The relationship between anode microbial characteristics and electrochemical parameters in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) was analyzed by time-course sampling of parallel single-bottle MFCs operated under identical conditions. While voltage stabilized within 4. days, anode biofilms continued growing during the six-week operation. Viable cell density increased asymptotically, but membrane-compromised cells accumulated steadily from only 9% of total cells on day 3 to 52% at 6. weeks. Electrochemical performance followed the viable cell trend, with a positive correlation for power density and an inverse correlation for anode charge transfer resistance. The biofilm architecture shifted from rod-shaped, dispersed cells to more filamentous structures, with the continuous detection of Geobacter sulfurreducens-like 16S rRNA fragments throughout operation and the emergence of a community member related to a known phenazine-producing Pseudomonas species. A drop in cathode open circuit potential between weeks two and three suggested that uncontrolled biofilm growth on the cathode deleteriously affects system performance. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.