New Saltwater tank, bare minimum set up.

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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Jun 14, 2008
Hey guys I am new to the aquarium world. I just bought a 36g bow fish tank. It has all the stuff for freshwater, but freshwater fish are not really something I want. So what is the bare minimum I need to have 5 - 6 saltwater fish? I dont want corals or anything, and live rock is real expensive. I read live rock is not neccessary for a fish only tank. Is that true?

Anyway, this what I got so far -

Live Sand - 30 lbs.
Good filter (so I was told)
Light (came on the freshwater tank, seems really bright)
Cheap skimmer (ebay =[)
A saltwater starter kit - Red Sea Marine Salt Water Aquarium Starter Kit at PETCO
Tank w/ stand
A heater

Is that the bare minimum I need to have just a few saltwater fish for a small tank? I really am on a small budget. I got everything listed above for about $200 total with the tank and everything.

I was told this was a great site for information and I really appreciate all of your help!

P.S. How many fish do you think I could have in a set up like this? An inch per gallon like freshwater?
The inch per gallon rule is very different for saltwater. I think its around 5 gal per 1 in adult length but the inch per gallon rule is really not a good way to do things for salt. You will also need a way to get ro/di water. You can buy it at a LFS or get an ro/di unit. If you are on a tight budget you can get all base rock and it will just take longer to cycle your tank before you put your fish in. If you want 5-6 fish they would need to be small and you would need good filtration. Even then it may or may not be pushing it. Others will be able to help you out a bit more there. You may wanna get a refractometer. They are a little more expensive then a hydrometer but much more accurate and it would only take one dead fish from high or low SG because of a bad reading to pay for the difference if you wanna think about it that way. Its late and thats all i can think of right now.
Hello LoganCollins and welcome to the world of SW. First, IMO 5-6 fish in sw tank is really pushing it a bit. The flourescent light that came with the tank is probably not going to work for sw. I really scrimped on a protein skimmer and got just what I paid for.Junk. I now have Aqua Remora C. For a filter I not only have about 60 lbs of live rock in my 55g but I have a Marineland 350 pro. Must have good water flow whatever you decide to stock with so at least one #2,or #3 Koralia. You will need test kits for Nitrite,Nitrate,Ammonia, ph, hardness, alkalinity, phosphates. I use a hydrometer and have had no issues with specific gravity. Whatever you decide it is an absolute MUST to do nothing fast, especially stocking, and IMO whether you have corals or fish only live rock is the only way to go. One other thing, there are corals that do not require much more than fish and do not add to the bioload. Best advice I can give is read everything you can BEFORE buying to be sure you know what it's needs are or how well it has performed (equipment) for others. Hope this helps some. You have certainly made a big step in understanding/learning by coming here for answers. Good luck and keep us informed. Maybe even a pic diary on progress would be neat!
If you can't afford LR get some base rock and just a few pieces of LR on top of it. It will become LR during your cycle and color up over a period of months. You won't need much more than the light that came with the tank for just LR and coraline algae. This will give the tank a more natural look and give the fish the hiding space they need.
You will need a good filter system. What did you get (brand name and model) with your set up?
You do want to use RODI water. You can buy a unit in eBay for about $100 or slighty more.
Be sure to read the articles on this forum, especially the article on the fishless cycling.

You've come to the right place for help! As the finance department (a.k.a. Mom) for 2 of the members here, I totally understand the budget issues. We started with a 90 gallon for my youngest son and all became hooked! Some input:

* we didn't buy live sand; bought good quality argonite instead and cycled
* we bought base rock, a few "show" pieces of live rock and cycled the tank (takes longer but saves lots)
*buy a good skimmer up front; we didn't and had to replace within 6 months because ours was crap (recommended by lfs, listen to these guys instead)
* RO/DI unit was a great investment; oldest son bought ours on ebay for a good $
*probably don't need to worry about heater right now
*you can start out by just buying the couple test kits you'll need to cycle the tank (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) or make friends with guy at lfs and maybe they will test for free
*be patient! It took us about 6-8 weeks to get our tank properly cycled.
*we had basic compact lights to start; upgraded when $ allowed

By that time, you'll have more money saved. Initially you'll just add your cleaning crew. Have fun!
Welcome aboard. As far as the lighting if you are not going to have corals then your lighting you have now will be OK. What find of filter do you have? As stated above the BR is the cheaper way to go and will be a good source of biological filtration. Good luck and read the cycling article.
Welcome to the site!
I agree with the rest. Definitely look into base rock with a little bit of LR. LR is good in any tank as it provides hiding spaces and grazing areas for your fish.
IMO bare minimum (knowing that it will work but have it's own issues along the way). With respect to cost, bare minimum...

1) Liquid test kit
2) Filter (HOB, Can, LR); cheap way out is HOB
3) Refract
4) RO/DI (cheaper in the long run though you can use tap if you must).
5) Stock lights (best you can afford)
6) heater

This leaves you with a bare bottom tank, no live rock though you could put some decorative rock in there with a hang-on-back filter, tools to test your water and salinity. Will take awhile to cycle a setup like this and keep the water params good but it can be done.

Medium upgrade:
Add some 1-2 inches of sand (even HD sand)
Add some cured live rock

Better Upgrade

Argaonite sand (1-2 inches)
60 pounds of LR
decent HOB skimmer (~$100)
quality lights

IF the hobby takes hold you're gonna end up with the last category anyway.. Soooo it's just a matter of when and how soon you want to part with your hard earned money.

Once you're cycled, stop back for livestock recommendations but remember they'll be few and small fish in a tank that small. So don't get all goggly eyed over the tangs and triggers... just saying......
check craigslist for live rock. I always see it listed for $2-$5/pound and it is usually from an established tank. You can also find live sand for $1/pound too. It is a great money saver. :)
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