Abstract The populations of chemolithoautotrophic (colorless) sulfur bacteria and anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria were enumerated in a marine microbial mat. The highest population densities were found in the 0–5 mm layer of the mat: 2.0 × 109 cells cm−3 sediment, and 4.0 × 107 cells cm−3 sediment for the colorless sulfur bacteria and phototrophs, respectively. Kinetic parameters for thiosulfate-limited growth were assessed for Thiobacillus thioparus T5 and Thiocapsa roseopersicina M1, both isolated from microbial mats. For Thiobacillus T5, growing at a constant oxygen concentration of 43 μmol l−1, μmax was 0.336 h−1 and Ks 0.8 μmol l−1. Phototrophically grown Thiocapsa strain M1 displayed a μmax of 0.080 h−1 and a Ks of 8 μmol l−1 when anoxically grown under thiosulfate limitation. In a competition experiment with thiosulfate as electron donor, Thiocapsa became dominant during a 10-h oxic/14-h anoxic regimen at continuous illumination, despite the higher affinity for thiosulfate of Thiobacillus.