Here are some essentials for you to try before much else.
1. Get a simple book like Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium"
Or "The Conscientious Marine Aquariast" Something that gives a good
overview of set up, maintainance, stocking, etc. Read as much as
2. Decide what type of system you would like. Plan it out, all details from
building to stocking.
3. Buy everything you need including test kits (I find Hagen's to be both
effective and inexspensive).
4. Find someone or a LFS
to babysit your livestock for teardown and
5. Now get the buckets, tear it all apart, and through out the CC.
Arrange your rock work first - on bare bottom. Use plastic cable ties,
resafe glue / epoxy, pvc
, acrylic dowling. Get it the way you want it
and make it "STABLE". Make lots of openings and caves for flow, don't
do the "wall" thing alot of folks do. Make it interesting. Then add at
least 4 inches of sand (not silicate based). This can be dry sand, and
beg, borrow, or buy a few cups of good sand. Buy a detrivore kit
(after cycle). Fill it with salt water. Tweek to what you need for
parameters. I like Turbo Clacium, Superbuffer dKH
, Reef Complete,
and start daily testing to see the cycle unfold. Go 36 days with out
adding anything except RO
water for evaporite. Then do a 20% water
change and readjust parameters. Up to this point go with your 6 hour
lighting cycle. Add 1/2 your cleaner crew (snails & hermits) and just
one fish (sailfin or lawnmower blenny). On day 72 perform another 20%
waterchange. (You will also be topping off Evaporation and mixing
new water with RO
) Order or buy second half of your cleaner crew.
Add second fish - a sand sifting goby highly recomended. Do Not
Overfeed Them! Again test test ant test until day 100.
6. Go ahead and adjust photo period to 7 hours, after another week go to eight hours, then 9 then 10 up to 12.
7. After bout day 100 add a good skimmer and a carbon filter.
Good luck, and keep asking questions - they are never dumb, they just make us all remember we to were once where you are now!