Newbie just starting up - need advice


New Member
Hey guys just signed up!
I have been keeping african cichlids my whole life, know the fw hobby inside and out - now I would like to learn the ins and outs of sw. I want to do a FOWLR tank to start. Then over time maybe do some upgrades.
I need some direction. I have done alot of research on what to do what to get and what to buy etc. but i get conflicting reports on the web, and with out knowing myself, or any one else personally who has a sw tank I dont know what to believe.
I am aware of the price tags here, and i dont want to cheap out or cut corners, however I want to keep costs as low as possible.
I have a 180g I want to start up. I have a 440 watt t5 ho lighting system which I am told would be sufficient, if i decide to do coral in the future for low - med light corals. So hopefully I am good there.
I am looking for base rock, since I am not in a hurry to have fish in it, I am gonna do something along the lines of 80% base rock 20% live rock. Hopefully I can find some one who is willing to sell some base cheaper then at the lfs. I have some one who comes highly recommended who will sell me some live rock for cheap (well cheaper then the lfs anyways)
The lfs is setting me up with the salt etc for the tank, which btw is not drilled so the skimmer etc has to be hob. I am not willing to drill the tank.
What do I do to propperly cycle a tank like this, and what does it look like. How do I know the tank is ready for fish?
now - Skimmers I seem to be kinda limited do to the hob and large tank. I have found 2 diff ones I like (and if any one has a good one they could sell let me know) one is the coral life for 220g. (read good and bad reviews, any one have personal experience?) and then this one, which I cant find ALOT of reviews, but the ones I find are all good, and appearantly this is a pretty popular hob skimmer...... Its the Aqua Medic Turboflotor Multi SL.

I also wonder about refractometers should I buy the $65 one at the local fish store which is guaranteed, or one brand new on ebay from hong kong for $35, shipping included? I guess what I am asking is since I know the importance of a refractometer, are they all the same? or are some shit?
I am not worried about what fish I want at this point. I will decide that once my tank is ready for fish. I will be choosing "beginner" fish.
I was told aragonite is the most popular substrate and the way to go... true? I used dolomite in my cichlid tanks and got it at a fraction of the price from kenroc as opposed to the lfs, I suppose I could do the same with arogonite?
thanks for reading my novel lol. all hints tips, and advice is greatly appreciated.


Staff member
jbjack: Welcome to! I apologize for the delay in your topic being posted. Just to let you know, our site is also a store so we don't let links or discussions to other stores occur here. I've removed a link and replaced it with a picture of the skimmer you are considering.
I am going to move your topic over to our Equipment Forum where I think you will get some good input.


I'm no pro but I have that same skimmer and it does a fine job for me. Only down side is that the return pump only likes to be submerged by 1-2", not a huge deal but it took me a minute to figure that out.
Also, I know you don't want to drill but I would highly recommend a sump set up. You can always buy and overflow kit and avoid the drilling but the extra space from the sump is priceless.