Abstract As part of a research programme on the transfer of several radionuclides along a pelagic trophic chain, two groups of 12 trout were kept for 8 weeks in water contaminated with 30 Bq ml −1 of 54Mn. In order to simulate chronic contamination and limit alterations in the physical and chemical characteristics of the medium, the water was renewed every 2 days. The kinetics of the accumulation and elimination of the radionuclide were monitored in one group of fish. The second group was used to study the contamination of the main organs and tissues at the end of the accumulation phase. The dynamics of contamination can be described by a bi-compartmental model, taking into account the fluctuations in the concentration of 54Mn in the water, as well as the biological dilution resulting from the growth of the fish. The theoretical value of the steady-state concentration factor for zero growth is 13 (w.w.) and the radionuclide release is characterised by two biological half-lives of 6 and 97 days. At the end of the accumulation phase, the 54Mn is preferentially fixed in the bone, gills, skin and brain. The data obtained at the end of the depuration phase allow one to classify the organs in two groups with different elimination kinetics. The first group consists of organs of penetration or transit, such as the skin, gills, kidneys, liver, primary and secondary gut and viscera, whereas the second group is made up of the receptor and storage organs and tissues such as the bone, head, fins and muscle.