Salt tank beginner on a budget


New member
This is an existing 46 gallon bowfront cichlid tank. Decided to do a fish only tank on a budget.

Here is what I have in cart on Amazon to purchase, haven't hit the order button yet:

NICREW Saltwater Aquarium Light, Marine LED Fish Tank Light for Coral Reef Tanks, 2-Channel Timer Included, 30 to 36-Inch, 32-Watt $50

Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater 300W-Fish Tahk Heater with Adjust Knob Thermostat 2 Suction Cups Suitable for Marine Reef Fish Tank $23

Marineland PF0350B Penguin Power Filter, Upto 75 Gallons, 350 GPH

Instant Ocean Reef CrystInstant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt For 25 Gallons, Enriched Formulation For aquariInstant Ocean Reef Crystumsals Reef Salt For 25 Gallons, Enriched Formulation For aquariums

Any thoughts or anything you'd switch out that is close in cost..?


Well-known member
I'd buy more salt, not only to cover what-ifs during set up but for water changes down the road.

The HOB filter does not appear to include extra media cartridges in the price; with them, it's nearing $50 and will require ongoing purchases.

I'd go the live rock/water change route, but that's a preference. Good luck!


New member
Is cheaper to get 50lb salt from the start, you will end up needing more.
For Heater I think 300w is overkill for 46 gallon, maybe better to get 2x 100 watt if one goes bad at least the other still works.
If you are serious about the hobby probably better to buy a RODI system if you don't have one. Buying water from LFS will add up.

That's my opinion because I am also new and I want to do a budget build too but eventually everything adds up and this hobby is not cheap haha. Those are the mistakes I made and don't want you to go down that path.

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New member
I personally recommend ditching the HOB filter and trying to buy a used skimmer or just more salt for water changes.

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Michael Hoaster

Registered Seaweedist
Premium Member
Looks good to me, phishman1.

I prefer a canister filter over a power filter, but you're on a budget. Instant Ocean is fine. You don't need Reef Crystals for fish only.

Are you adding sand and rocks? You should. These will provide lots of surface area for the 'good bacteria' to colonize, and do the lion's share of the filtration. It'll take a month or two to cycle. If you can afford it, get at least one live rock. It will speed up the cycle and bring diversity to the tank and biological filter.


New member

Thanks for the post, Boulder, Colorado I see, spent years and years around the USAF Academy area, worked in admissions, miss it tremendously. Was a runner back then, ran the Bolder Boulder many times, wonder if they still run it.

Back to the tank set up, yes plan to do three pieces of live rock, plus some decorative plain rock from my LFS, and yes live sand. Will purchase bacteria to add to tank plus getting a " jump start" from a friend, some of his substrate to add as well. Some are saying ditch the penguin bio wheel for a Hagen but I keep reading where the bio wheel if you are using a HOB filter is good because of the bacteria factor...what would you say?

Michael Hoaster

Registered Seaweedist
Premium Member
I moved here 20 years ago, from Jax Beach, where I surfed and fished for redfish and flounder. They still run the Bolder Boulder, except for 2020. Right now, we're sweating out a couple of wildfires in the neighborhood. In Jax Beach, we sweated out hurricanes.

The huge surface area of sand and rock dwarfs the capacity of a hang on filter. So it's best use is to provide water movement, and a place to put media for specific needs. For example, you may want to run charcoal in it to clear up the water, or GFO to soak up Phosphate. So don't worry about the bacteria factor. You want one that moves a lot of water and has room to add various media, which is often just a mesh bag of charcoal.


New member
Loved in DAytona now...

Listen, Just found out i can purchase buckets with lids from firehouse, they were used for pickles....can these be washed out and used for salt water making or RO water etc from LFS?

Michael Hoaster

Registered Seaweedist
Premium Member
I think you could wash them out for aquarium use. But if they aren't free, I'd look at the price of new ones from home depot or the like.