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Welcome to TRT!!

Let me see if I can tackle a couple of these.

1) Have heard quite a bit on Natural systems, can someone clarify the basics and provide a link to a site that gives practical tips on setting up in this way.

By natural, are you refering to the Berlin method? Live rock and live sand? A true Berlin method is pretty simple. Lots of live rock, lots of live sand, plenty of water movement. That's about it. I personally don't know anybody who is doing this method purely. Most people add protein skimming, refugium, etc. You mentioned a plenum so you might want to check out Garf and find the link to the bullet proof reef calculator. They offer a very simple approach. Not totally "natural" but close.

2) I want to run a reef tank, with max two to three small fish. Mainly inverts and soft corals. Tank volume will be around 30 gal.

3) Lighting will be Metal Halide, situated about 24" above the tank. Tank top will be open.

If you are going with softies like shrooms, leathers, and such, you could do without the metal halides. Unless you already own them, save your money for other things like good quality live rock. You could do 2 - 24" 75 watt VHO and grow most any softy and then some.

4) Have very easy access to excellent quality natural sea water, (Live twenty minutes from a clean collection site. What are thoughts on this. Will allow the water to stand for 2 to 3 weeks prior to use.

This is a good thread for that topic. Seawater

5) Top up water.. can one use rain water or distilled water. (Cheaper than buying R/O equipment.

Don't use rain water unless you are absolutely sure you have no polution in the air in your area. If you decide to try it, don't collect it out of rain guters or off the roof of your house. Dirt and chemical will be collected in the water and you will pollute your tank.

Hope some of that helps
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