BACKGROUND : Anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) is a biological process employed to remove reactive nitrogen from wastewater. While a substantial body of literature describes the performance of anammox bioreactors under various operational conditions and perturbations, few studies have resolved the metabolic roles of their core microbial community members. RESULTS : Here, we used metagenomics to study the microbial community of a laboratory-scale anammox bioreactor from inoculation, through a performance destabilization event, to robust steady-state performance. Metabolic analyses revealed that nutrient acquisition from the environment is selected for in the anammox community. Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) was the primary nitrogen removal pathway that competed with anammox. Increased replication of bacteria capable of DNRA led to the out-competition of anammox bacteria, and the loss of the bioreactor's nitrogen removal capacity. These bacteria were highly associated with the anammox bacterium and considered part of the core microbial community. CONCLUSIONS : Our findings highlight the importance of metabolic interdependencies related to nitrogen- and carbon-cycling within anammox bioreactors and the potentially detrimental effects of bacteria that are otherwise considered core microbial community members.