Geobacteraceae dominate many iron-reducing subsurface environments and are associated with biodegradation of organic pollutants. In order to enhance the understanding of the environmental role played by Geobacteraceae, the physiology of Geobacter metallireducens was investigated at the low growth rates found in its subsurface habitat. Cultivation in retentostats (a continuous culturing device with biomass retention) under electron acceptor and electron donor limitation enabled growth rates as low as 0.0008 h(-1). The maximum growth yield was between 0.05 and 0.09 C-mol biomass per C-mol acetate and comparable to that observed in batch experiments. Maintenance energy demand is among the lowest reported for heterotrophic bacteria, under both acetate and AQDS limitation. The cells were able to use alternative electron acceptors directly, without requiring de novo protein synthesis. We discuss how the extremely low maintenance energy demand and the ability to readily use alternative electron acceptors may help Geobacter species to become ubiquitous and dominant microorganisms in many iron-reducing subsurface settings.