© 2017 American Physical Society. We present a framework for studying bosonic non-Gaussian channels of continuous-variable systems. Our emphasis is on a class of channels that we call photon-added Gaussian channels, which are experimentally viable with current quantum-optical technologies. A strong motivation for considering these channels is the fact that it is compulsory to go beyond the Gaussian domain for numerous tasks in continuous-variable quantum information processing such as entanglement distillation from Gaussian states and universal quantum computation. The single-mode photon-added channels we consider are obtained by using two-mode beam splitters and squeezing operators with photon addition applied to the ancilla ports giving rise to families of non-Gaussian channels. For each such channel, we derive its operator-sum representation, indispensable in the present context. We observe that these channels are Fock preserving (coherence nongenerating). We then report two examples of activation using our scheme of photon addition, that of quantum-optical nonclassicality at outputs of channels that would otherwise output only classical states and of both the quantum and private communication capacities, hinting at far-reaching applications for quantum-optical communication. Further, we see that noisy Gaussian channels can be expressed as a convex mixture of these non-Gaussian channels. We also present other physical and information-theoretic properties of these channels.