Conditions in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) differ from those in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) due to the intrusion of oxygen through the cathode and the release of H2 gas into solution. Based on 16S rRNA gene clone libraries, anode communities in reactors fed acetic acid decreased in species richness and diversity, and increased in numbers of Geobacter sulfurreducens, when reactors were shifted from MFCs to MECs. With a complex source of organic matter (potato wastewater), the proportion of Geobacteraceae remained constant when MFCs were converted into MECs, but the percentage of clones belonging to G. sulfurreducens decreased and the percentage of G. metallireducens clones increased. A dairy manure wastewater-fed MFC produced little power, and had more diverse microbial communities, but did not generate current in an MEC. These results show changes in Geobacter species in response to the MEC environment and that higher species diversity is not correlated with current. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.