Species sensitivity distributions (SSD) were constructed using acute toxicity data of various cladoceran species collected in five different aquatic systems. The aim of this research was to study the relative acute cladoceran community sensitivity in different aquatic systems. Current risk assessment procedures are based upon hypothetical communities and do not take into account variation in species composition and tolerance between aquatic communities. Two metals, copper and zinc, were used as model toxicants. To establish comparative sensitivity, a standard medium (International Organization for Standardization [ISO]) was used. The generic SSD (log-normal distribution) based on toxicity data obtained in this standard medium for all species (collected at all sites) resulted in a hazardous concentrations that protects 95% of the species occurring in a (hypothetical) ecosystem (i.e., hazardous concentration protecting 95% of the species of the hypothetical ecosystem [HC5]) of 6.7 μg Cu L−1 (90% confidence limits: 4.2–10.8) and 559 μg Zn L−1 (375–843). This generic SSD was not significantly different from the site-specific SSDs (i.e., constructed with species only occurring at a specific site). Mean community sensitivity (the geometric mean of 48-h 50% effective concentration [EC50] values of species within a community) among sites varied within a factor of 2 (between 17.3 and 23.6 μg Cu L−1 for Cu and between 973 and 1,808 μg Zn L−1 for Zn), and HC5s varied within a factor of 4 for copper (between 4.5 and 17.3 μg Cu L−1) and 7 for zinc (between 194 and 1,341 μg Zn L−1). For copper, the HC50 of our generic SSD was significantly lower than the one based on literature toxicity data of cladoceran species (which were recalculated to the hardness of our standard medium). In contrast, no significant differences were observed between the generic SSD and the literature-based SSD for zinc. It is suggested that the community sensitivity of different cladoceran populations is similar among aquatic systems and is not dependent on the species composition.