The best advice I can give you, and the best money you can spend at this point, is to buy a copy of "The Concientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert M. Fenner. This book will tell you most of what you need to know to get started. I'll try to answer your questions. A SW
tank isn't really harder to maintain, just different. The things that work with FW
don't always apply to SW
1) I would recommend a skimmer and a couple of powerheads for flow (Maxi Jets are the best IMO
2) Sand. You can use CC, but I think sand is better as it gives you better diversity. I wouldn't mix them.
is not necessary. You can have a SW
tank without it. I think it is something you'll want to add though. If you have enough LR
, you can do away with the power filter because the LR
will handle your biological filtration. Also, there is all kinds of neat stuff that grows on and in the LR
You might go to the "articles" link on the home page here and read some of the articles in there. I would suggest using the "fishless cycling" method to start your tank...I believe it is explained in there.
Welcome to AA and please don't hesitate to ask any questions you might have.