The potential use of the immobilized fresh water algae (in Ca-alginate) of Scenedesmus quadricauda to remove Cu(II), Zn(II) and Ni(II) ions from aqueous solutions was evaluated using Ca-alginate beads as a control system. Ca-alginate beads containing immobilized algae were incubated for the uniform growth at 22 degrees C for 5 days. Adsorption of Cu(II), Zn(II) and Ni(II) ions on the immobilized algae showed highest values at around pH 5.0. Adsorption of Cu(II), Zn(II) and Ni(II) ions on the immobilized algae increased as the initial concentration of metal ions increased in the medium. The maximum adsorption capacities of the immobilized algal biosorbents for Cu(II), Zn(II) and Ni(II) were 75.6, 55.2 and 30.4 mg/g (or 1.155, 0.933 and 0.465 mmol/g) biosorbent, respectively. When the heavy metal ions were in competition, the amounts of adsorbed metal ions were found to be 0.84 mol/g for Cu(II), 0.59 mol/g for Ni(II) and 0.08 mol/g for Zn(II), the immobilised algal biomass was significantly selective for Cu(II) ions. The adsorption-equilibrium was also represented with Langmuir, Freundlich and Dubinin-Radushkevich adsorption isotherms. The adsorption of Cu(II), Zn(II) and Ni(II) ions on the immobilized algae followed second-order kinetic. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.