Jon, welcome to Aquarium Advice - and you're a "neighbor" too!
To try & best answer your question:
can I set up my tank and cycle it with a couple fish and the live rock right off the bat? or should I cycle it and once it is established add the live rock as an after though?
, the best way to cycle a tank is with uncured LR
. Cycling with fish is not only pretty cruel, but not necessary.
I don't have a lot of personal experience with FO
systems, but if I were going to have one, I would probably do FOWLR
for sure. LR
is not only a great biological filter, but also creates a great natural environment for the fish.
Here's a great article found here on AA: >>How to cycle your tank with out the use of fish.<<