Biological wastewater treatment has been applied for more than a century to ameliorate anthropogenic damage to the environment. But only during the last decade the use of molecular tools allowed to accurately determine the composition, and dynamics of activated sludge and biofilm microbial communities. Novel, in many cases yet not cultured bacteria were identified to be responsible for filamentous bulking and foaming as well as phosphorus and nitrogen removal in these systems. Now, methods are developed to infer the in situ physiology of these bacteria. Here we provide an overview of what is currently known about the identity and physiology of some of the microbial key players in activated sludge and biofilm systems.