12-08-2008, 12:44 AM
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As others have said, saltwater is much, much more expensive than freshwater and requires a lot more research in order to be successful. I, too, recommend starting with fresh. Also, for practical reasons, 55 gallon tanks make poor saltwater tanks as they're tall and long but not very deep front to back so can be a pain to set up live rock in.
So if you're going freshwater, no matter what you're stocking the tank with, you're going to want to cycle it first. I strongly recommend reading up on the aquarium cycle and doing a fishless cycle on the tank.
Supplies you'll need:
-A good liquid test kit, like the API Freshwater Master Test Kit
-The tank and a stand
-A glass canopy
-Lighting (how much you spend here depends on whether or not you're interested in keeping live plants, and what sorts of plants you want)
-Heaters (two 250 watt heaters would be great)
-Filters (what you get really depends on what you plan on keeping - lightly stocked tanks need less filtration, messy fish or a lot of fish needs more)
-Food (going to depend greatly on the type of fish)
-A large bucket for water changes
-Water conditioner (AquaSafe or Prime are good choices)
-Thermometer (the floating glass type is fine)
-Substrate (aquarium gravel, crushed coral, sand...the choices are aesthetic in nature but also depend on the fish you want)
-Decor (do you want live plants? Do you want a natural look with driftwood, rocks and plants or do you like the resin decorations for sale at stores?)
That's about all I can think of for now. Get the supplies that you'll need no matter what, come up with a stocking plan for the tank, get the rest of the supplies and start the fishless cycle.