Biomass yield of microorganisms is important in applied microbiology since it is the ultimate factor determining the amount of product produced regardless of whether product is growth-linked or not. In the case of environmental microbiology the opposite is true and minimizing the biomass produced, or the sludge in the relevant jargon, often is the prime goal. In this paper, a unique means of manipulating the microbial biomass yield of a heterogeneous culture to fulfil either of the two goals is presented. 5.0 mgl(-1) Ni(II) in the feed composition to a completely mixed, once- through, activated sludge was found to induce the observed biomass yield of the microbial culture developed from sewage. As compared with the base-line study without Ni(LI), where the reactor received synthetic wastewater only, true biomass yield was found to have increased along with the increased decay constant with the net effect of lowering observed biomass yield drastically at lower dilution rates and increasing it over that observed in the base-line study at higher dilution rates. At 10.0 mgl(-1) influent Ni(II) concentration the culture conditions almost reverted back to the base- line study and at 25 mgl(-1) Ni(II) concentration a truly steady-state condition could not be attained. Copyright (C) 1996 IAWQ.