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I just bought a 55 gallon tank/stand last night, really good deal at $75 and in really good condition. It came with some equipment but I am going to buy new. It has a Marineland Regent filter system that looks pretty old. What filter system would others recommend for this size tank? In the $50 price range if possible. This is going to be an african cichlid tank, I am not setting it up for at least a month or 2. We may be putting a new home on the property so I am waiting to see what happens there first.
Second question. I have been looking at tank set ups and I think I have decided what i'd like to do. I am going to use the cichlid substrate and I would like to put stone in for decoration. I've noticed some tanks have what looks like slate stacked? What rock is safe to use in a freshwater tank? Do you need to treat it first? I'd like to have some natural rocks in there, possibly stacked. I want the only color to be the fish, besides greed plastic plants I will have in there also.
Any suggestions? Thanks.
 

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$50 worth of filtration for a 55 gallon tank, especially one that will do best overstocked probably isn't your best bet. I'd urge you to take the plunge on a canister filter to begin with, as you'll eventually buy one later on in the hobby. I suppose you could go with 2 aquaclear HOB style filters, but I personally think you'd be better off with a cheap hob filter and a canister(marineland c360 is what i'd suggest).

I have sandstone in my tank right now and it works fine, but I don't really like the look of it anymore and I'm planning on switching it out for black limestone. Many people have slate/shale, but the stones need to be tested before going into one's aquarium. IIRC, you're supposed to scrub a couple stones very thoroughly, then put them in a bucket of water for several days. Once time's up, make sure there's no oily residue on the surface(this happens with shale often), or discoloration of water or rocks, and scrub the rocks again to make sure there's no rock that comes off when scrubbed, otherwise it'll end up in your aquarium. You'll also want to avoid metallic, rusty, or "shiny" rocks as these usually cause problems. There's an article in the library concerning choosing suitable rocks for one's aquarium.
 
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