Hey! I'm new-ish too, am currently cycling my first tank in years (due to moving all over the country for the last few), a 29-gallon, and will be keeping fish with similar needs to rams. I also want to keep things low-tech, I bought Diana Walstads book a long time ago and am a believer that you can have a lush planted tank with some dirt, patience, and natural light, no equipment or bottles of ferts necessary. I am a cheapskate and it's worth waiting for me.
I did a 1" dirt substrate (Miracle-Gro Organics potting soil, which in my region was a lot of barely-composted peat) with a coarse white sand cap of 1". I did not 'mineralize' or soak the soil, with the expectation that I would get plenty of ammonia from it after filling, and that I will wait a few weeks or months until it's fully cycled itself to add any fish.
I planted the bottom heavily with a bunch of easy-to-grow plants (swords, wisteria, ferns, sagitteria), and added a bunch of hornwort and big water lettuce to soak up ammonia. The fish I want all need a lot of floating cover so that stuff will probably stay, though it's not the prettiest.
My tank is set up directly in front of a West-facing window and gets 4 hours of direct sun per day. My light is a 30" Finnex FugeRay Planted+, which I love. I only keep the light on from 9am-1pm, right before the sun hits the tank.
I'm planning on mostly blackwater Asian fish, so I have mopani wood in already and will be adding more driftwood later. My water is lightly stained yellow. I will also be adding Indian almond leaves on the only bare spots on the substrate.
I have a HOB Aquaclear for water movement, no filter media inside it. Might replace with something less instrusive looking.
Right now the only tank inhabitants are snails, tiny organisms from the pond plants I threw in, and a bunch of black worms which are in the process of breaking down and aerating my soil layer.
I'd like to have a self-sustaining population of worms, but all my desired fish are predators, so we will see if any worms can escape them long term...
So far it's looking great. All my plants are growing steadily, none have dropped leaves or had any issues even though most were the emersed version when I bought them, cycling is proceeding normally as per tests. No algae at all.