04-05-2008, 12:48 PM
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When dealing with saltwater please be aware that it is very different than freshwater. Rule of thumb is the larger the tank the easier it is.
For under $600... that will be dependant on where you purchase your equipment. To set up a reef, nano or otherwise here is a list of things you can expect to need:
As large a tank as possible
good filtration and proper media according to water source, params, and waste levels
power head(s) (number and size will again depend on tank size and animals in it) Allow one extra power head for premixing saltwater in another container
hydrometer or refractometer
lighting according to tank size and animals in it
test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and calcium (these are not negotiable in saltwater... you can't do without any of these and when dealing with a reef tank, especially anything under 55 gallons, you may find you'll need others such as iodine, magnesium, etc)
RO/DI water supply if possible
and some type of container/bucket for premixing the saltwater
This is your basics... if you need more help beyond this... please feel free to ask. When working with a reef tank it is a good idea to use a sump (again, especially with a small tank) so that a skimmer can be used. Surface proteins can be a big problem right from the beginning.
For live sand and live rock should equal the number of gallons in the tank. If the tank is 30 gallons then 30 lbs of each would be needed.
Once you decide on tank size we can help you sort out lighting. Keep in mind again that the smaller the tank the more expensive it will be to maintain because more water changes will be needed, and some lights will heat the water... in a smaller tank this will be more extreme. RO or DI water are your safest bet to avoid phosphates.
I can't think of anything else off the top of my head... if I do, I'll come back and post it. All of the above is needed to keep a reef tank.