In nature, microorganisms live by interacting with each other. Microbiological studies that only consider pure cultures are not sufficient to adequately describe the natural behaviour of microbes. Several microbial interactions have been recognized to affect the growth or metabolism of others; e.g. syntrophic cometabolism, competition, production of inhibitors or activators, and predation. It is believed that third-party organisms easily affect the two-species relationships and these relationships form the basis of interspecies networks within microbial communities. A microbial network contributes to ‘functional redundancy’ or ‘structural diversity’ and the microbial communities effectively act as a multicellular organism. It is necessary to understand not only the physiological activity of members within microbial communities but also their roles to regulate the activity or population of others. To access the microbial network, we require (i) comprehensive determination of all possible interspecies relationships among microbes, (ii) knock-out experiments by which certain members can be removed or suppressed, and (iii) supplemental addition of microbes or activation of certain members. Microbial network studies have started using defined microbial communities, i.e. a mixed culture that is composed of three or four species. In order to expand these studies to microflora in nature, microbial ecology requires the help of mathematical biology.