In planktonic ecosystems, algae and bacteria exhibit complex interrelationships, as algae provide an important organic matter source for microbial growth while microbial metabolism recycles limiting nutrients for algae in a loose commensalism. However, algae and bacteria can also compete for available nutrients if supplies of organic matter are sufficient to satisfy bacterial demand. We developed a stoichiometrically explicit model of bacteria-algae interactions that incorporated realistic assumptions about algal light and nutrient utilization, algal exudation of organic matter, and bacterial processing of organic matter and nutrients. The model makes specific predictions about how the relative balance of algae and bacteria should change in response to varied nutrient and light availability seen in lakes and oceans. The model successfully reproduces published empirical data and indicates that, under moderate nutrient supply, the bacterial percentage of total respiration should be maximal at intermediate light intensity.