The effects of cycle time on the biodegradation of the azo dye remazol brilliant violet 5R (RBV-5R) were investigated in an anaerobic-aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBR). System performance was determined by monitoring chemical oxygen demand (COD), color, anaerobic enzyme (azo reductase) and aerobic enzyme (catechol 2,3-dioxygenase), and aromatic amine concentration. SBR was operated in three different total cycle times (48 h, 24 h and 12 h), fed with a synthetic textile wastewater. In this study, the anaerobic period of SBR was found to allow the reductive decolorization of azo dye and the aerobic period was found to be effective on further COD removal after the anaerobic period. The percentage reductions in color by the anaerobic stage of the SBR were at 72%, 89% and 86% for the 24-h, 12-h and 6-h cycle times, respectively. Total COD removal efficiencies were over 75% for all operational conditions and about 70% of the COD removal was achieved in the first 3 h of anaerobic stages. During the decolorization of RBV-5R, two sulfonated aromatic amines (benzene-based and naphthalene-based) were formed and detected by HPLC. Aerobic phases of SBR with total cycle times of 48 h, 24 h and 12 h were able to remove benzene-based aromatic amines with removal efficiency of 64%, 92% and 89%, respectively. The results indicated that the best SBR performance in terms of color removal and aromatic amine degradation was achieved from total cycle time of 24 h. (c) 2008 The Institution of Chemical Engineers. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.