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Old 08-22-2003, 08:16 AM   #1
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Cost of SW aquarium?

Anybody have an estimate as to what it costs to start a SW aquarium?
Similarily, what does it cost to maintain a SW aquarium?
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Old 08-22-2003, 09:55 AM   #2
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It really depends on what you put in your system. Its going to be cheaper to do a fish only tank than a fish only with live rock and much cheaper than doing a Reef setup.

I think the last estimate came to somewhere between $50-$100 per gal.

To maintain a SW tank you have your cost of the salt, electricty, water (if you use something other than tap water), food. Depending again on your setup and how frequently you do water changes your maintaince costs can be vastly different if you have a fish only setup or a reef.
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Old 08-22-2003, 10:17 AM   #3
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Using those numbers, the 55 gallon tank that I want to build would cost between $2750 and $5500. That might be hard to swing!

Anybody have any ideas on how to do this for less?
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Old 08-22-2003, 11:02 AM   #4
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It can't be done for less unless you want to do it right. We started our 55 gal tank 8 months ago and learned our lesson!

We started with $1000.00 tank and stand, canister pump, no skimmer, live sand, a few fish... It was a learning process and I wish I had known about this site earlier...a lot of our fish died during the learning process.

What we learned:

1. Large wet/dry filter works best because it gives the bacteria a place to grow and bacteria growth is ESSENTIAL when starting a new tank. Wet/dry filters are pricey.

2. You have to have an adequate protein skimmer.

3. You can't biologically overload the tank and must be careful to add only a fish or two at a time every couple of months until your tank is done cycling.

4. You have to test the water weekly in order to determine if your chemical levels are correct.

5. You have to change the filter weekly and clean the tank weekly during cycling. Cleaning involves removing problem algae and fanning the rocks and substrate with your hand so you can get the excess biological material "waterborne" so the protein skimmer can get at it.

6. You have to change 10-20% of the water on a monthly basis. And you should use bottled water.

7. You have to learn not to over or underfeed the fish for fish health AND tank health.

8. If you purchase a fish from a fish store, make the fish department helpers feed your fish before you purchase it (and you need to watch it eat) - don't buy a fish that isn't eating.

9. When you buy a fish at a fish store, make sure you are buying a healthy fish. Sometimes fish stores will "hold" a fish for you for 2 weeks after you have paid for it to ensure it is healthy. You can set up a small quarantine tank at home (which is pricey). Never purchase fish from a tank where other fish are dead on the bottom of it - even the tanks where there are lots of cheap damsels.

You CAN chance it and put the fish directly into your tank - but you risk all of your fish getting sick and dying if you introduce a sick fish into the system. It is very difficult and expensive to cure sick fish.


10. It takes TIME for a tank to "cycle" (meaning that there is enough bacteria growth to sustain the biological load). Cycling can take up to 6 months or sometimes longer. You have to be patient. You can't go out and buy a bunch of live rock, coral and fish - at the beginning one fish (or a few very small fish) and one rock. You HAVE to be patient.

11. Read and research as much as possible before you start your tank. Don't listen to store clerks until after you have done your research. You will hear a lot of conflicting advice - but once you become more knowledgable then you will know which store clerks to rely upon for advice and which ones not to rely upon.

12. Hold off on coral until the tank has cycled.

13. Make sure your fish, coral and invertebrate species are compatible - it is best to decide ahead of time what type of tank you want before you start buying. For example, DON'T buy an UNDULATED TRIGGER unless you want a one fish tank!!!


I don't know everything...and some of my advice could be wrong - but this was our experience. We lost a lot of fish after making some stupid mistakes. We learned our lesson. Fish are expensive...and it all adds up if you don't do it right the first time!!!
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Old 08-22-2003, 12:00 PM   #5
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Sounds to me that ya'll are trying to scare off someone who is interested in the hobby. Sure it can be expensive and there are ways around that also. Patience is more valuable than money in this hobby. I dont see how you can say that a 55 gallon tank would run $2750-$5500 minimum. I have a 55 gallon that I started for less than $1000, a good bit lees in fact. Granted that will not be a coral tank, but that is not what was asked. He asked what would it cost to set a sw tank up. As long as you are patient and interested, then I think you should go for it. Just be a saavy shopper. Get to know your LFS owner. Ask around. There are less expensive ways to have a beautiful marine tank to enjoy without having to be a pro or totally immersed in sw aquaria. Try and have a little fun, guys.
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Old 08-22-2003, 12:03 PM   #6
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BTW, it should NOT take 6 months to cycle a tank. More like 2-8 weeks. It DOES take a sw tank 6 months to become stable, but that is not what cycling is. Cycling builds your bacteria base to where it needs to be in order to handle the biological load of whatever may be in the tank.
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Old 08-22-2003, 12:48 PM   #7
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Im not trying to scare anyone off. if that was my goal would I have helped create such a site as this? Probably not. It was asked how much it would cost to start a sw aqaurium.

If one was to go from nothing to full saltwater setup in 1 day or 1 month then thats the kind of cash one would be expected to need. The larger the setup the less per gal the setups gonna cost to some degree. The upper range of that cost esitmate is for a full blown reef setup with live sand, live rock and corals and the high intensity lights needed.

If you build up your system over a year then the percived cost of the tank is less cause the costs are spread out over a longer time.
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Old 08-22-2003, 12:59 PM   #8
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Here is a topic started a while back with many responses as to what some people have spent to give you an idea of different setups and different costs.

As I said in my first post the type of setup you want is what is going to drive the costs. For a medium to large tank that is a reef its not uncommon to drop $500+ on lighting. For a medium system thats not going to be a reef then you dont need to spend any where near that on lighting. This is just one example of how the type of tank can affect the amount of $ spent.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/viewtopic.php?t=2811
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Old 08-22-2003, 01:26 PM   #9
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So for a simple FOWLR starting setup, I would need the following:

55 gal tank,
salt mix,
test kit (I don't know what I should be testing for though),
protein skimmer (I don't know how to size this),
argonite sand (4 inches),
60 lb dry rock (what type: old coral, lava rock?)
40 lb LR (do I add this before or after I cycle the tank?)
lights (I don't know what kind: assume it depends on critters)
filter (again, don't know the requirements)
550 gph power heads (minimum of 3?)

Would this get me started, or have I missed something (other than the fish)?

After the tank cycles and becomes stable, I would like to add a hermit crab or two.
Later I would like to add some clownfish, a tang, and an some angle fish (maybe).

Is the above setup reasonable for these fish?

Could the setup be converted to a reef tank sometime down the road? Could I just add a piece of coral if my water quality was good enough or would I have to remove the LR?



So many questions... I hope you guys can address them all.

Thanks for your help
If anybody has any rules of thumb for sizing the components, I'd love to hear them.
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Old 08-22-2003, 01:45 PM   #10
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Ok, it may or may not take $2,000 to start one, but, you have to consider, if you are going to do it right, do it right the first time... I have a 55 gal and I got the tank and stand for free. Right now, a year later, I can count at least $3,000 I have spent on it over time.. This would not have changed if I were to buy stuff all at once... So, this is not to scare anyone off. Everyone should know or should let anyone know, that to keep SW aquariums, it is double the cost of FW, if not, triple.

Lets do a breakdown...

55 gal Tank & Stand combo ( maybe find one for $199 on sale)
Canopy ( Maybe find one for $100)
Lights ( from $150 to $700) (Lets go with medium range and say $300)
Sump ( If chosen, DIY for $75 including overflow & 10 gal tank)(Prefab, $300) (Lets go with prefab $300)
LR ( Lets just say #45) ($199) (Without shipping $100)
Base Rock ( $60 HiRocks.com)
Sand ( If you find Southdown $5 per bag and at least 5 bags) (Carribsea Aragonite, 5 bags is going to be $200)
Powerheads X2 ( MaxiJet 1200 $50)

So, if you just go with the minimums,

$1,213.00 with Southdown sand
$1,408.00 with CarribSea Aragonite

This does not include Salt, Additives, Food, Fish, Inverts.....
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