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The live part of live rock is the bacteria and they are the filter for the tank. They process waste. You dont need it but it sure makes for a healthier tank. If you buy dry or base rock it will, over time, become live as will any rock you place in the tank. Bacteria colonize the various surfaces in the tank.
 

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without live rock you would need a filter or skimmer!
You will still need some other form of filtration such as a canister or a skimmer. But, you can get away with a bit more in a fish only system.
 

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You will need some form of biological filtration. Other forms of filtration, like skimming, are optional. If you don't use LR, you will need a trickle filter or some other form of biological filtration. The only way around this is to do water changes every day, or have one small fish in a huge tank.

Most people would agree that LR is far superior to other forms of biological filtration. If cost is an issue, like it is for most of us these days:rolleyes:, you don't need to fill the tank with rock all at once. You can increase the amount of rock over time, as you increase the number of fish. Using dry or base rock, like Motorslave suggested, can save you lots of money.
 

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Agreed with Geoff and EC. Baserock is cheap and if you seed it with some liverock in a short period of time it too will be liverock anyways.
 

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One part of the question had to do with how much live rock should be used in a 55g. What is the ratio of lb's to gallons?
I would say 30-60 lbs, depending on how big the pieces are and how you want to aquascape. Tall narrow tanks like a typical 55 are harder to gt a nice structure in without sacrificing swim room.
Also consider the types of fish you want to keep, big active ones may knock the rock over, try for lots of caves and hidy hole structures for most fish.
I would get a large skimmer as well personally
 
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