I have never kept cichlids so I have no advice to add there, but I have had many UGFs over the years. If you choose to go that way, get at least 2 of the biggest powerheads you can find...don't bother with air stones. Using airstones will guarantee a build up of detritus under the plates.
Be sure to use a gravel cleaner well, and often. And have some other sort of filter too, either a HOB
or a cannister. Your choice of gravel is important too. I have only ever used gravel of about 1/8th inch in size, but it has worked very well. Do not go any finer than that, or it might clog up the plates. Coarser might be ok, but I have had no experience with that.
And use tank-safe silicone to glue down any caps on the plate that will not have a riser tube and powerhead in it...especially if you have digging fish. One missing cap will give you a whole batch of troubles....