Welcome to the hobby. And sorry for what I feel will be another long post from me. Most of this is my opinion based on my experience and research. Others will have their opinions, get them all and make an educated decision.
I'll give you what answers I can and others will chime in shortly. Do lots of research before you start, get some good books and read the forums. This will save you a lot of hastle, money, and time.
Firstly, despite some of the numbers you'll find here, you can start a SW
setup pretty inexpensively as long as you have some patience and are a bit of a diy
'er. I'll get to that in a minute. For a ready to go in a relatively short time tank, you'll be dropping some serious cash. For a 55g FOWLR
you can get started for less than $500.
Secondly, nothing good happens fast in the SW
world. That's why everyone recommends starting with the largest tank you can afford. The larger water volume will make bad things happen slower, allowing you to catch and correct them. A 7g tank for a newbie is more than likely going to be a money pit of dead fish and frustration. The one at the lfs
is likely running a penguin style bio-wheel hood setup that hides the filtration above the water line.
Thirdly, nemo will be fine in a smaller tank. Anemones will not, and Dory needs at least a 70g. Dory is also a disease magnet, specifically ich. An anemone also should not be tried unless you have a very established system, most recommend at least a year of success in the tank before you even attempt one. It requires "pristine" water conditions.
And now welcome to Indy's world of budget reefing! tm. (Indy's world of budget reefing is not affiliated with the discount marijuana growers union or the Indy 500. No warrenty expressed or implied, mileage may vary.)
Some things you absolutely must have, others are options. Once you have the must-haves, you can start your system. The options can be added as money and need arise. Being a diy
'er and an ebay surfer I have saved a ton of money. My current system has been built in stages over the last year. The first 8 months don't count as I didn't do anything besides make it fish ready. The last 4 months have had more construction. No losses to date w/the excetption of 2 jumpers I found dried on the carpet. Or they were thrown out for bad behavior...
TANK: (duh!) start with at least a 29. If you like the SW
world you'll want to upgrade soon so you might as well get the 55. SW
has to keep a smaller stocking load than fresh, so smaller tanks are limited. If all you want to do is keep fish and live rock, you can buy a used tank and setup pretty cheaply, just watch the classifieds. But if you think you might want to try corals someday, buy new. If the used tank has ever been treated with copper based meds (like for ich), it will probably be toxic to corals. Tanks are cheaper than corals, so go with the new tank.
HEATER: Full submersible rather than the HOB
style. I use a 300w for my 55 w/10g fuge and it works just dandy.
Water flow: powerheads or pumps, shoot for around 10xtank volume for turnover.
Lighting: for fowlr
the fluo. strip that comes with the tank is ok, but more light is better. For corals you'll need a lot more light. Lights are THE most expensive part.
Salt: self explanitory.
Rock: and lots of it, at least 1-2 lbs per gal
. Live rock is very expensive. Base rock is very cheap. If you put in a lot of base and a little live, the life on the live will slowly spread to the base. Takes more patience, but a lot less money.
Good test kit:
Optional (kind of):
Filtration: not really an option, but the type is. LFS
will tell you a wet/dry is a must have, and they only cost $300 and up. I can show you how to build one for less than $50 and I'll throw in the bio-balls sitting in my closet. You'll save a lot of money and end up with the exact same water problems you'd have with the $300 one. All mechanical filtration falls into this category. If you aren't willing to do filter maintenance every day or every other, don't go this route.
Undergravel: don't even try this one for SW
The route I recomend to everyone is Deep Sand Bed (DSB
) filtration. Entirely natural, and much much cheaper than w/d. All you need is 4-6 inches of sandbed (aragonite or playsand) and good water flow. Lots of rock add to the filtration and make the fish happier. A good collection of sand sifting/burrowing worms, snails, etc. are also needed. But those little guys are needed for just about any filtration style.
refugium (a darn fine idea for FO
and reef both), can diy
protein skimmer (another darn fine idea for all)
high intensity lighting (required for reef), can diy
moon lighting, can diy
probably lots of others.
Anyway, decide what you want, FO
or reef. If you start FO
, you'll probably want corals eventually. That just the way the disease progresses, no point in fighting it. For fish, decide what 1 fish you absolutely MUST have. The rest of your stocking will revolve around this 1 fish. And when you do get setup, remember to go fishless for your cycling.