A microbial consortium acclimatized with benzene, toluene or xylene (BTX) was employed to study the degradation pattern of these compounds individually under aerobic conditions. Batch and continuous experiments were conducted to evaluate the adaptability of the enriched cultures under substrate versatility conditions. The bio-kinetic parameters obtained under substrate versatility conditions were compared with those of a single substrate condition. Similar degradation patterns were observed for all the substrates with inhibition occurring at higher concentration (∼150 mg/L for benzene and xylene, and ∼200 mg/L for toluene). Toluene degradation was highest, followed by benzene and xylene in the aqueous phase. Adaptation to a more toxic compound like benzene and xylene improved the utilization of toluene. On the other hand, microbes grown on a less toxic compound (toluene) grew at a lower rate in the presence of more toxic compounds. Suitable kinetic parameters such as μmax (maximum specific growth rate per hour), Ks (half saturation constant, mg/L), and KI (threshold substrate inhibition constant, mg/L) were determined using Haldane and Levenspiel substrate inhibition models. The Haldane equation seems to be an adequate expression for the system. The degradation behavior of pollutants in the gas phase was also evaluated using a toluene acclimatized biotrickling filter operated in continuous mode. The biotrickling filter acclimatized with toluene could degrade benzene and xylene with a lower elimination capacity. But, the system could recover its original efficiency quite fast even after a prolonged shock loading. The degradation was better for toluene, followed by benzene and xylene. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.