I struggled with the same question when I started for cost reasons but knew I wouldnt be satisfied with FW
when what I always wanted was SW
. I started out with a 28g. I may not have done everything right but I still have my first chromis, damsel, clown, starfish, and emerald crab. I had very little loss. I didnt even have a skimmer for the first 4 months,just a HOB
filter. I did 10-20% water changes every week though. I cycled with "live" sand and had the tank up for two months before I got any rock, then it was only about 10 lbs or so at a time. I added and upgraded slowly and now have a 90 gal
with 130 lbs of live rock. I guess my point is I started slow and added things a little at a time. The tank, stand, crap lighting, filter, heater, thermometer, test kit, salt, hydrometer, sand, powerhead, cost me around 400-450. I know your looking at a bigger tank but it can be done. Start slow, add a little at a time. You're going to have to have it set up and cycling for 4-6 wks before you can add any livestock anyway. Then you can save for more rock, a skimmer, etc. This hobby isnt cheap though, Ive been very lucky to find some great deals on used equipment and live rock thankfully. I would have to say if I had it to do over again I would have done more research and started with a bigger tank. It cost more in the long run if you buy the wrong equipment ( or too small of a tank) and want to upgrade later. Sorry about the ramblin.. im in a talkative mood i guess. Hope I didnt bore anyone.