Abstract Aluminium accumulation by the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis is correlated with behavioural depression which is ameliorated by addition of orthosilicic acid. We hypothesised that Si is relocated to the digestive gland in response to Al, leading to the formation of non-toxic hydroxyaluminosilicates (HAS). Exposure to 500 μg l −1 Al for 30 days was associated with an initial period of behavioural depression, followed by apparent tolerance and subsequent depression, suggesting saturation of the cellular detoxification pathway during prolonged exposure. Exogenous Si (7.77 mg l −1) completely ameliorated all behavioural effects of Al but did not prevent its accumulation. In the presence of added Al, significantly more of this Si was accumulated by the tissues, compared to controls and snails exposed to Si alone. In snails exposed to Al plus Si, Al and Si concentrations were significantly correlated, with a ratio around 3:1 Al:Si, consistent with the presence of the non-toxic HAS protoimogolite.