Welcome Jay! There are definitely a lot of great people with lots of good information on these forums so you're in the right spot! If I can steal a line from Tidal Gardens, "lighting is a loaded topic". You're going to get lots of recommendations from lots of people. The biggest questions you have to ask are: what do you want to grow; LED, MH, T5; how much do you want to spend; controller, built-in ramp timer, or just on/off; and tank mount or suspended. There are lots of other considerations but answering those will narrow things down quite a bit.
Hi Jay and Welcome! Glad you joined. Thank you for your service.
Have you considered starting your build thread? I found its a great place to document my tank's evolution for myself. I started tank first then joined, so I'm still finding myself going back collecting pictures & updating historically as well as current state. Once you create your first post in your thread and link it to your account, they will give you build badge (look left, under my ID). It sounds like you've set a good, thoughtful path for yourself, situation and tank (and I agree lighting can lag behind... many buy light only to not turn on for weeks+)
This might help you find people local to you in N.VA and Washington DC:
Looking for some locals to share frags and info with? This is the place! Find a local club that meets in your area! If you want to add your club just contact us.www.reef2reef.com
This is a good reference book type online article I still review:
This article was sponsored by @MarineDepot at www.marinedepot.com. Introduction The marine environment is one of the most complex systems on the planet. The aquarium you are about to set up is only a tiny sliver of the vast ocean, but it is no...www.reef2reef.com
Welcome to Reef2Reef Jay! I started in the hobby with a 20 gallon reef tank and man was it a journey. If your going to be moving every few years I recommend getting an AIO system (All In One). RedSea and Waterbox Aquariums offer some wonderful tanks. I now have a RedSea 350 (90 total gallons) so I'm a little biased.
AIO tanks eliminate having a sump which make transport much easier when you move and reduces complexity and equipment. On my 20 gallon I had a HOB filter and no protein skimmer. The more water volume the easier to keep which is why AIOs are intriguing when you will be moving.
Overall, routine maintenance along with research and patience will be your friend in the hobby.
Here is a link to a post I made about my 20 gallon long so you can see some progression pictures over 2 years before I upgraded.
Lots of brands that will fit that bill for sure. I love @noopsyche (as do several others on this forum).Thanks! yeah for lighting I would like something that I can keep beginner coral with, has settings so it can automatically go from dark to light and in between. My footprint is about 16inches at the Bow and 24 inches across so not a huge footprint. Lighting is important and I can see you can spend a lot of money on it but I'm hoping to keep it at or under $300. I could probably suspend something but would much prefer something I can mount over the tank with a bracket opposed to hang from the ceiling. Ill probably post a build thread and ask for advice in there, yours is appreciated!