Yes salt water is different but a lot of your freshwater experience will benefit you .
So, our question are: is it necessary for SW tanks to have a sump, or would a canister filter work on a small tank?; is it better to buy pre-mixed water, or to mix your own?; is tank maintenance done
No it is not necessary to have a sump , you can get by with a simple hob
canisters are basically nitrate traps unless cleaned frequently ,
is it better to buy pre-mixed water, or to mix your own?
depending on your water quality you can purchase a small RO
unit to mix your own ,
if you have a local pet store that sells premixed you can also go that way.
is tank maintenance done basically the same way as FW? is live rock necessary?;
yes maintenance is basically the same ,
you don't have to start out with live rock , you can buy dry base rock it will become live over time . the rocks serve several purposes
1) gives fish a place to hid
2) acts like a natural filtration
3) holds the beneficial bacteria
what types of small, colorful fish/invertebrates are good for inexperienced keepers? My wife really likes a red/white striped shrimp that we see at all the LFS in the area, but I can't remember what it's called. I like firefish (gobies?), Blue-green Chromis, and a couple others.
here is a good start to find beginner starter fish
make sure the fish you are looking at are compatible to your tank size.
always remember don't over stock saltwater don't follow that fw
tale of inch per fish ,
avoid damsels at all costs they are little devils,
Cycle your salt tank - Aquarium Advice