The annual variations in body-size spectra of planktonic ciliate communities and their relationships to environmental conditions were studied based on a 12-month dataset (June 2007 to May 2008) from Jiaozhou Bay on the Yellow Sea coast of northern China. Based on the dataset, the body sizes of the ciliates, expressed as equivalent spherical diameters, included five ranks: S1 (5–35 μm); S2 (35–55 μm); S3 (55–75 μm); S4 (75–100 μm); and S5 (100–350 μm). These body-size ranks showed a clear temporal succession of dominance in the order of S2 (January–April) → S1 (May–July) → S4 (August–September) → S3 (October–December). Multivariate analyses showed that the temporal variations in their body-size patterns were significantly correlated with changes in environmental conditions, especially water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration (DO) and nutrients. In terms of abundance, rank S2 was significantly correlated with water temperature, DO and nutrients, whereas ranks S4 and S5 were correlated with the salinity and nutrients respectively (P < 0.05). These results suggest that the body-size patterns of planktonic ciliate communities showed a clear temporal pattern during an annual cycle and significantly associated with environmental conditions in marine ecosystems.