Those of you who have been in the hobby for years have probably seen both ends of the expense spectrum with respect to aquarium products. For example, there are cichlidophiles who invest in thousands of dollars in lighting for a single tank. There are others, who for the same size tank, may spend spend less than a hundred dollars. The same goes for filtration. Does that mean that the quality of the tank environment is exponentially greater with higher end equipment? Absolutely not. Dependability not withstanding, high quality aquarium environments can be achieved with low cost equipment.
If you've seen the last few posts here on the blog, you might have noticed that I use some reasonably standard aquarium equipment that is not considered high-end by any stretch of the imagination. However, in terms of water quality, I'll happily stack my tanks up againts any others that cost 20x more than what I have invested.
There are lots of reasons why someone may choose to spend $1000 or more to illuminate a 150g tank or invest in a filtration system that costs as much as a refrigerator. But you don't have to in order to have a beautiful display tank that is parametrically equal to a much lower cost set-up. A zero ammonia, zero nitrite environment can be easily achieved with lower cost hardware. Don't misunderstand me, though. I am not being critical of those who invest heavily in their equipment. They do so by choice and probably have very good reasons for doing so. However, high expense is not a prerequisite for producing a high quality aquatic environment.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub