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Old 07-21-2005, 04:08 PM   #1
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Fresh vs. Salt, Build or Buy, Which Fish, deep moral debate.

Ok, so you wont find amy moral debates in this thread (although some of you love your fish so much I can see it turning into that). I had a 15 gallon a few years back and have decided to get back into it more seriously. Ideally I would like a saltwater tank, but I have some concerns. Here is what I am looking at:

Fresh or Salt?
I have read articles comparing both and I would prefer salt but i have some concerns. First, the cost. How much more does it really cost to setup and maintain? It sounds like if you are careful the cost difference is not bad. I am confident that I can keep up the maintenance and keep myself informed (through websites like aa), but if the cost difference is high, a poor law student like me cant afford salt. Also, I LOVE the reef and sand tanks, but can you make a freshwater tank look that good with fake coral and sand?

Build or Buy?
I have a budget around $300 for the initial setup, and am looking at 50-75 g tanks(bigger the better it sounds like). I have been to most fish shops around Las Vegas, so I have a pretty good feel for what is around. I found a couple of good deals, but I read that the great deals are through classifieds and craigslist. I have been monitoring both, but am beginning to consider building my own stand (now way I could build a tank). I think I will buy a tank then build a stand to go with it (if I don't buy a used set up). I have no clue how to build one, but I do follow directions very well. Does anyone know a source (preferably online) that can take me through step by step on building a stand? Seems to be it should not be that difficult, but you never know.

Fish
I am suprised about how knowlegable everyone at aa is about different kinds of fish. I simply cant follow these discussions to get a good feel about which fish are right for me. This seems important, since it could determine the size of my tank and what I can put inside. I can go in these stores and check out their fish but there are so many varieties out there I would like to get an overall feel for them all. Is there a resource for newbies that can help you decide which fish are right for you?

Deep Moral Debate
Ok, I decided to give you two things to think about. I was watching season 3 of 24 last night and they killed Ryan chappelle. Holy crap, I dont know if jack did the right thing there. Second, Sean Hannity was going off yesterday about how the ACLU would attack ANY justice Bush nominated to the Supreme Court. My question is this: If a democratic president elected a justice, is there any chance Hannity would NOT attack under the same circumstances? I am a republican, but in my book Hannity is just as bad as the ACLU...
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Old 07-21-2005, 04:36 PM   #2
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Ok, I will do my best to answer all of these for you.

Fresh or Salt: Given your budget, you are looking at a FW set up. A SW set-up for a 55-75 gallon tank is going to be closer to $1K or more before you are done. I didn't realize it until I really got into the hobby, but it can be VERY expensive, even if you don't want corals and just want to have some cool fish. For a tank that size, the LR alone would be pushing your budget. That being said, I think you could put together a nice starter FW tank within your budget. I had a couple FW tanks a long time ago and loved them. After gaining that experience, and getting a few raises, I went for SW and it was definitely worth the wait.

Build or Buy: If you like DIY projects, building a stand can be fun because you can customize it to your needs. I would definitely buy the tank, but there are a lot of other things you can build and save some money and have some fun at the same time. I didn't build anything for my tanks because I'm lazy, but that's my problem.

Fish: My best advice for you on Fish choices is to go to sites like www.liveaquaria.com. They have a lot of pics and descriptions of both SW and FW fish and can help you make the right choices.

Deep Moral Debate: I won't get into this too much, but what I will say is that I completely agree with you. I will leave it at that for now.

Welcome to AA!!!! You will get a lot of great advice on here.

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Old 07-22-2005, 06:04 AM   #3
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Fresh or Salt?
Salt, hands down. I've seen some nice fresh water tanks, but none that compare to a decent salt water tank. You can put together a decent 50 gallon starter tank for less than $200 and improve on it as you learn. The price that people pay to get started keeps the fish stores laughing their asses off all the way to the bank. With patience, knowledge and experience, maintenance can be simple and cheap. If I dropped $300 on a fw tank, it had better come with surround sound and HD programming.

Build or Buy?
Buy everything and you'll spend thousands just to get water in the tank. Build it and you'll spend a few hundred including basic livestock. To go the inexpensive route you'll need:
1. Used tank, don't rule out local paper and yard sales. Everyone you know probably knows 1 person with an old 55g tank in their basement. Ask around, good chance they'll give it to you for nothing.
2. Stand. Build it for about $40 in lumber, or you can buy a basic one from walmart for about $40. Same for a canopy if you want one.
3. Lighting. Depends on what you want. Fish only? Cheap cheap cheap. A 40w flou. fixture will do you fine. Softy reef? Buy the parts off of ebay and you can run 110w of power compact for about $50, including bulbs.
4. Filtration. Deep sand bed with playsand and base rock. Stay away from aragonite sand, live sand, and live rock for price. You won't get any cheaper than this, and its easy and natural.
5. Water movement. 2 powerheads rated for 8-15 times water volume total. Also ebay.
6. Heater, also ebay.

Get a decent test kit. Throw in a couple dead shrimp and have patience. In a month or so you have a fully functioning biological filter and you're ready for livestock. You should come under your budget pretty easily.

Fish. Can't recomend what fish you should get as it's up to you what kind you want. If you want a predator tank, there are some other types you won't be able to have. Same with a basic reef, etc. You should decide what you want the final outcome to be before you purchase any livestock. Don't be the guy that takes fish back to the store every other month. Make a plan and stick with it.

First livestock however, should be a basic cleaner crew, crabs snails etc. Then start with your actual fish if you choose to have them. Add slowly, smartly and have patience.

Above all remember you don't have to buy everything you will possibly ever have at once. You can add to your setup and improve upon it as time goes by. Once the tank is up and running, buy an RO filter for better replacement water. Later add a sump and get all that nasty hardware out of your display. Throw in some algae and you've increased your water filtration a LOT. Then buy a skimmer...

HTH. All flames or ?'s should go to my email, thumper18@bresnan.net as I don't hit these pages as often as I used to.
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Old 07-22-2005, 08:09 AM   #4
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All good advice given. I happen to be a fan of SW.
Quote:
Deep Moral Debate
Ok, I decided to give you two things to think about. I was watching season 3 of 24 last night and they killed Ryan chappelle. Holy crap, I dont know if jack did the right thing there. Second, Sean Hannity was going off yesterday about how the ACLU would attack ANY justice Bush nominated to the Supreme Court. My question is this: If a democratic president elected a justice, is there any chance Hannity would NOT attack under the same circumstances? I am a republican, but in my book Hannity is just as bad as the ACLU...

This a Saltwater and Reef- General Discussion forum, please keep your questions and comments on-topic. If you wish to discus topics like this feel free to post it in "The Lounge". Please make sure you have read and understand the User agreement before starting threads of a political nature.
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Old 07-22-2005, 08:23 AM   #5
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This is my approx cost of my 55G:

Brand new standard 55G, $163 (That was a wrong move. People sell these tanks for less than $50 used!) This comes with a Whisper 60 Powerfilter already.

brand new Prism Skimmer, $40 from Ebay

Instant Ocean salt bag, $9.99. Those bags can be good up to 55 Gallons of water.

Stand, $60 from IKEA (make sure the structure can hold all the weight you expect)

Live Sand, Aragonite, and crushed coral, $130. (This was a wrong move too. Just buy regular play sand from Home Depot and wash it thoroughly).

40 lbs of live rock, $240. (I bought this in increments of $60). Just buy base rock instead. Most anything you soak in a saltwater tank wil somehow become deemed "live" anyways.(Notice: use common sense though! :P )

400GPH powerhead, $30 from Ebay.

Fish, $250 all in all.

So it was a little over $900. However, I didn't do my research much then. I could've easily cut down the cost from $900 to around $300.

If you're used to FW, try SW this time. It's fun and it isn't as expensive as I assumed it would be. And the maintenance is not that bad either. Plus, between FW and SW fish, c'mon man! No disrespect to the FW community (I own one also) but SW fish compared to FW fish is like Night and Day. SW have more bright colors, less monotonous appearances, more personality, better shapes, and LOTS to choose from!

Fish-Only setups are easy to maintain. Now, if you want a reef tank, get ready to shell out upwards of $2000 in that thing for lighting, equipment, and a few polyps alone!
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Old 07-22-2005, 10:38 AM   #6
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wow, great advice guys. I jump back and forth from salt to fresh, but you might have just convinced me to jump into sw. My local store has 55g tanks for 55 bucks, brand new. Of course this is a glass tank with no lighting, but it does come with a top. doesn't sound like a bad deal. Is there ANY reason on my budget to get an acrylic tank? They also have stands which would run about 150 I think (nice and sturdy). I can monitor ebay, but I am getting impatient (all I can think about is fish for the last few days!). Would it be a good idea to purchase these two then buy the rest off ebay?
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Old 07-22-2005, 03:20 PM   #7
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You can usually find some really good deals on Ebay. However, depending on how large/heavy the item is, you will pay a good amount for shipping. Look up a few necessities, and see for yourself. There are tons of wet/dry's, skimmers, etc.
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Old 07-22-2005, 03:36 PM   #8
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Indy,
There is NO WAY you can do a 50 gallon saltwater tank set up that is actually going to be a healthy environment for under 200. Not unless someone else is giving you most of the items required. I have put up tanks from 30 gallons on up to a 220 gallon frag farm and there is absolutely no way you can do it for the money quoted. I rarely buy retail and do alot of DIY as well.

I second the sentiment that if you only have 300 to spend, you need to stick with freshwater. There are alot of beautiful, unique and breathtaking freshwater tanks.

That is my opinion.
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Old 07-22-2005, 08:14 PM   #9
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Oooh, a challenge. I love challenges

Tank with 4' NO lighting - used $50. I've bought them as cheap as $10 but, $50 is pretty easy to find.

200w submersible heater - new $15 (ebay)

748 gph powerhead - new $35 (ebay)

Playsand $8 (home depot or similar, figure 3 bags for a 50g tank)

50 lbs base rock @ $1.50/pound $75

IO salt $29 (160 gallon mix)

Total $212

This will provide more than just adequate DSB with live rock filtration. Get a free tank? Go with 1/2 the base rock listed as its nice but not required with a good dsb? You're at $124.50. Buy a piece of LR a month (figure $12 each) and you'll be at 50+ pounds before you know it. Good lighting can be added later if its needed and can be done inexpensively.

If all natural filtration is not healthy, please don't tell my corals, anemone, or any other livestock I have. They came in as frags and I don't want them to die.

I started in SW with a 55 standard/NO lighting and stand that I had left from an old cichlid tank. I spent less than $100 and had a healthy FO tank with w/d filtration (diy w/d). I then changed over to DSB, then added rock and corals. I now run a 112g display, 29g sump, and a decent little reef that is doing great, and I'm probably not over $700 in hardware. It can be done, its just not the fastest route possible. I have learned so much in the process tho' that I wouldn't go back in time and trade it for an established system. I feel that many people who would be great in the hobby get scared away by the initial sticker price they see at the pet stores. A little mechanical know how, or the desire to learn it, can save thousands.
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Old 07-22-2005, 09:16 PM   #10
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your list is past 200 and you havent managed to put the tank on a stand, nor do you have anywhere near enough filtration, natural or otherwise. I see no mention of testkits or even a swing arm hydrometer. All these things are the little extras that cost and yet you have to have them.
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Old 07-22-2005, 10:00 PM   #11
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This thread may have been better served in the lounge altogether, at least some FW hobbiest would chime in with some FW perspective (of which I am one).

Although I am FW, I too enjoy looking at and admiring SW tanks. They are interesting but I must say that FW can provide some things that SW cannot.

Fish - FW fish boring? I should say not. We have something called the cichlidae family, which provides some of the most stunning color variations that can be seen in aquaria.
Plants - Imagine growing a garden in your tank. Plants serve as a natural filter for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. And plants are by and large cheaper than LR.
Equipment - No skimmers, powerheads, sumps or all the other SW related equipment that SW requires. A decent canister filter, decent lighting and possibly a CO2 injector (which can be done DIY) is all you need.

Subsidary items - No salt required for each water change. Your test kit after the tank is cycled, will consist of NO3 and KH.

My 75 gal cost just under $300 and I didn't build anything myself. Of course, livestock created additional costs but I think you can see what I mean. Take a look at my clickys in my sig.

I will now return to the FW forums. Good luck in your decision and Welcome to AA!
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Old 07-23-2005, 01:37 AM   #12
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"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
1300 gph pump $50 - new *
overflow $45 - new *
wood for stand & canopy $80 - diy
RO filter $100 - new *
skimmer $30 -used *
300w heater x 2 $30 - new * (bought 1 additional)
220w PC 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 *
SG 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.
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Old 07-23-2005, 02:22 AM   #13
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where the heck do you get $1.50/lb. LR?
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Livestock:2-Ocellaris Clownfish;9-Scarlet Reef Hermit Crabs;1-Regal Tang;Zoanthids, Pineapple Brain coral, Sebae Anemone, Colt Coral, Galaxea
Tank Specs as of December 29, 2005:Ammonia:0;Nitrite: 0;Nitrate=0;Cu:0
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Old 07-23-2005, 05:43 AM   #14
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Live rock fairy. I put $1.50 under my pillow... Base rock runs about $1.50/lb around here.
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Old 07-23-2005, 06:21 AM   #15
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That's a very nice looking stand and canopy. That was DIY right?
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55 gal cycling. Will be FOWLR.
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Old 07-23-2005, 09:07 AM   #16
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You assume he can get base rock for $1.50 /lb in his area too. You cannot buy base rock wehre I live, unless you want to use lace or grotto rock, and that's $2.50 lb.

Playsand...the ocean isn't made of silica sand, so I don't recommend using it in a SW tank.

You'll want 2 powerheads each rated at 300 gph..not one 748gph one.

Fact is, if you're a newbie to salt, you should do it RIGHT the first time. Silica sand can cause problems...problems newbies wont' know how to deal with.

I'd definitely stick to a FW setup if $200 is your budget.
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Old 07-23-2005, 10:00 AM   #17
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A SW tank under $200 is going to be a very big challenge. I am not sure it can be done. Cutting corners and going "bare bones" may end up costing you more in the long run. Do it right from the start.
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Although I am FW, I too enjoy looking at and admiring SW tanks. They are interesting but I must say that FW can provide some things that SW cannot.
I happen to be a salty, however, I do love looking at planted FW tanks. I no nothing about this type of aquaria and a nicely planted FW tank can compete with a SW reef.
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Old 07-23-2005, 10:12 AM   #18
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We can be mathematically critical on this, and we should. But the main point here is, a saltwater tank is not necessarily THAT expensive. Like I said, I spent more than $900 in mine when infact a few smarts could have saved me hundreds.

Not only can you get good deals on e-bay, there are swap meets, there are LFS that clears out their inventories for new ones, there are classified ads for people who are moving out of state and are selling their stuff ASAP. There are so many things that I saw possible BUT after I have already spent that much.

Indy's point is true. I bought pounds and pounds of live sand, aragonite, and crushed coral for the substrate. Then I met other people who have home depot play sand in their SW tanks and have a thriving population of living things in there.

Case and point, if you are building a FOWLR setup, that's cheap. If you are building a reef tank, that isn't cheap. If you are a beginner, build a FO or FOWLR setup. 55G is a decent size. You don't need a sump for a 55G FOWLR or FO. You can just have a skimmer and a wall-hung filter. Trust me on that.

Everyone had a valid argument regarding things like test kits and hydrometers, ornaments, and actual fish. But getting started can only cost you between 300-500 bucks. It's not that bad.

I own a cichlid tank with mbuna, auratus, lake victoria cichlid, and yellow lab. I also own a FOWLR. You can't tell me the cichlid tank is more exciting to watch than the SW. Give me a break. I like both tanks but if you start comparing the two, like I said, it's night and day.

Don't be intimidated by the SW hobby. It's fun. and it's affordable.
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Old 07-23-2005, 11:40 AM   #19
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Taking on Salties does present challenges but I am up to them. I did say that FW fish are not boring due to the species you mention yourself archie1709. I also said that I enjoy and admire SW tanks specifically for the number of different types of life that is present.

That being said, look at your quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Archie1709
But getting started can only cost you between 300-500 bucks. It's not that bad.
The member posted that there is a $300 budget and could it be done. Based on your quote, the answer is probably not.
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Old 07-23-2005, 05:43 PM   #20
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I agree with hara and lando..

SW is not a CHEAP hobby... I have had FW tanks and converted to SW after about 1.5 years into Fw. I had a nice 55 planted tank with community fish and they were fun. I still have a 10 FW with some original fish from the 55.
If you want to do things RIGHT and have a sucessful tank you can not cut corners in the beginning because it can end up costing you more in the long run.
If your lucky you'll get good used items to save money then do it.
Your looking at a min of $500-600 to get it up and running, and IMO closer to $800 to do things so you will be ready for corals..
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