Abstract Zoosporic true fungi have frequently been identified in samples from soil and freshwater ecosystems using baiting and molecular techniques. In fact some species can be components of the dominant groups of microorganisms in particular soil habitats. Yet these microorganisms have not yet been directly observed growing in soil ecosystems. Significant physical characteristics and features of the three-dimensional structures of soils which impact microorganisms at the microscale level are discussed. A thorough knowledge of soil structures is important for studying the distribution of assemblages of these fungi and understanding their ecological roles along spatial and temporal gradients. A number of specific adaptations and resource seeking strategies possibly give these fungi advantages over other groups of microorganisms in soil ecosystems. These include chemotactic zoospores, mechanisms for adhesion to substrates, rhizoids which can penetrate substrates in small spaces, structures which are resistant to environmental extremes, rapid growth rates and simple nutritional requirements. These adaptations are discussed in the context of the characteristics of soils ecosystems. Recent advances in instrumentation have led to the development of new and more precise methods for studying microorganisms in three-dimensional space. New molecular techniques have made identification of microbes possible in environmental samples.