The Lagrangian Southern Ocean Iron Release Experiment (SOIREE) allowed study of a gradually evolving iron-mediated phytoplankton bloom in water labelled with the inert tracer sulfur hexafluoride, SF6. This article describes a pelagic carbon budget for the mixed layer in SOIREE and assesses the extent to which closure of the budget is achieved. Net community production (NCP) converted 837 mmol m(-2) of inorganic carbon to organic carbon in 12.0 d after the first iron addition. A large fraction (41%) of NCP remained as particulate organic carbon in the mixed layer of the iron-enriched patch, while 23% was lost by horizontal dispersion and 0-29% was exported. The closure of the carbon budget is hampered by the lack of measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), by a major uncertainty in carbon export, and by use of empirical conversion factors in estimates of carbon biomass and metabolic rates. Lagrangian carbon-budget studies may be improved by direct measurement of all major carbon parameters and conversion factors. Carbon cycling in the SOIREE bloom resembled that in 'natural' algal blooms in the open Southern Ocean in some respects, but not in all. Daily NCP in the SOIREE bloom (70 mmol m(-2) d(-1)) was higher than in natural blooms, partly because other studies did not account for horizontal dispersion, were for longer periods or included less productive areas. The build-up of POC stock and carbon export as a fraction of NCP in SOIREE were in the lower range of observations elsewhere. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.