Zooplankton accumulate microcystins (MC), a potent cyanobacteria toxin, and therefore may act as vectors of the toxin up the aquatic food web; however this transfer has not yet been quantified. In addition there is a lack of information regarding fish's ability to metabolize MC when administered a low dose over a longer period of time. We monitored MC concentrations in three levels of an aquatic food web: phytoplankton, zooplankton, and sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus). Bosmina appeared to be both a major accumulator of MC in zooplankton and the major vector of MC to sunfish. In an accumulation experiment, sunfish were brought into the laboratory and fed MC-rich zooplankton pellets (50 ng MC kg(-1)d(-1)) for 9 days. Zooplankton directly transferred MC to sunfish, resulting in liver and muscle tissue accumulation. However, after 6 days of accumulation fish significantly decreased concentrations in their liver and muscle tissue, indicating the induction of a detoxification and excretion pathway. Sunfish retained MC in their liver and muscle tissue, showing no significant changes in toxin concentration over 2 weeks of fasted depuration.