Non-corrosive, carbon-based materials are usually used as anodes in microbial fuel cells (MFCs). In some cases, however, metals have been used that can corrode (e.g. copper) or that are corrosion resistant (e.g. stainless steel, SS). Corrosion could increase current through galvanic (abiotic) current production or by increasing exposed surface area, or decrease current due to generation of toxic products from corrosion. In order to directly examine the effects of using corrodible metal anodes, MFCs with Cu were compared with reactors using SS and carbon cloth anodes. MFCs with Cu anodes initially showed high current generation similar to abiotic controls, but subsequently they produced little power (2 mW m-2). Higher power was produced with microbes using SS (12 mW m-2) or carbon cloth (880 mW m-2) anodes, with no power generated by abiotic controls. These results demonstrate that copper is an unsuitable anode material, due to corrosion and likely copper toxicity to microorganisms. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry.