The objective of this study was to compare two different Turkish fly ashes (Afsin-Elbistan and Seyitomer) for their ability to remove nickel [Ni(II)], copper [Cu(II)] and zinc [Zn(II)] from an aqueous solution. The effect of contact time, pH, initial metal concentration and fly ash origin on the adsorption process at 20 +/- 2 degreesC were studied. Batch kinetic studies showed that an equilibrium time of 2 h was required for the adsorption of Ni(II), Cu(II) and Zn(II) on both the fly ashes. The maximum metal removal was found to be dependent on solution pH (7.0-8.0 for Ni(II), 5.0-6.0 for Cu(II) and 6.0-7.0 for Zn(II)) for each type of fly ash. With an increase in the concentrations of these metals, the adsorption of Ni(II) and Zn(II) increased while the Cu(II) adsorption decreased on both the fly ashes. Adsorption densities for the metal ions were Zn(II) > Cu(II) > Ni(II) for both the fly ashes. The effectiveness of fly ash as an adsorbent improved with increasing calcium (CaO) content. Adsorption data in the range of pH values (3.0-8.0) using Ni(II) and Cu(II) concentrations of 25 +/- 2 mg/l and Zn(H) concentration of 30 +/- 2 mg/l in solution were correlated using the linear forms of the Langmuir and Freundlich equations. The adsorption data were better fitted to the Langmuir isotherm since the correlation coefficients for the Langmuir isotherm were higher than that for the Freundlich isotherm. The fly ash with high calcium content (Afsin-Elbistan) was found to be a metal adsorbent as effective as activated carbon and, therefore, there are good prospects for the adsorptions of these metals on fly ash with high calcium content in practical applications in Turkey. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.