IMO they are not as difficult as they are made out to be. They aren't a beginner fish by any means, but don't require all that much extra work. Just good food and clean water.
It all depends on how extreme you want to be. So people do 2 or more 100% changes per day, others only do a big change once a week. My routine is usually 2 60% changes per week. Just hook up the python and let it go. You learn how much they need by watching them. Once you get to know them you can tell if they are getting stressed and need some clean water.
Bare bottom is definitely easier to keep clean when they are growing. You feed heavily and it is much easier to get all the waste out when there is no substrate for it to fall into. I have started both my sets of 4 in BB tanks and they grew very well. That said, once they have gained some size, they don't eat quite as much and you can do what you like.
My first 4, that I have had since Nov. 09, are in a planted tank now with some small dither fish. My other 4, only had them since March are in a BB tank by themselves. The planted tank will be going to one large WC per week while the BB will still get at least 2 per week. Once they grow a little bit more their tank will be planted as well. i can only handle BB for so long.
All of this is based on my experience as a relative newbie to discus, but it has worked well for me. Take from it what you will.