Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are major components of crude oil, are responsible in large part for the toxicity of crude oil to phytoplankton. This study addressed the following question. Can reliable predictions of the aquatic toxicity of crude oil, a multi-component mixture, be described from toxicity data on individual PAH compounds? Naphthalene, the most abundant PAH compound, and benzo(a)pyrene, a highly toxic PAH compound, were selected as model compounds to quantify toxicity of crude oil on two phytoplankton species, Ditylum brightwellii and Heterocapsa triquetra, by analyzing the effects of different concentrations of these PAHs on growth rate. EC50 values suggested that the diatom D. brightwellii was more vulnerable to both toxicants than the dinoflagellate H. triquetra. However, a previous study, which investigated the impact of crude oil on the same two species, had opposite results. The differences in response from these phytoplankton species to naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene toxicity compared to their response to crude oil suggest that they may not be solely used as surrogates to assess crude oil toxicity on phytoplankton.