Abstract The effects of cyanobacterial cells containing microcystins (MCs), toxins from cyanobacteria, on oxidative stress biomarkers from liver and kidney of Tenca fish ( Tinca tinca) were investigated under laboratory conditions. Moreover, a histopathological study of liver, kidney, heart and intestine tissues was performed. Fish were orally exposed to cyanobacterial cells dosing 0, 5, 11, 25 and 55 μg MC-LR/fish mixed with the food. Results showed a dose-dependent decrease of superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, and also of catalase (CAT) in the liver. Glutathione levels and protein oxidation, however, were not altered by the exposure to the cyanobacterial material. The microscopic study revealed tissue alterations even at the lower cyanobacterial cells doses. Onion-like hepatocytes in the liver, glomerulopathy in the kidney, loss of myofibrils in the heart and vacuolated enterocytes in the gastrointestinal tract were the main changes observed. These findings suggest that this fresh water fish can be adversely affected by cyanobacterial blooms in their natural habitats.