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RE:Black stuff in the substrate

>Does anyone have any input into my earlier question about whether to gravel 
>vac planted tank substrate?  I have an area of the tank that gets dirty and 
>when gravel vacuumed pulls up some nasty smelling stuff.  Should I leave it 
>in there for the plants?  All advice appreciated.

I wouldn't leave it.
Not good. H2S is a bad sign(rotten egg smell ?). Black color is very bad
too. Vac the effected area well. Add fast growing rooty plants to see how
they do. Watch closely for signs of poor growth. Consider adding larger or
more porous gravel topped with regular sand that your using.
The area is going anaerobic and need something to get more O2 down there.
Roots from faster growing plants might be a way. Adding small pieces of lava
or SeaChem's Matrix to the mix will help or some Turface etc will help too.
Adding a small airline tube with some water flow through it will solve this
too if you place it down into the effected area. This can help a trouble
spot but I think the plants or/and the gravel changing will help the most
for the long term. Also consider lowering the depth of gravel in this area
or adjusting the flow so water current goes into to it more.

Mulm is great for tanks but black stinky stuff is bad. I leave the mulm but
would take care of the black nasty stuff fast. Check archives for more info.
Tom Barr