Bacteria of the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides phylum (CFB-phylum) are numerically important members of many microbial communities. A suite of five 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes for members of this group is described which was designed to dominantly target bacteria of the CFB-phylum that are found in particular habitats. For this we initially performed a literature survey-for the sources and sites of isolation of hitherto described members of the CFB-phylum. Probe CFB286 is mostly complementary to the 16S rRNA of species originally isolated from freshwater habitats, however, detects some marine and soil isolates and is the only probe which includes some food isolates. Probe CFB563 detects marine as well as animal-associated isolates. Probe CFB719, which also detects some environmental isolates, and probe CFB972 are mostly targeting animal-associated isolates. All probes are complementary to a variety of human-associated species within the CFB-phylum which, in the data set investigated (October 1998), made up 46% of all 16S rRNA sequences from the CFB-phylum. We conclude that it is difficult to find habitat-specific probes for members of the CFB-phylum and that the design of probes for monophyletic groups should remain the standard approach. Applicability of the probes for fluorescence in situ hybridization and specificity for single cell detection were evaluated for the four mentioned probes whereas the fifth, probe CFB1082, which almost exclusively targets human-associated species, was not further characterized. The new probes are of limited determinative value and should be used together with the already established probes for the CFB-phylum. It is the hybridization pattern observed for a given cell or culture with the enlarged probe set that is suggestive for its affiliation with a defined group within the CFB-phylum.