If you want to go with vals, do some serious research into varieties and I'd recommend getting a tall tank. Most of them get super long. I have straight vals in my 6 ft 100 gallon and you can see the vals reach 2/3 of the way across the tank. Trimming them generally winds up with the leaves browning, though they don't die off for me like they seem to do with some people. But I will agree, they're stupid easy. Plant and let them go.
Instead of vals, you could do dwarf sag?
I like your tank I can see the low maintenance design, I did not consider Anubias on wood...those are low maintenance. Probably even lower than Java Fern! Yes dwarf sag was also something I started considering, or a mix of vals and sag. I was thinking I could just cut the foreground down but like you said it may only lead to browning, so dwarf sag in the foreground may be a much better choice. I will have to see if I can find a dwarf val species, and is there a non-dwarf sag out there?? I decided to go with a 40 long instead for extra height which may help the vals a little.
There is no such thing as "space at the top" in a val tank. Vals cover the top of everything but the tallest of tanks. It would definitely be an easy scape I would just choose a different fish that would appreciate the dense cover the vals provide. Scarlet Badis (dario dario) would be a good option. Endlers/Guppies would be a good option too.
That is why I was thinking about cutting them down in the front, but if it leaves browning and melting that will not be a solution. In this case I would split the tank with dwarf sag in the foreground.
It sounds like you are being very savvy in aiming for a tank that's lower maintenance, but I wonder if that will only solve half your problem. You mentioned not just being sick of all the problems, but also being bored with your previous set ups. I don't think going for a tank that is as simple as possible is going to really draw your interest. What part of the hobby are you into right now? Whatever you are excited about, try and maximize that and only that. Keep it simple, hold tight on that value, but build it around something that you are enthusiastic about rather than the negative concept of "as little maintenance as possible". Maybe you'll get bored of that too, but at least you'll probably have fun in the process, like with your first tank.
Lots of wisdom in your reply I love it. I think you are right because I have never been able to keep the schooling fish I want, and at this point I would just be happy with a lush green aquarium regardless of plant species. So with that being said I have decided to go with a 40 long and Rummynose, I would love to keep Cardinals too but I wouldn't want them to school with the Rummies on the same level...I would need a method to get them up higher. So I think I will add Rasboras, I am between Harlequins or Dwarfs/Pygmy...I am just not sure the dwarf species will school as well as 6-8 Harlequins. I need to research further into a bottom school of catfish, so far I have come up with Corydora, Glass Cats or Otocinclus but Otos do not school very tightly. The Corys require specific substrate which I am not sure I will be able to provide them yet.
Of course I will want some centerpiece fish as well, not only for aesthetics but to encourage tighter schooling behavior. I have to research further but the typical Angels or Discus would be nice...not sure I can meet their water parameters yet though.
I understand your sentiment. I used to have up to 5 various tanks on the go, from 2-29g. It was fun sometimes, but when life gets busy and then you get back to them later after weeks of neglect, the problems have all snowballed creating a big bunch of work.
Iím happy now and found the balance with my current setup. 1 - 75g tank. No co2, moderate light, easy fish. Lots of crypts and java ferns, some hygro which isnít too fast growing, then I have this other stuff that is easy to let take over my tank but I donít mind pruning weekly. Inert substrate, Canister filter that only needs maintenance every couple of months and single internal power filter thatís easy to pop out and rinse. I try to do a 15g water change every week but if i miss a week or even two, itís ok. I do fertilize every day but itís liquid ferts I keep sitting next to the tank and just do it with feeding, takes less than a minute. If I wanted even less work I would have lower light to slow down potential algae problems and plant growth, and reduce ferts requirements, but Iím good with what I have.
Oh yeah I totally can see that, I made sure to never have more then 2 bodies of water simultaneously. If anything I would have 2 tanks linked as one body of water, with reversed lighting cycles to stabilize pH due to a more constant photosynthesis. Even your 75G split with partitions to create different scapes would work if that's your thing, to maintain a single body of water. I hear you on the water changes, that is actually another thing to consider because I have terrible tap water so I rely on bottled water...that could get expensive with a larger tank. I run mine as balanced as possible so that I can run them borderline walstad basically never needing to remove nitrates and water changes are needed mainly to lower TDS. I got into the Seachem lineup at one point but now I just use a simple all in one fertilizer in a spritz bottle for easy dispensing.
Val tanks are fun, but sometimes they are too successful. I definitely mirror the sentiment of researching the other vals available because they do get really tall. They will also send runners which can sometimes mess with a scape as well. Also check out crypts if you are looking for fun plants that require less maintenance. There are a ton of different crypt varieties to explore.
I will definitely explore the species first, but I think a good rock barrier would keep the vals in their place though? You have a nice tank but man I used to keep dwarf baby tears and I cringe thinking about how much work it was to skim every last piece from the surface after trimming.