From 1 newbie to another, you should definitely go for it. It's not easy but if planned properly you can definitely be successful and it's amazing to watch new critters popup every now and again
Here's what I started with and the mistakes I made :
55g 48" glass tank
Fluval 404 filter
80lbs live sand
50lbs live rock
Aquaclear 301 & 201 powerheads
AquaC Remora Pro skimmer
1. I'm glad I started with the 55g as I was tempted to go smaller. If you can possibly get a larger tank right at the beginning you'll be very very glad you did. The initial cost of the tank is nothing compared to the other costs for equipment etc. Plus a larger body of water will help keep things stable for you.
2. If possible start right away with a sump and a tank pre-drilled for a sump. I did not and I'm sorry because now I've got a bunch of equipment cluttering up the main tank. Using a sump gives you a lot of benefits such as hiding a protein skimmer, a fuge (afaik at least - I have not done this yet but I believe a fuge can be a big help to a tank and without a sump you'll be looking at a hang-on which again detracts from the main display) mechanical filtration etc. eg. You could run your 404 for mechanical filtration and occasional Activated carbon right from the sump. The additional water in the sump increases your overall system capacity which again helps maintain stability.
3. Purchase good quality live rock and use it to cycle your tank. I made the mistake of buying from an LFS
and although eventually it'll be just fine I'm sorry I didn't go with liverocks.com as is recommended time and time again on these forums.
4. Do not use fish to cycle your tank - many LFS
will suggest that and it's just an exercise in cruelty to the fish. This is especially pertinent to you as you seem to indicate you want a less agressive mix of fish. Usually LFS
recommends damsels as early additions to help with the cycle but most damsels are quite aggressive and may limit your additions later on. Right now I've got a beautiful Maroon clown in my 55g and I've got a Kole Tang in quarantine waiting to be sure I've broken the Ich cycle.
5. Most important of all - set up and use a quarantine tank right from the beginning. It is easy to do and will almost certainly save you a LOT of heartache, cash and hard work, not to mention the lives of your livestock. I did not set up a QT
until I went to get my 2nd fish - the tang and boy am I glad I did ! 24 hours after I added him to my QT
he came down with Ich. With the QT
I could treat him seperately and easily. The alternative - set up a QT
after your new addition gets sick, move all fish into the QT
, treat them all for Ich, keep them in there for at least 4 weeks, longer is recommended, while leaving your main tank go fallow to break the Ich cycle in there !!! What a pain eh? Trust me - quarantine right from the beginning and you'll be a much happier aquarist
6. Be very very careful about taking advice from your LFS
. A lot of them are well-intentioned but do not know enough about the hobby to be reliable. You may, if you're very very very lucky find one that truly knows what they are doing but you will be among the few. Do a lot of your own research on forums like these and read the right books. Make your own informed decisions based on the advice of experienced aquarists such as those you'll find here and you'll enjoy much more success. I look on my LFS
stores as a source of livestock, but not so much for advice. After all - they're in it to make money and some of them are completely ruthless about sending you down the wrong path. I fell foul of that by taking LFS
advice at the beginning and that resulted in me taking back a bunch of fish to a more reputable store in an attempt to save their lives as my tank was nowhere close to being ready for a single fish, never mind the 12 that they sold me, telling me that was enough for now and I could add more later!!!! (My tank was 3 days old at the time with measurable Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate) Go figure .....
Finally ... Patience, Patience, Patience. Without that you'll run into problems. Trust me - it's worth it !
Hope that helps !