Dietary and waterborne exposure to copper oxide (CuO) and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles (NPs) was conducted using a simplified model of an aquatic food chain consisting of zooplankton (Artemia salina) and goldfish (Carassius auratus) to determine bioaccumulation, toxic effects, and particle transport through trophic levels. Artemia contaminated with NPs were used as food in dietary exposure. Fish were exposed to suspensions of the NPs in waterborne exposure. ICP-MS analysis showed that accumulation primarily occurred in the intestine, followed by the gills and liver. Dietary uptake was lower, but was found to be a potential pathway for transport of NPs to higher organisms. Waterborne exposure resulted in about a 10-fold higher accumulation in the intestine. The heart, brain, and muscle tissue had no significant Cu or Zn. However, concentrations in muscle increased with NP concentration, which was ascribed to bioaccumulation of Cu and Zn released from NPs. Free Cu concentration in the medium was always higher than that of Zn, indicating CuO NPs dissolved more readily. ZnO NPs were relatively benign, even in waterborne exposure (p ≥ 0.05). In contrast, CuO NPs were toxic. Malondialdehyde levels in the liver and gills increased substantially (p < 0.05). Despite lower Cu accumulation, the liver exhibited significant oxidative stress, which could be from chronic exposure to Cu ions. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 30: 119–128, 2015.