Originally Posted by GregV
well, My personal favorite is the Koran Angel (sp?) (but I also like Manderin fish i know these are impossible to handle for a beginner) and I know that most angel fish are not for reefs. I also hear fish only tanks might be easier to manage and my be a little less expensive for a beginner, so that is what im leaning towards. Right now I have a 55 that i could use for a fish only tank, or I could get a good deal on a drilled 90 gallon with sump, but i dont know if this is required for fish only.
so what do you think is the easiest option for starting up is?
Well, I can surely say that working with the 90 and sump will be much easier and more rewarding for you in the end, especially if the fish you are liking are angels and other large fish. Realistically, in a 55, there is only room for maybe 1 - 2 medium sized fish and 1 - 2 small fish (that stay small) and some inverts. Part of the problem with a 55 is the width from front to back... there isn't much real space there.
You are correct about the mandarin not being for beginners. The problem with the mandarin is that they need a well established tank with plenty of natural food source. Mandarins are difficult to feed, and if the tank is too new, the food source quickly disappears and the fish starves to death.
A reef tank does not have to be much more difficult than a fish only system, again, it depends on the species you choose and what you are willing to invest in it.
With reef tank you surely want to use a sand substrate, with fish only you have the choice between sand and crushed coral. I prefer to stick to arragonite sand with the fish only systems too, as it leaves more options for what fish will work and makes it much easier for changing over to reef in the future. Another benefit of the sand is in filtration. The crushed coral can't offer the amount of biological filtration the sand will, so the work load on your part increases with the use of coral.
For a fish only system, 55 - 90 gallons, expect to need:
salt, hydrometer, power heads, filtration, live rock, arragonite sand, heater (or chiller, depending on what fish you desire... the koran would require trocial, thus a heater), skimmer, UV Sterilizer (optional but strongly suggested), thermometer, test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH & calcium, good tight cover for the fish (yes, they jump plenty), a standard type of light fixture, a steady supply of RO/DI water, and a seperate container/vat for premixing your saltwater for water changes.
If deciding on reef, I would add to that list with: magnesium test kit, stronger lighting (gauged by the animals you keep and their needs), possibly a refugium, and different types of fish (koran angel would likely wreak havoc in a reef situation, though the fish would enjoy it), and again depending on the animals you keep, sometimes additives such as iodine, calcium, essential elements, etc
I hope this helps to give you an idea about what is needed just to get started. The other most important thinig in saltwater is patience! The supplies and information won't help much if you try to rush things or have issues with impulse buying. Many a fish keeper has learned that the hard way, which can cost a lot of money and a lot of frustration/stress. If you wish to persue starting a saltwater tank, let us know and we can guide you through 1 step at a time. When you start saltwater, the first few steps have to be done in specfic order to preserve your bacteria in the sand and rock. Plan carefully first, that will make a huge difference later.