Superparamagnetic magnetite nanoparticles were synthesized induced by chitosan hydrogel under ambient conditions via iron ions assembly, and the inducing effect of chitosan hydrogel was discussed. Results of X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy indicate that the nanoparticles were inverse cubic spinel structure magnetite with diameter about 16 nm, and the superparamagnetic nanoparticles with narrow size distribution dispersed uniformly in chitosan. The magnetization measurements indicated that the nanoparticles showed the typical superparamagnetic behavior. The crystallinity, morphology, and magnetic properties of magnetite nanoparticles were remarkably influenced by the pH values of iron ion solutions. The interaction between magnetite and chitosan was illustrated by FT-IR and thermogravimetric analysis, which concluded that the magnetite nanoparticles were coated by a chitosan layer via the amino groups of chitosan. The chitosan hydrogel assisted in the synthesis of superparamagnetic magnetite nanoparticles through chelation by amino groups. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.