I agree with you, John... it might just be in how people define the words 'mature' or 'established,' though. . .
Transferring media will
give you the bacterial colonies that you need to instantly cycle a tank. How much bacteria you move depends on how much new stock the tank will be able to initially handle - this is where the plants come in (for me) since there isn't a way to measure this, exactly - I like to think that they give me a lil bit of 'wiggle room.' I think most of us will agree that when it's possible, stocking slowly is always the best way to go, though sometimes it isn't possible. Like when I got my 20 little Jelly beans all at once online, and had to setup a safe QT tank for them from scratch. . .
That said, when I say my tank is "mature" or "established" I'm talking about something that happens long after the testable
part of the nitrogen cycle is long past. In most of my tanks, I'd say that it starts between 3-6 months after stocking ends - but that really depends on the setup, and how often you mess with things. At some point, my tanks seem to take over themselves, and they really become their own. . .ecosystems. . . I guess is the right word. I don't know the science that's going on in there, but I can see the effects on the entire environment. It's an amazing thing ^.^
Anybody want to give me a science lesson?
(ummm, are we off topic again, Jaysee?)
ETA: I'm still totally a beginner in the tank world, and have a lot
to learn - I love threads like these, and hearing everyone's input - so thanks, Jaysee, for starting it. *hugs*