The structures of the bacterial and archaeal communities in an anaerobic digester were monitored over a 2 year period. The study was performed on a fluidized bed reactor fed with vinasse. The objective was to characterize the population dynamics over a long time period under constant environmental parameters. Total bacterial and archaeal populations were measured independently by fluorescence-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis using an automated DNA sequencer. With the current level of accuracy, the technique was able to monitor 45 bacterial and seven archaeal 16S rDNA molecules. The community dynamics were compared with molecular inventories of the microbial community based on 16S rDNA sequences done at the beginning of the study. The six archaeal and the 22 most frequent bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) identified were associated with their SSCP peak counterparts. Overall, the data indicated that, throughout the period of the study, rapid significant shifts in the species composition of the bacterial community occurred, whereas the archaeal community remained relatively stable.