"You can put together a decent 50 gallon starter tank for less than $200 and improve on it as you learn."
I believe the operative word here is "can". Again, people with a used tank tend to have a used stand that goes along for the ride.
"Not enough filtration, natural or otherwise". I'm sorry, but What? A 4-6" sand bed with 25-50 pounds of rock, coupled with 10+ times the listed water volume in flow is not only enough for a beginners tank, it's more than adequate for a soft reef system. Properly skimmed it's enough for anything you care to do down the road. Some prefer canisters and w/d's. I think they are hugely overpriced, are not superior to natural filtration, and can potentialy be harmful to the system.
I did neglect a test kit and swing arm for the sg
. Figure in $40 for a stand or wood for a stand, $10 for a hydrometer, and $15 for a test kit. We're now sitting between $189 and $277. Add 5 chromis for starter fish after the tank cycles and we're at $209 to $299. Right at budget for initial start up if he shops smart and takes his time.
My pricing doesn't include a sump, a good skimmer, RO
filter, overflow, good return pump, decorative live rock, reef lighting etc. Because none of them are a necessity for a basic setup. But all of these can be added down the road as money becomes available. I believe most people overlook the "basic", "beginner", or "first" descriptor about newbie tanks. True, most will end up spending a lot of cash over time on a good tank, but you don't have to just to get started.
Peeps may disagree, but I definately have to stick to my guns on this. It can be done, and it can be done fairly easily. I've done it twice myself, and have helped a half dozen other do the same.
My personal breakdown:
112g square tank $50 - used
29g tall sump $30 - new
pump $50 - new *
overflow $45 - new *
wood for stand & canopy $80 - diy
filter $100 - new *
skimmer $30 -used *
300w heater x 2 $30 - new * (bought 1 additional)
retrofit kit with bulbs $100 - new *
moonlighting $5 - diy
100 lbs rock $150 * (bought about 50 pounds additional)
6" sand bed $12
tub 'o' IO salt $30 *
test kit $15 *
meter $10 *
Misc. hose etc $30
digital thermometer $0 came free with the heater
Total to date $845 for my great looking and darn near maintenance free reef if I had purchased each item specifically for this tank. But many items carried over from my first tank after I had outgrown it. After removing the items that I already owned, (*'s) I spent $375 on the big tank.