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$200 to spend


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Ive been wanting a reef aquarium for a while, and have been researching for a few months now. I have 200 bucks to spend i got for my bday, and was thinking what size aquarium would be good to start with. I dont want to surpass the 200 on the equipment. (ie - excluding coral, and fish)


I was thinking along the lines of 2.5 to 5.5g. A low maintenance 10g wont cut it correct?

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At the risk of sounding like a jerk, you might want to keep reading and saving for a few more years before you jump into this hobby.


I have spent upwards of $1000 to get my 10g up and running.


I just don't really see how you can set up a reef for $200 or less.


Maybe a FOWLR, but probably not a mixed tank.


Just my opinion.


See this thread for the costs some folks have incurred:




Of course, if you already have some of the equipment, or if you have someone who is willing to donate it to you, this might be possible.



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Well. I guess i already have some circultaton (whisper 20) from FW, Curly compact flourescent mounts, reflector, wood for building stand and hood, 100W heater (too much for 2.5/5.5 though), playsand (for base sand; will seed with LS), adn some test kits.

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I stand corrected. My current spending is at $765. Really 700 if you get rid of the HOB Fuge once the sump/fuge is setup. My Equipment list is:


Tank: Free

False Percula: Free

Stand: $40

Heater: $15

Southdown/Macro/Snails: $20

Custom HOB Fuge: $55

Salifert Test Kits: $80

Refractometer: $35

Food/Salt/Etc: $55

Powerheads: $35

LR: $50

Remora Skimmer (Used): $100

Jalli T5 HO Lighting (Demo): $125

Medical Pump Dripper/Auto TopOff (Used): $50

Pump/Tank/Lights for sump/Fuge (All Used): $75

Overflow: $30


That puts me ~$765. And most of that was second hand or DIY purchases.


Yet to buy:

Iceprobe Chiller w/ Controller ($140)

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one things' for certain, you're going to need a lot more than $200 to get something that you're "proud" of, but it doesn't hurt to try.

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Originally posted by M0E

A low maintenance 10g


Tank: $10

False Percula: $15

Stand: $0 - unnecessary

Heater: $15

Southdown/Macro/Snails: $20

Custom HOB Fuge: $0 - unnecessary

Salifert Test Kits: $0 - unnecessary

Refractometer: $0 - unnecessary

Food/Salt/Etc: $55

Powerheads: $35

LR: $50

Remora Skimmer (Used): $0 - unnecessary

2x36 drs-fs light $40

Medical Pump Dripper/Auto TopOff (Used): $0 - unnecessary

Pump/Tank/Lights for sump/Fuge (All Used): $0 - unnecessary

Overflow: $0 - unnecessary




top off by hand

buy premixed sw

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Clearly you could do this on more of a budget than I have, but I still think $200 is tough.


Figure $75 - 100 for adequate lighting.

$50 - 75 or so for test kits/refractometer/salt/food

$20 for the tank.


You have already spent $145 - $195 without LR, LS, water movement, heater, livestock etc.


Just my thoughts...

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I think a 2.5g is possible, but you'll need to meet some fellow reefers and DIY some stuff.


ahsupply's 2x13w bright kit is great for $15. It comes with 2 ballasts and 2 endcaps. You will also need 2 bulbs for ~$6 each. DIY the reflectors to save money.


Build yourself a canopy - that's under $10


Get some sand from local reefers - people with larger reefs will likely be more willing to give some that someone with a nano, for obvious reasons.


Skimmer is not a necessity, but makes thisng easier. That can always be added later.

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Hmmmmm. Here's my smaller tank set up. As you can see, it is not that hard to stay under $200 for a small tank but you will be limited as to what kinds of critters you want to maintain in such a small eco system. The amount of money I have spent in total for my set up does exceed your financial ceiling, but that's due on account of what I decided to put in the tank after it was set up and cycled. As long as I avoid fish in this tank....all good.


2.5 gallon glass tank............................$10

One 3lb live rock...................................$30

10lbs of live sand..................................$20

Mini Jet 404...........................................$12

TC Heater..............................................$12

Foster/Smith 18 watt PC Canopy..........$35



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its going to be tough to build one on 200 dollars,it may be possible but I don't know how it will be, i'd say save some more money and keep researching, not trying to put down your hopes, but it costs alot of money to maintain the tank as well. I have a 10 that is getting upgraded to a 60 this weekend. good luck, and if you ahve any quesions let me know...

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Refractometer: $0 - unnecessary
Huh? I'd say a hydrometer or refractometer is very necessary...



top off by hand

buy premixed sw

Nevermind... didn't see this...

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don't get me wrong, i use an acquamarine refractometer. but, if you top off and use premixed water, you theoretically would never need to use a hydrometer or refractometer.


e.g. gil's famous low maint. minibow

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Well, for $200 you can get a really nice RO/DI unit or a light and some test kits. To be honest with you I would not attempt setting up a nano with a budget like that. You most likely will be missing a lot of equipment and other useful things for running a nano. This in turn will lead to frustration and possibly some dead animals.

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You don't have to spend a small fortune to get started on a reef. I'm not saying that cilantro72's equipment isn't nice, but unless your planning on SPS and other high demanding creatures (or maybe you just have a thing for using the "best" equipment you can supply for your animals, which is a good thing), you can ditch alot of the equipment. So, heres the specs on a 5.5 I set up at my gf's house:


tank=$5 from goodwill (yeah I know, I feel bad about depriving some poor kid from keeping goldfish, but I guess I have no shame)


light=drfostersmith single pc- $29.59 (i'd recomend you buy the double 2x36 for $37.59, the bulbs that come with it will get you through the "cycle" period of the tank, then when you start getting more colorful specimens you can swap out the bulbs for something bluer)


sand= (1) 10 dollar bag at petco (the small bag is enough) or you can do without it completely


LR=2-4 bucks a pound, depends on where you go. I spent about 15 bucks on this.


powerheads=6.99 @ harbor frieght, I used 2


heater=crapalina titanium from PSL=14.99


cleanup crew= cerith snails, 15 for $25 bucks (theres also a good source for cheap snails in the classified section here)


refractometer= crappy one- 10 bucks


5 gallon water jug- 10 bucks


skimmer= none


fuge=haha, none






total=141.56 plus shipping charges on some of the items.


I simply use the method described on this site. Constant water changes. I don't even bother testing it or anything (maybe I'm just lazy that way, but if I'm constantly changing water I don't see a point in testing). I also use water from the LFS, wich is normally catalina water or "scripps" or some locally collected joint. This has worked out great for keeping softies. Just keep it simple and do alot of water changes (once your tank has cycled of course.)

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I have been pretty frugal and have spent a lot more than $200 on my 5.5.


Tank $12

Stand/Hood (won't count because he already has materials, but I probably spent $25 on wood, paint, etd.)

heater $15

Lighting $30 (cheap screw in 50/50s and sockets)

AC300 $25

Powerhead $10

Salt $25

Mixing bucket $5

Mixing powerhead $10

Mixing heater $15

Test Kits $50 (Seachem, not the most $$ but not the cheapest)

Refractometer $40 ($10 for a hydrometer, but it sucks!)

Sand $15

Live Rock $50 (picked up from Premium Aquatics, no shipping)


So far that is $302. $207 if you don't mix your own salt. You need test kits whether or not you are mixing your own salt.


Other stuff I have bought


Skimmer $50 (used)

grounding probe $10 (a VERY good idea to have!)

pH controller $100 (actually already had it)

Set up a sump/fuge DIY for about $60 (excluding pump)

LR for sump $10

I am sure I am forgetting stuff!


I am sure I have spent WAY more than that because there are just tons of $3-$5 items that you pick up here and there... like algae scrapers, thermometers, hoses, turkey basters, additives, etc. You will tinker with it and spend little bits of money at the HD, Lowes, and the LFS and it ends up adding up to hundreds of dollars. If I kept every receipt and knew exactly how much I have spent... my wife would kill me.


I think it would be fine to set a target budget, but don't do it unless you can afford to have unexpected expenses... they WILL happen!

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Originally posted by cilantro72

Clearly you could do this on more of a budget than I have, but I still think $200 is tough.


Figure $75 - 100 for adequate lighting.

$50 - 75 or so for test kits/refractometer/salt/food

$20 for the tank.


You have already spent $145 - $195 without LR, LS, water movement,  heater, livestock etc.


Just my thoughts...


Cilantro, i dont think a 2.5 or 5.5 needs $75-100 of lighting. I think your over exxagerating on some of the prices. I dont know where you bought all your supplies, but even a 10g costs $10 here.


And i may already have the water movement, i have a few kg of playsand that will be seeded with free LS (so no cost for substrate), plus i said not to include the livestock...just equipment and LR.


Got any pics of your setup?

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Lighting is based on what you want to keep. If you want an ultra maxima clam, expect to shell out some cash for some halides. Just a hermit crab and an anthelia, I bet a normal output flourescent would suffice.

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I thought I was being pretty reasonable on my prices.


I may have over estimated on the cost of the tank, but that is because mine was given to me.


While you don't NEED $75 - $100 of lighting over a 2.5 or a 5.5, if you want to keep much more than the most basic corals, I suspect you will be quickly approaching that amount.


I admit that my estimation skills are probably not very good for a 2.5 - 5.5 gallon tank since my tank is a 10.

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As much as I hate to say it, wait till the deluxe nano-cube comes out. It will run around $200 and have everything to need as far as dry goods are concerned.

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