Hydrogen sulfide dissolved in water can be converted to elementary sulfur or sulfate by the photosynthetic bacterium Chlorobium thiosulfatophilum. Substrate inhibition occurred at sulfide concentrations above 5.7 mM. Light inhibition was found at average light intensities of 40,000 lux in a sulfide concentration of 5 mM, where no substrate inhibition occurred. Light intensity, the most important growth parameter, was attenuated through both scattering by sulfur particles and absorption by the cells. Average cell and sulfur particle sizes were 1.1 and 9.4-mu-m, respectively. Cells contributed 10 times as much to the turbidity as sulfur particles of the same weight concentration. The light attenuation factor was mathematically modeled, considering both the absorption and scattering effects based on the Beer-Lambert law and the Rayleigh theory, which were introduced to the cell growth model. Optimal operational conditions relating feed rate vs. light intensity were obtained to suppress the accumulation of sulfate and sulfide and save light energy for 2- and 4-L fed-batch reactors. Light intensity should be greater for the same performance (H2S removal rate/unit cell concentration) in larger reactors due to the scaleup effect on light transmission. Knowledge of appropriate growth kinetics in photosynthetic fed-batch reactors was essential to increase feed rate and light intensity and therefore cell growth. A mathematical model was developed that describes the cell growth by considering the light attenuation factor due to scattering and absorption and the crowding effect of the cells. This model was in good agreement with the experimental results.