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Black areas under gravel

I can see from the front of my aquarium that lots of black spots exist under 
my gravel--is this the anaerobic (sp?) problem I've seen people on the list 
talk about? If so, could this be a reason my plants aren't particularly 
flourishing despite the perfect amounts (IMHO) of light, CO2 and fertilizer I 
give them? My trusted LFS guy tells me I should put a reptile heating pad 
underneath, a cheaper alternative to coils and just as effective. What do 
y'all think?