Abstract This literature review encompasses aquatic environmental toxicities of metals and metalloids. The emphasis is on the influencing factors on metal toxicity to aquatic organisms. The effects of environmental factors on metal uptake are also discussed. The factors can be divided into biotic and abiotic. The biotic factors include tolerance, size and life stages, species, and nutrition related to the test organisms. The abiotic factors include organic substances, pH, temperature, alkalinity and hardness, inorganic ligands, interactions, sediments, and others. These factors can alter metal toxicity in the aquatic environment substantially, mostly causing attenuating effect. The literature shows divergent results. For example, the interactions between Cd and Zn were reported to be synergistic by some researchers and antagonistic by others. It is recommended that environmental hazard assessment takes into consideration the results of standard toxicity tests and site-specific conditions which can moderate metal toxicity considerably.