This study involves a comprehensive survey of the microbial ecology of the activated sludge process treating tannery wastewater, emphasizing evaluation during periods of bulking end foaming. The survey also includes a detailed characterization of process influent and effluent. Observations always associate bulking with significant increase in protozoa species and rotifers, but decrease or disappearance of nematodes. Activated sludge sustained under normal conditions with a sludge volume index lower than 80 ml g(-1), exhibits all the properties of a compact and healthy zoogleal floc structure. Three types of filamentous bacteria prevail in the microscopic examinations. Two of the filamentous bacteria, Microthrix parvicella and Nostocoida limicola II, always appear as components of the floc structure under normal conditions and abundant or even excessive levels. The study identifies Gordona spp. as the main microorganism responsible for bulking and foaming, which starts by a Gordona contamination process inside the floc, later branching out and extending through adjacent floes. When completed, this process increases sludge volume index values to over 200 ml g(-1). Microscopic examinations indicate significant morphological differences between filamentous microorganisms observed in this study and reported in the literature mostly for domestic sewage treatment.