Where are y'all getting your money from?

danieyella

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No kids, no more student loan or car debt. Our only real debt is the mortgage.

I didn't spend much at all while I was still paying all that down - I took all tank purchases very slowly. I recently (this month) realized I've spent WAY more on my tanks with much more frequency since paying those off and have reigned myself back in.
 

btackerman

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So I have a 400 gallon tank and my job funds my hobby 50k a yr. I do have a young child at home but I did sacrifice on my tank that it is acrylic. I also have a diy stand and canopy that cost $200 to build. I had worked hard and dropped $2500 on the tank rock fish and sand. I would have to say I go to one of the most honest retailers I have ever met. Great prices on fish ( example blonde naso tang 4” was $70). He did not mark up due to it being a mistake fish for him. Also he won’t sell you anything that could damage your tank and will be a waste of money. Also advised me purchase a rodi unit and make my own water, it would be stupid to purchase from him. But ultimately I have fish that are over7 yrs old and one that is 15. Do not cut costs on what is important but remember that livestock fluxes so do not settle for a price just wait.

pics below are of my tank, last 2 the rock work is different but shows the stand and canopy

CD4535FA-AA89-4843-80C0-38C74359E714.jpeg 691AE5B2-1C39-4A23-BAD0-F6D65143DC4F.jpeg 69BD3391-A22D-4BEF-AFC7-A19520A05EF5.jpeg
 

Indytraveler83

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Could you elaborate on the light you use please?
I use a pair of viparspectra 165 watt lights that can be found on Amazon for $120 each over a standard 90 gallon system. I can't speak for their effectiveness with sps, but softies and lps grow just fine with them at well under 50% power (mine have to sit low, so I run them at 25%).

They don't have any fancy features, but you can tune the power for both blue and white spectrums and set timers for both as well. A lot of budget reefers use either them or a similar product by MarsAqua ($130 on Amazon).
 

Aquatican

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Great thread!

Have wondered the same thing many times. Honestly, it sometimes ticks me off seeing Youtubers with all the latest and greatest on their tanks and making themselves the poster child for how to run a successful reef tank. Like seriously, do you even test? Oh yeah, you don't, you've the Trident.

It sucks being stuck in nano-mode, but the realities of family responsibilities and an income under 85K means that my fish cost less than $20 and corals are almost all under $50. My current gear is modest and my over-a-year-in-the-works upgrade will be the same, run with used or cheap Chinese stuff. Would love some fancy high-end coral, a controller, calcium reactor, automated testing, etc., but at the end of the day, I'm still missing the hen that lays golden eggs and I don't have a sugar mamma. Mind you, as expensive as this hobby is, it is an amazing hobby and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I just wish companies could find a way to make it a little less expensive.
 

Ranjib

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Ok, I get it. Be a doctor/lawyer/engineer/software engineer, and make the big bucks to be able to send your kids to Ivy Leagues, have a nice car, AND get an awesome fish tank or 10 out of it.

But for the all of the 5 figure and under people (let's say the cutoff is 85K), how are you doing it? Do you just like...not have kids or something? Is there a trick to all the splurging you're able to do? Are there a bunch of low cost of living areas that I'm just not aware of/don't want to move to?

I keep seeing "I just bought this 200/300/1600 gallon [RedSea/Waterbox/expensive brand] aquarium and what do I do with it" posts, and I'm just...confused...do you just have this money lying around??

I guess I'm mostly just asking because my estimated yearly earnings is currently somewhere at around 40K in a high cost of living area once the job hiring starts again. Which means very little disposable income (bye bye avocado toast, I'll miss you, but aquariums gotta aquarium).
Im running 3 tanks that cost less than 20$ a month and two of them are under 400$. They are pico tanks. They do use quality equipment (kessil A80s). They give me immense joy and relatively less time consuming. I also built a controller to keep the whole thing affordable. You wont need most expensive stuff and have to compromise for a lot of things (go for the second best). But you can still build a stellar tank in relatively less cost. Remember to avoid most hyped stuff, keep it bare bone, simple and build it over a period of 1-2 years. You dont need everything at the very beginning. I know numerous tanks that are over complicated, loaded with expensive things and have not stabilized. Their build thread shows perpetual instability.

Perseverance and ability to control impetus buying is key for affordable reef keeping.

In a tangential note, i'll tell you after reef keeping for 4 years, now i regularly throw corals in the garbage. You are more than likely to find folks from local community who will help you out. So thats another thing to remember, stay connected to your local community, be vulnerable and be humble.

Hope this help,
 

robbyg

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I read somewhere that the Average Reef Tank owner has about $13,000 invested in their systems.
That figure blew me away but in truth I think I have probably spent that or more over the years.
I am not rich but I have acquired most of my equipment over a period of several years. I am also baffled by the people who seem to be able to plunk down $30K on a huge tank system and not even break a sweat. I suspect that this hobby is probably filled with many people who are pretty well off.
The reality is that Money is only a very small part of the equation unless you have so much of it that you can hire a full time service company. For most people they are much better off starting small and learning and expanding as the years go by.
 

Indytraveler83

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Looking at some of the recent responses, I also just wanted to add this:

A reef tank with $20 fish and $30 coral is no less of a tank than one with $500 fish and $1,000 coral. It can be easy to get caught up in the rare and latest trends, but you can also still have beautiful and amazing livestock for far less.

My $20 bangaii Cardinals, my $18 zebra barred dartfish and my $60 yellow tang are all gorgeous animals. They are brightly colored reef fish, and in the end, that's the idea right? Who cares if they aren't rare or unusual. They are the only things that look like that in my house, so isn't that all that matters?

I've got some gorgeous rfa's that cost me $10-20 each and some really cool zoas that I paid $8 for. Not a single animal or coral in my tank was more than $100, and the few I paid that much for were rare instances that I saved up. Most livestock in my tank cost under $30.
 

GlassMunky

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Ok, I get it. Be a doctor/lawyer/engineer/software engineer, and make the big bucks to be able to send your kids to Ivy Leagues, have a nice car, AND get an awesome fish tank or 10 out of it.

But for the all of the 5 figure and under people (let's say the cutoff is 85K), how are you doing it? Do you just like...not have kids or something? Is there a trick to all the splurging you're able to do? Are there a bunch of low cost of living areas that I'm just not aware of/don't want to move to?

I keep seeing "I just bought this 200/300/1600 gallon [RedSea/Waterbox/expensive brand] aquarium and what do I do with it" posts, and I'm just...confused...do you just have this money lying around??

I guess I'm mostly just asking because my estimated yearly earnings is currently somewhere at around 40K in a high cost of living area once the job hiring starts again. Which means very little disposable income (bye bye avocado toast, I'll miss you, but aquariums gotta aquarium).
Dual Income No Kids is the way to be....:cool:
 

scott11106

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work hard and budget your money and just like anything else in life you will make it happen. This is most definitely a hobby that is more expensive than others but it can be done on a budget or not. lets look at reality, Starbucks coffee is about 7.00 x 365 = $2555.00 per year, a beer at a local bar is 4.00, a mixed drink 8.00 and lets not discuss getting fast food vs cooking a healthy meal can save hundreds a week for a family (and save medical bills..lol). right there could buy a nice used setup and mantence .

just my 2 cents....
 

Dr. Dendrostein

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IDK, i live in Australia, everything is imported and price wise after duties and taxes seems expensive.
Buy the best you can AFFORD, which also means buying good used condition when applicable, but i don't have Radeons and the like, but watch the new black box comparison on BRS, i do have Vipars.

I do work full time, cost of living in Australia is not cheap and i have a mortgage etc.
I buy Gold, Silver and Rhodium when the prices are down, this cycle sometimes takes years so patience needs to be exercised and i sell when the price peaks. Its not hard really, just be smart with your chosen way of boosting personal wealth.
Oh and i don't have kids any longer that i am paying child support for, which increases my monthly income over 25% but my tax bracket is still 25%, so a year ago i was living on literally half of what i was earning but i still managed to buy my precious metals. And i do not drink, while cheaper in the USA its outrageous here in Australia, so its all about personal discipline, budgeting and management.
I remember when Rhodium was $5000 an ounce. Used alot as catylis to make gasoline as such...
 
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Indytraveler83

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work hard and budget your money and just like anything else in life you will make it happen. This is most definitely a hobby that is more expensive than others but it can be done on a budget or not. lets look at reality, Starbucks coffee is about 7.00 x 365 = $2555.00 per year, a beer at a local bar is 4.00, a mixed drink 8.00 and lets not discuss getting fast food vs cooking a healthy meal can save hundreds a week for a family (and save medical bills..lol). right there could buy a nice used setup and mantence .

just my 2 cents....
I was just thinking about that too. I rarely eat out, while my parents spend $200 or more per month at restaurants. In contrast, I shop at Aldi and eat out maybe 3-4 times a year. I have a cousin that smokes a pack a day, so $6 (I think) x 30 days is $180 per month.

One of my closest friends is a video game fan, buying a $600 system whenever they come out and $60 games on a regular basis.

It really comes down to how people spend their time and money. I'm by no means critical of eating out or playing games, but for those of us on more limited income, I think we just choose reefing over things like that.
 

AC1211

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I watched how those just out of the military build there tanks as they usually use some skill to make it cheaper. Be creative and diy.
 

stanlalee

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Work. I really don't find the hobby THAT expensive. You can MAKE it that expensive. If a 600g reef is too expensive do a 150g, if that is too expensive do a 30g. Once you pay for a set up of moderate size how much money do you need to buy a bucket of salt, calcium chloride and bicarbonate and a supplement or two? Buy 10 non designer corals and grow them out. Every reef store I go to has a $20, $30 or $40 frag tank. Buy one or two a month.
I've had a few hobbies and this hobby pales in expense to say modifying cars.
 

tautog83

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It's like when you see a 23 yr old with a 50k lifted truck , he didnt buy it hes just leasing it lol . There are tons of people that have "nice" things but are broke . As previously said get some second hand stuff and grow some easy frags and sell them . I made like 500 or 600 , between lfs credit and selling frags on craigslist of birdsnest, pocillipora and green nepthea frags in a couple months.
 

GeoSquid

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I make quite a bit above your limit, but I live in Southern California and have 4 teenage boys and wife doesn't work. This also isn't my only hobby, I've been surfing since I was a little kid and I have all my kids into it as well. So, I bought all my kids used surfboards and thier wetsuites off Amazon. Currently, I have a 180 gallon softy tank running on nothing but a $40 harbour freight pump and lights. DIY is your friend. I have about $800 - $1000 into the tank as far as tank and equipment. I built the tank into a wall so no need for a stand. No sump, I pump water up to two ~15 gallon Lowes containers with Borneman surges over the tank to maximize the water flow from the 650 gallon pump. I incorporated a DIY ATS into each container and DIY 4-4' HO T5's over them along with growing Caulerpa in the surge tanks. I have two black box Led's over the tank that were about $100 each. Also running a sunsun wavemaker 2500 gal ish I bought for $35 and has been running for 4 years. I read a post in a now defunct Marine Depot forum around 2004 from a guy named Eric Borneman about him running a box of water. It was a 40 breeder with nothing but a DSB he collected himself from the wild with lots of sand dwelling animals and wavemakers. Nothing else and thrived. I don't use and automatic equipment, just dose 2 part and water changes and my arms do the ATO.
 

Fish man

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Ok, I get it. Be a doctor/lawyer/engineer/software engineer, and make the big bucks to be able to send your kids to Ivy Leagues, have a nice car, AND get an awesome fish tank or 10 out of it.

But for the all of the 5 figure and under people (let's say the cutoff is 85K), how are you doing it? Do you just like...not have kids or something? Is there a trick to all the splurging you're able to do? Are there a bunch of low cost of living areas that I'm just not aware of/don't want to move to?

I keep seeing "I just bought this 200/300/1600 gallon [RedSea/Waterbox/expensive brand] aquarium and what do I do with it" posts, and I'm just...confused...do you just have this money lying around??

I guess I'm mostly just asking because my estimated yearly earnings is currently somewhere at around 40K in a high cost of living area once the job hiring starts again. Which means very little disposable income (bye bye avocado toast, I'll miss you, but aquariums gotta aquarium).
Almost all hobbies come with expenses. You can't be in this hobby for nothing but you can do a lot to manage your costs. Someone already mentioned DIY. Look for bargains. Pet smart runs dollar a gallon specials on tanks all the time. I bought a 20 gallon there for 20 bucks. Went to Home depot, bought a glass cutter, some glass and silicon and made my sump. Total cost about $35. I also made my own ATO out of a 5 gallon bucket and some pvc pipe. Got an inexpensive submersible pump from Pet Smart, and a water level sensor on Amazon. Total cost about $30. Both have worked flawlessly on my current tank for 5 years. Furniture grade cabinets cost up to $1000 for my size tank (90g). Made my own, again all materials from Home Depot. Cost, about $350. There's literally hundreds of DIY/how to videos on YouTube about all this stuff. What you can't DIY shop around and shop smart. Craig's list and used items have already been mentioned. I'm not a Mercedes guy, I'm a Chevy guy. I don't have to have the most expensive lights, pumps, and accessories but everything functions well. Corals and fish look great and costs are not through the roof.
I'm kind of fortunate when it comes to livestock and dry goods. I live in large city with 5 major LFS so competition helps hold prices down to only ridiculously expensive. I do still shop around because even they can vary quite a bit on prices and I'm always looking for the best value. I don't make a lot back, but selling frags back to my LFS gets me a few bucks in store credit a year.
It's not a cheap hobby but it can be done economically.
Sump.PNG
 
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coronarex

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I serve tables down in Ocean City, Md. This is the time where I make a lot of money. I just started a build and have been able to splurge quite a bit on equipment. During the winter, when we are closed, I have to slow down a great deal. Im currently going to school to become a Registered Dietitian. Once I get my credential, I'll begin looking for jobs. After I get my feet wet in dietetics, I'll start looking for a Food Service Directors position in a big hospital. Oh I forgot to mention, I have no children and I drive a 07 Honda Civic. That helps a lot. If people knew how much I spent on the hobby, they probably think I'm crazy. They aren't hobbyist so they wouldn't understand lol
 

Deezill

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Well, this is a great thread. I purchase bits at a time. I did not get an Apex until early 2020 and a few months later a Trident. I make a major purchase every few months. I need to get a Calcium Reactor next so I am searching R2R for a used one. I had to get out of the mind frame everything has to be name brands like Ecotech and the other overpriced names. My system is 260 gallons with 240 water volume. I am still stocking my tank as I have a lot of real estate. I try to catch sales too. I like seeing I am not the only one reefing on a budget. If anyone knows a decent Calcium Reactor for sale let me know. My Jebao DP4 is going downhill and what was 4 pumps is now 2 lol. I am beginning to have problems keeping up with alk and ca. So its time. I would like more sticks but I must balance Hardware and sticks. You know how they say Money talks? Mine whispers lol.
 

Shooter6

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Collision tech, current build is a 320g/400g/220g/4×50g lowboys. Total system 1300-1400gal.
This is a 2+yr build, using jebao pumps and powerheads, ledzeal mirage x lighting. Not buying ecotech and radions makes this build possible. What costed me about 10k would have otherwise costed 50k easy. Id rather spend that 40k difference in coral and fish.
 

TAP WATER FOR YOUR REEF TANK

  • I do not use tap water

    Votes: 66 67.3%
  • I use tap water

    Votes: 4 4.1%
  • I did use tap water in the past before I had an RO unit

    Votes: 18 18.4%
  • I use tap sometimes and ro/di sometimes

    Votes: 1 1.0%
  • I would use tap water in an emergency

    Votes: 16 16.3%
  • my tap water would kill my reef tank

    Votes: 14 14.3%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

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