Here are some urgly telephone photoes of my tanks (240 L "community", 100 L "endler+platy+shrimp+catfish", 50 L "formosa+shrimp").
Age of all tanks - 4-5 ears without restarting. http://aqu-a.ru/blogs/moe-hozyaystvo
All - on natural substrates below sand. All substrates are different - one is "composite" (mix of ingridients), one is soil for palms, one - based on pure biohumus (after two-week keeping underwater before placement for fermentation).
Result everywhere almost the same - good and long-term plant growth, no problems with algae and substrate quality.
Light - compact lamps 840 (in 50 L. 840+860), 0.7-0.9 watt per litre, had tried CO2 for about two years, but objectively see no reason in it and not using it any more.
Also I have some small tanks, one I like wery much:
based on sand+biohumus.