The major research questions addressed in this study were (i) whether green microalgae living in soft water (operationally defined water hardness 25 mg CaCO/L), and (ii) whether a single bioavailability model can be used to predict the effect of water hardness on the toxicity of Ni to green microalgae in both soft and hard water. Algal growth inhibition tests were conducted with clones of 10 different species collected in soft and hard water lakes in Sweden. Soft water algae were tested in a 'soft' and a 'moderately hard' test medium (nominal water hardness = 6.25 and 16.3 mg CaCO/L, respectively), whereas hard water algae were tested in a 'moderately hard' and a 'hard' test medium (nominal water hardness = 16.3 and 43.4 mg CaCO/L, respectively). The results from the growth inhibition tests in the 'moderately hard' test medium revealed no significant sensitivity differences between the soft and the hard water algae used in this study. Increasing water hardness significantly reduced Ni toxicity to both soft and hard water algae. Because it has previously been demonstrated that Ca does not significantly protect the unicellular green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata against Ni toxicity, it was assumed that the protective effect of water hardness can be ascribed to Mg alone. The log K (= 5.5) was calculated to be identical for the soft and the hard water algae used in this study. A single bioavailability model can therefore be used to predict Ni toxicity to green microalgae in soft and hard surface waters as a function of water hardness.