While there are thousands articles available online and numerous of threads (and stickies) right here in this forum where newbies can gather much of the information they need to get started, I thought it might be helpful to start a series of threads that will hopefully help AC members looking to move into the addictive world of saltwater/reef keeping. My hope is to keep the lingo and the concepts simple and leave the more technical aspects of the hobby to the wide range of references that already exist out there. I do tend to ramble myself so hopefully I can stay on topic! I hope that everyone finds these threads useful and that others will chime in with their own thoughts and experiences. First off, I just want to say that owning a saltwater tank can be one of the most rewarding experiences an animal lover or natural science geeks (like myself) can have. The fact that we can contain and observe marine life and the many symbiotic relationships that exist in nature is truly a privilege and one that should not be taken for granted. Keeping a marine tank can sometimes be a challenge. Those challenges might occur right up front while the tank is cycling or they may present themselves off and on down the road. Additionally, these challenges can sometimes come with a financial cost. Even a 75% emergency water change can run you upwards of $30 in salt mix depending on the overall volume of your system. If you are not the type of person that is willing to take on those challenges in order to provide a proper environment, a marine tank may not be right for you. Obsessive compulsive people are perfect for this hobby! The above kind of ties into the overall cost of to start a marine tank. Next to “what is this thing on my new live rock?” one of the most common questions I see all over the internet is “so how much is this all gonna cost me?”. Unfortunately, the most common response to that question is “it depends”. Saltwater tanks can be incredibly simple or fairly complex when it comes to the equipment one uses to support their tank. Besides obvious things like getting a steal off craigslist versus buying a brand new system from your LFS, the cost of the system really boils down to the animals that a hobbyist wishes to keep. There are so many animals we can choose from, all with varying requirements, and it is often quite difficult to provide an environment that will ensure every animal’s long-term survival. While you don’t have to lock in a stock list, it is highly beneficial to decide a rough direction you want your tank to go before you start to compile your equipment. Having a general idea of what livestock interests you should also help to save you some money by preventing quick upgrades to things like pumps, powerheads, filtration and lighting. Maybe you know you want a fish only tank with live rock (FOWLR)? Maybe a reef? Or possibly a species tank like a clownfish/anemone display? Either way, knowing this going into the purchase phase will payout huge down the road. Once you decide the tanks direction, the next thing to do is to research what those animals need to not just survive but also thrive in captivity. I find it very helpful to not only look for this information on forums like AC but also to see what I can find on the animal’s behavior in the wild. For example, knowing that you have selected corals that are naturally found in shallow water gives you a pretty good idea that those corals like high light and probably get a fair amount of water flow. Just google it, it’s out there somewhere I promise you!