Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Outside Philadelphia, PA
I have a SW reef system and a FW planted system, and love them both. I would say the most difficult this between the two systems is the "mental gearshift changes" you need to go through when working on one of the other. For example, canister filters. In planted tanks they are usually the ideal choice. In a reef, highly undesirable. There are a lot of others when it comes to lighting, filtration, and management.
A reef system tends to be a lot more expensive to setup and run, so you don't want to make any mistakes. It's much easier to wipe out a reef.
I highly recommend that you get a couple of books on reef systems, and read and study them first, just so you have the background. The net is great for lots of information, but it's all over the place, and when it comes to reef systems a lot of it is either wrong or obsolete or out of context. Here are two books I recommend for beginners -
The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner
The New Marine Aquarium by Michael Paleta <---This book has an especially good section on fish suited to someone starting off in the hobby.
You can often find them at bargain prices at places like Amazon if your willing to settle for used copies or previous editions.
Planning and research is everything when it comes to any aquarium system, but it's really critical on a reef. Many fish and corals have very specific requirements that may be difficult to meet in your tank.
As for the reef forums, Reef Central is the largest, and lots of good information there. However, they do have a reputation of really being tough on new reef keepers, especially if you didn't read the existing threads on the subject.
If your planning on using Red Sea reef system setup, Reef Sanctuary has a lot of people using those systems. I post a lot there myself, even though I don't have a Red Sea system.
There are a lot of other good forums out there. If you can find one made up of mostly people local to you, you can often find advice on LFS and so on in your area. Also, join several and see which ones you like. If you find a better forum for you can move on.
Lastly, even the experts don't know everything and often the experts don't agree. It never hurts to get a second opinion. Someone may have a better idea or newer information.