The present study aims to answer the question whether the amount of metal in aquatic biota reflects the concentrations in the sediment and water, and whether the physico-chemical properties of the water and sediment have any influence on the suspected relationship. A study was made of 101 small streams in the city of Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. Data on fish occurrence in 63 streams of the greater Semarang indicated that the guppies did not avoid the highly polluted sites. No significant difference in body weight between sites was found. Significant differences were found in metal body concentrations (Pb and Zn) between fish collected from sites with different degrees of pollution. A significant declining trend of Pb concentrations with increasing organism size was observed, whereas for two other metals, Zn and Cu, the concentrations did not depend on the body weight. Apparently, body concentrations of these two metals are regulated and maintained at a certain concentration. For the relationships between metal concentrations in water, sediment and fish, water and sediment parameters, and fish dry weight, the presence of significant multiple correlations and bivariate correlation (in 17 of 91 pairs of variables) indicated that, in general, abiotic parameters and body size had no influence on the metal flux from sediment to water, and into fish. Results of partial correlation analyses further suggested that metal concentrations in the sediments were the most important factor governing the metal body concentrations of fish. The present study indicates that the guppy Poecilia reticulata from urban streams is a potential bioindicator for urban metal pollution, especially with respect to their (1) spatial distribution over sites of all pollution regimes and (2) variation in metal accumulation levels reflecting the degree of pollution. (C) 2000 Academic Press.