Among all environmental contaminants, those emerging from nanotechnologies constitute one of the most critical challenges for the coming years. The new properties of nanoparticles are at the heart of current scientific advances and the growing interest in harnessing them brings awareness of potential impacts that we cannot ignore. To date, scientists and industrialists have focused on the manufacture of nanomaterials more than on the assessment of the risks for humans and ecosystems. Few databases exist regarding the amounts released within ecosystems and no specific procedure of recycling has yet been established. However, nanoparticles cannot be considered as molecular pollutants or larger particles, and careful consideration is needed to establish a legal system that is specific. Their novel properties, surface energy and reactivity make it impossible to simply transfer our physicochemical, thermodynamic and toxicological knowledge from the micronscale to the nanoscale. This article highlights, nonexhaustively, the strong relationship existing between the unique properties of metallic and metal oxide nanoparticles and their biological effects on aquatic organisms.