Just got a deal on a 120 and have gotten back into the hobby. Have quickly realized that I want to move up to 180 or 240. I'm trying to stay low tech as I want to enjoy the hobby with the least amount of hassle. In terms of the amount of time maintaining, would you go trickle or canister filters on a 180/240 if that was your goal? Pristine water clarity is highly desired!
Low maintenance tanks are pretty much my goal and I've figured a few things out.
In my opinion the two most important factors for a low maintenance tank are plant selection and water flow. Even in a low tech setup, there are a ton of stem plants that are happy to grow 4+ inches per week and trimming is a real chore. I almost completely avoid stem plants and stick with plants and mosses that are more well behaved.
In my next tank I will be gluing plastic dividers around sections of substrate to prevent plants from spreading as well. Plants like crypts and hairgrass will aggressively move sideways but never leave the substrate so a clear plastic divider that extends a centimeter or two above the substrate will be invisible and keep them from taking over.
Water flow is important because if done correctly it can completely eliminate the need to vacuum. You want a mild but even flow that moves across the entire tank and is strong enough to lift detritus from the substrate. This isn't that hard to accomplish but you may need to experiment with outflow/inflow positioning and keep some space open in the hardscape to limit dead-spots.
Finally use a dimmer so you can pull back the lighting once things have grown in.
I would consider a sump easier to maintain than a canister, but honestly keeping the filter clean is not the hardest part of caring for an aquarium.
Definitely right flow is most important thing for low maintenance. In my something around high tech tank (or whatever you can call it, CO2, medium light) I never vacuum, just clean the sponge and steel mesh on the intake, voilà. No stems here too, hated the trimming part, now I just dispose of uglier leaves, clean the glass, change the water. I do this kind of maintenance on my 345l (90gal) tank every two weeks, takes around 0,5 hour. More time for watching the tank, yay!