Can't say anything about plants liking ammonia or nitrate more, BUT I can talk about fish and biological filters. A lot of this is information paraphrased from the saltwater side of the hobby (surprise! They have sand there).
So with the saltwater side of the hobby, you can theoretically do a "negative space aquascape" (minimal rock, designed to take a large volume of space up) and without sand. There is a LOT of surface area in the tank, and the glass/sponges/protein skimmer/every surface gets colonized by beneficial bacteria. You will see a LOT of posts about tanks having mini-cycles when the hobbyist removes the sandbed, as 1) detritus is resuspended, and 2) beneficial bacteria are removed. So, in conclusion, you MIGHT be able to do with no biofiltration and just a sandbed.
BUT, there is one catch. Saltwater tanks frequently have a very high turnover rate. It ranges somewhere to 15-30+x the tank (ex. a 10 gallon tank might have 150-300+ gph flow on it). This means that there's a lot of oxygen blowing around the tank, and a more even distribution of nutrients for everything to get at it. Additionally, saltwater tanks tend to run heavily understocked. There's usually one 1-2" fish in a 10 gallon tank, and a 55 might be at stocking capacity with 8 3"-5" fish.
In your case, how much flow are you going to have going through the tank? While turbid (random) flow is not a requirement, is there at least enough flow so that there are minimum dead spots? Additionally, how many fish are in your tank?
So many fish/plants/inverts to keep, not enough aquaria.