08-31-2009, 05:46 PM
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Hi and welcome to the forum.
The maintainance on a planted tank is less than fish maintainance; you don't have to feed the plants every day. Plant maintainance, if any is required, can be done when you do the partial water change every week.
Some plants require almost no maintainace once they are planted, aside from removing a leaf that may die (this is comon, a leaf once in a while, but new ones are always growing so its just the old ones basically). Rooted plants like the swords you mention fall into this category, as does Anubias and Java Fern that attach themselves to rocks or wood. Higher maintainance plants are most of the stem plants because they grow much faster and need regular pruning to prevent them from covering the tank surface and blocking out light from below. Floating plants are easy to maintain; just have to be thinned out when they get too many.
Snails such as the common pond snail and the Malaysian livebearing snail do not eat live healthy plants. These are smallish snails, and many aquarists like to have them, especially the latter species. Good for getting little bits of food in the gravel and some eat algae a bit.
I can't give you an estimate on cost as it varies depending upon what you get (light fixture? fluorescent tube? plants? liquid fertilizer?) and I'm in Canada so the prices would be quite different. Once its running, the only cost would be liquid fertilizer depending upon the plants; sword plants would benefit (and probably would require) liquid fertilizer probably once a week, say after your partial water change.