The factors affecting the chronic (72-h) toxicity of three nanoparticulate (10-34nm) and one micron-sized form of CeO2 to the green alga, Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata were investigated. To characterise transformations in solution, hydrodynamic diameters (HDD) were measured by dynamic light scatter, zeta potential values by electrophoretic mobility, and dissolution by equilibrium dialysis. The protective effects of humic and fulvic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) on toxicity were also assessed. To investigate the mechanisms of algal toxicity, the CytoViva hyperspectral imaging system was used to visualise algal-CeO2 interactions in the presence and absence of DOC, and the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was investigated by 'switching off' ROS production using UV-filtered lighting conditions. The nanoparticulate CeO2 immediately aggregated in solution to HDDs measured in the range 113-193nm, whereas the HDD and zeta potential values were significantly lower in the presence of DOC. Negligible CeO2 dissolution over the time course of the bioassay ruled out potential toxicity from dissolved cerium. The nanoparticulate CeO2 concentration that caused 50% inhibition of algal growth rate (IC50) was in the range 7.6-28mg/L compared with 59mg/L for micron-sized ceria, indicating that smaller particles were more toxic. The presence of DOC mitigated toxicity, with IC50s increasing to greater than 100mg/L. Significant ROS were generated in the nanoparticulate CeO2 bioassays under normal light conditions. However, 'switching off' ROS under UV-filtered light conditions resulted in a similar IC50, indicating that ROS generation was not the toxic mechanism. The CytoViva imaging showed negligible sorption of nanoparticulate CeO2 to algal cells in the presence of DOC, and strong sorption in its absence, suggesting that this was the toxic mechanism. The results suggest that DOC in natural waters will coat CeO2 particles and mitigate toxicity to algal cells.