Good discussion so far. I had a few points to make:
Firstly, YES, live plants do make a difference! And I considered sending a message to AqAdvisor (the creator is actually a member here, and many other aquarium forums) asking for a "live plants" option, then I stopped to think about it...
Live plants DO ease off bioload, no question. How much? Well, that depends on what kind of plants, how many plants, lighting (Wattage? T12? T8? T5? Regular, or HO
? Color spectrum, PAR, and age of the bulbs?), fertilization (PPS-Pro? EI? Flourish Instructions? None?), and CO2
? Diffusion Method?). For a precisely calculated system like AqAdvisor, there is no way to factor in all those variables, and still be confident in the result. If I owned AqAdvisor, I'd pull my hair out at the thought
Secondly: From a previous discussion
the consensus seemed to be that AqAdvisor was a little bit conservative. Indeed, the creator weighed in and said:
Originally Posted by yhbae
I believe that a "working stocking level" is a range. I've seen people who will maintain tanks for years at 200% without issues but they do their share of tank maintenance and also make sure aggression issues are properly handled. AqAdvisor is a tool for beginners hence I don't suggest them to stock them up to 200%. But I'm sure advanced keepers can go well beyond 100% without issues.
Honestly, although many criticize tools like AqAdvisor (with valid criticisms) it is, in my opinion, a solid place to put your ideas down and get a non-biased opinion. Nothing can replace the advice given by experienced fish keepers. However, I have used it many times, not to decide my stock or filtration levels, but as a tool to help me visualize my aquarium.
For what it's worth, my aquarium is stocked 120% according to AqAdvisor. However, I change 50% water weekly, clean my filters, and vacuum my gravel regularly. I also have live plants. My fish are happy and healthy. And, for what it's worth, AqAdvisor doesn't give me any warnings aside from recommending more filtration.
I would really recommend reading that thread - I started it :p and I really do feel that the conversation hit on many similar points, and some others as well.
Finally, although you aren't asking for advice here, I'm nosy and bossy
so I must say, that one 5g water change is better than five 1g water changes! Do less water changes, and bigger ones, and I promise your water quality will go up. It's MATH (tm).