Originally Posted by Freddy
The LFS guy said I only need a protein skimmer for a reef tank. He said I only need salt mix and live rock for a fish only tank. Do I need a protein skimmer for a fish only tank?
I wanted to address this portion of the question specifically. Lets pretend the situation is reversed and I said to the LFS guy that I want to set up a freshwater tank but not spend much money. Then he says to me, "you can do a 90 gallon freshwater tank for very little money, you don't even need a filter on a tank of that size."
Is he telling the truth? The answer depends on what I want to keep. Suppose I only want to keep a school of 12 White Clouds along with some live plants. In this case, he is correct, but it sure would be a waste of a 90 gallon aquarium in my opinion.
This is the same situation. Can you do a 90 gallon saltwater tank without a protein skimmer. Sure. If you just want to keep a very small number of very small fish, you will be fine. You could add 40 pounds of dry rock, a power head, keep your existing sand, and change 10 gallons of water per month. This would be sufficient to keep 3 or 4 small fish the size of a Clownfish. Essentially, you could have a saltwater tank for about $200.
The problem lies in human nature. When I say "3 or 4 small fish", I really mean it. To suggest that a protein skimmer is not needed would be to defeat the entire purpose of setting up a tank to begin with, which is to actually keep some fish. The skimmer is what makes the marine side of the hobby enjoyable. It DRAMATICALLY reduces (eliminates?) water changes. It helps stabilize alkalinity, calcium, and pH. Basically, it maintains the water quality in such a way that we can keep a number of fish that make us enjoy the hobby.
For the record, I do think this is an expensive hobby. But if you are willing to utilize the internet and have some self control about the types of livestock you purchase, it does not have to be as expensive as this thread makes it sound. You can buy 80 pounds of dry rock and 80 pounds of sand for $240 from Marco Rocks The finest aquarium rock available, base rock, live rock, reef rock, marco rock, reef tank saltwater fish, live corals, Marco rocks, Fiji live rock, Tonga Live rock
. Throw in about 10 pounds of live rock and you are set. My 180 was set up this way with outstanding results. You can buy a decent hang on skimmer, eliminating the need for a sump, overflow, and return pump. A decent skimmer will cost you a couple hundred dollars online.
Throw in test kits, supplements, and salt mix and for about $600 - $700 or so you can convert to saltwater.
By the way, I assumed that your sand is not saltwater compatible. We use a reef grade aragonite sand and I can't imagine any situation where you would have put that type sand in a freshwater tank.