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Brown thread algae?

Just in the last few days my newly setup (about 1 and a half weeks now) 55
gallon tank has gotten a fairly heavy infestation of what appears to be a sort
of brown thread algae. The stuff accumulates quickly, more than doubling its'
amount in 24 hrs. and growing as long as several inches. It grows attached
from the base to leaves, stems, and the gravel. It grows in colonial groups
which resemble long strips of kleenex which can be up to a couple of inches
wide. They also are about as strong as wet kleenex, which makes it very
difficult to remove as the strands usually pull apart like mush. I've looked
at it under a 30x microscope and all I can see are a lot of individual brown
threads loosely grouped and tangled together.  There are currently no fish in
the tank, and I have added no fertilizer to the water, which has about 20ppm
nitrate and .2 ppm phosphate. I think it may have come the soil I used. I got
it from outside my apartment building, and other than straining it and adding
some sphagnum peat moss, I didn't decontaminate it in any way. Once before I
used some soil from the same place in a small tank and the same sort of "brown
mush" as above grew. I've bleached everything else that went into the tank. 
Is this stuff actually algae? I don't think I've seen anyone else describe it