In the present study, effect of pH on the mortality and accumulation of copper in various tissue and organs of Oreochromis niloticus were tested at varying concentrations of copper in the medium and over different periods of time. Experimental animals were exposed to pH 5.5, 7.8 and 9.5 and 0.1, 0.5, 1.0 and 5.0 ppm copper over periods of 7, 15 and 30 days in liver, gills and muscle were determined using atomic absorption spectrophotometric techniques. The rate of mortality at 1.0 and 5.0 ppm Cu was 100% after 7 days of exposure at pH 5.5 while at 5.0 ppm Cu was 66% after 30 days of exposure at pH 7.8. No mortality was observed in any of the copper concentrations tested at pH 9.5. In all pH levels, tissue accumulation of copper increased with increasing concentrations of copper in the medium at a given exposure period. In all pH values tested, highest levels of copper were found in the liver of O. niloticus, followed by the gills and muscle tissues. Accumulation of copper in all tissues were higher at pH 5.5 compared with the other pH values in all the conditions tested. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.