Abstract This study concerns a chronic copper release in an aquatic ecosystem: Mirgenbach reservoir; which is characterized by high salinity, conductivity and hardness, a eutrophic state and a high temperature. To study the bioavailability of copper in the biotic compartments, the sampling covered the entire food chain (phyto- and zooplankton, macroalgae, aquatic plants, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish). Of the organisms present, the filter feeder Dreissena polymorpha, the detritivorous Bithynia tentaculata and Orconectes limosus were most contaminated by copper. The level of copper found in fish was the lowest. Body copper concentrations recorded in the present study show large variability between species even in some that are closely related. In most cases, however, the metal handling strategy, feeding habits, morphology and ecology can, at least partially, explain the metal content recorded. Pollution factors have been used to assess the state of contamination of the food chain. This study showed finally that the copper in the lake is bioavailable and bioaccumulated by organisms up to high levels and some effects of long-term toxicity of copper on benthic community and planktonic biomass were pointed out.