After learning this the hard way...my first suggestion to anyone new to saltwater keeping is to be patient. Also make sure you read up a lot! If you're going to get a 50 gallon...spend the extra money and get a 75. Not only does it give you more water to work with, but it leaves more room for error. More water equals a more stable system. I would suggest live rock to anyone. I originally didn't have live rock in my system and eventually went to it because i needed it. I'm just going to base everything off a 75 gal
system...which is what I have actually.
You want a pound or more per gallon...and 75 pounds fills up the tank nicely. Buy uncured live rock and then cycle your system with this. In case you havent read, cycling is when your nitrates and ammonia reach high levels and then fall back down. The first thing you want to do is set up your tank and stand if you get one. Then place down your live sand or your substrate...crushed coral works well for substrate. Then put your uncured live rock on it. Add water (preferably RO
water because its the best to start with otherwise you'll get crazy algae like I did) You'll get some algae anyways but I can't stress how important RO
water is because I've had so many problems with algae. You can buy an RO
unit and make your own or usually you can buy it at your local fish store. Add all your salt to the tank and then let it cycle..you can read about cycling and curing live rock in the articles section
Live rock itself is natural filtration, but you definately want a protein skimmer. It'll remove so many of the things that cause people problems. Don't skimp on one either...spend the money and get a nice one. In my opinion...don't get a wet/dry system just build your own sump. Use a 30 gallon aquarium as a sump and maybe buy a predrilled aquarium or buy an overflow box. Otherwise your protein skimmer will be hanging off your tank and you might not like the looks of that. I know i don't like the looks of mine. You can also put your heater and protein skimmer in your sump. You could also consider buying a canister filter and putting carbon in it for clearer water.