the media pack or you pack the grates yourself). I have it on a timer to run opposite of the lights so I don't have to hear it run all day. I would say you could start out with an emporer then just remove the biowheels as your tank gets established and bacteria is colonizing the base rock. BTW
, you should have at least one timer on the tank to cycle the lights on for around 12 hrs a day, for around $5 it saves you from hitting the switch everyday or forgetting here & there, plus gives fish regularity of the day cycle they are used to.
BTW, I only plan on having fish at this point.
We all say this initially! But reality is, we later want shrimp, hermits, snails, starfish to clean up, then maybe an anenome or some corals....they should and some need to have lr
to survive, not to mention most won't tolorate the NO3
levels generated by a wet/dry. You could buy one and use it initially until you get enough lr
in there and take the bioballs out and use it as a sump for your skimmer & heater as well as maybe some macroalgae (helps reduce nitrates & algae). As for brands, not sure...