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Old 02-08-2005, 03:32 PM   #1
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How to start an Aquarium for $150?

The following interaction recently took place in another thread...

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Originally Posted by quarryshark
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Specifically, I've found an Eclipse 12 Saltwater kit for about $150 that's just about the right size and shape.
BTW, you could set up a 30 gallon for that price. At least the basics.
...but I'd like for someone to explain the details of how this could be accomplished.

I've continued to do more research, and I can't find a way to make the numbers fit. It seems like it is going to realistically cost $200 - $400 to start a saltwater tank anywhere between 12 and 30 gallons.

Tank - $50
Power Filter - $30
Heater - $30
Test Kit(s) - $40

The cost for just these basic elements gets me to $150 and I still don't have salt, water, rock and/or sand (substrate)?

So realistically, what is an inexpensive way to start this hobby such that I have something usable should I decide to expand, but yet have not invested too much if I decide the maintainance isn't worth it?
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Old 02-08-2005, 03:40 PM   #2
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Well, you really don't want to be starting a tank in the first place if you don't have the money to keep it up. You may be able to set up a tank for $200, BUT, you will incur charges quadrupling (if not more) that in the future for more water, salt, and electricity... not to mention replacement filters, bulbs, and fish. The Elcipse doesn't come with LR/Sand, and you need to get your own water. The salt they give you is only enough really for the initial setup and a water change... you will have to buy the rest, preferably in bulk.

For now, I would suggest the 30 gallon tank if you're new to SW, the extra investment in equipment will be worth your while if you choose to go to a 55 in the future. Eclipses are nice, but are hard to keep up, especially if it's only 12 gal. Check out some of the articles in the DIY forum if you're good with your hands... it can REALLY cut down on cost. My 20 gal sump cost me $3 at a yard sale... so depending on the deals you can find, you can certainly get this awesome hobby started up for cheap. You can make your own canopy, and just have the top have eggcrate, and a basic NO light fixture is cheap from HD. Stand can be DIY, or can be placed on a sturdy countertop. Filters can be bought used, or cheap on ebay... if you have LR, the only real filter you would need is a good skimmer... and for a 30 gallon, your choices are large. Don't forget a powerhead or two!! HTH
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Old 02-08-2005, 03:49 PM   #3
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The Eclipse setup is basically a rip off, they sell you a normal Eclipse tank/hood, stick some salt mix and a hydrometer in the box, call it a marine tank and try to get people to buy it. I shudder to think about the number of Clownfish that have perished in such a setup

Anyway, "the basics" in saltwater really depend on what you want to do. If you want fish only, you can get by pretty cheap, but not $150 cheap. If you want to have inverts/corals/live rock in the tank, the price is going to start climbing fast. Also, there are a lot of other costs like and extra powerhead and heater for mixing saltwater since you need to mix it before adding it to the tank. I currently have over $1,000 into a 15g tank, it does not take long to get there...
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Old 02-08-2005, 04:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by grimlock3000
Anyway, "the basics" in saltwater really depend on what you want to do. If you want fish only, you can get by pretty cheap, but not $150 cheap.
This is confirming what I've been seeing... that if I want to "test the waters" in this hobby, it's going to realistically cost me a minimum of about $300 to $400 in startup costs for a "small" system.
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:37 PM   #5
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if I want to "test the waters" in this hobby, it's going to realistically cost me a minimum of about $300 to $400 in startup costs for a "small" system.
I think you may be right. Keep in mind, there are ways to cut corners but the end result is not good. This is really a hobby that requires things be done the right way from the begining. Otherwise people just get frustrated and give up becuae they have made things too hard for themselves. Its funny, after "Finding Nemo" came out, I am sure there were many people trying to get by cheap so their kid could have Dori and Nemo in a 10gal. tank by the bed. Now everyone here knows that is just not going to work, it doesn't, many fish ended up with the "circular" burial and many tanks ended up in the garage. I am not saying that you need to go out and spend $2000 right off the bat. If that were the case, there would far less people enjoying this great hobby. What I am saying is that there are some things you just can not skimp on, especially in the begining. For under $500 I think you would be able to do a 38gal tank the right way and enjoy it. Also, check the want ads in the paper, you can find some great deals. It is not cheap, but it does not have to break the bank either. good luck...Lando
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:47 PM   #6
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If you are interested in having fish in the house but don't want to break the bank, you could probably do freshwater cheaper than saltwater. While freshwater fish in general are not as colorful as saltwater, some of them are pretty cool. It might be a cheaper way to get in to fish to see if you really like having them in your house before you sink big bucks in to a nice saltwater setup.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:47 AM   #7
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Ask around... all those people who wanted the Nemo and Dory probably still have that equipment. Without trying we came upon free 55 and 65 gallon tanks... which was good because my husband and I couldn't agree on sw or fw... so we now have one of each.

If you're patient you'll probably find something... although unless you're really confident about the equipment I would suggest getting new equipment, (heater, filter, etc...)

Just be sure to test for leaks before setting up!
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:57 AM   #8
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One more important point on buying used tanks (besides checking for leaks) is to ask the owner if they have ever used any copper based medications in the tank. If so, it would not be an option for a reef or invert tank. It would still make a great FO QT tank.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:30 PM   #9
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I've paid out about $800 for my 30 gal so far, and I still don't have a thing in it.

I've bought a skimmer, heater, sand, salt, test kits, food, thermometers, PVC and cement for plumbing, and pumps.

I've yet to buy live rock and/or critters, and I will need to upgrade the lighting someday.

It will top $1000, easy.....
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SG 1.024, temp 79.5, pH 8.4

Livestock I added:

1 skunk cleaner. 12 hermits: red, scarlet, blue. 15 or so assorted snails. Discosomas, Ricordia, Rhodactis mushroom corals, chaetomorpha (sump), 1 feather duster, Montipora digitata, Montipora capricornis, Montipora hispids. assorted zoos, Xenia, Kenya tree coral, green Sinularia, green star polyps, branching hammer coral, bubble coral, Devil's hand leather. Yellow chromis, purple firefish.

Hitchhikers: the usual suspects :crabs, bristles, urchin, mantis shrimp (now in exile in mantis tank)

List of possible/likely newcomers:

Feather duster. PJ cardinal, Bangghai cardinal, Firefish goby, Clownfish, Neon goby, Yellow watchman goby, Orchid dottyback. Various corals.
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Old 02-09-2005, 03:34 PM   #10
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If medications have been used, is there a way to clean the tank off for future reef use? I think a tank I have laying around had that Ich-away tablets that turn the tank blue... that stuff put in it... not sure if it's copper based or not.

Maybe wash the tank out with vinegar?
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