Six day old rice seedlings (Oryza sativa L. cv. Bahía) were grown for 5 or 10 days in a nutrient solution with either Cd (0.01, 0.1 mmol/l) or Ni (0.1, 0.5 mmol/l). Both Cd and Ni reduced the length of shoots and roots depending on the concentration and type of ion tested. On the other hand, the dry weight to fresh weight ratio was increased by heavy metal treatments, especially in the aerial part of 0.5 mmol/l Ni treated plants. The application of 0.1 mmol/l Cd and 0.5 mmol/l Ni to the seedlings produced an inhibition of the transport of carbohydrate reserves from the seeds from which plants were developing, to the rest of the plant. Net photosynthesis was also inhibited in treated plants. However, the total carbohydrate content in the shoots of these plants was higher than in controls. Thus, the starch, soluble sugars and sucrose content in the shoots of 0.5 mmol/l Ni treated plants was respectively up to 2.6, 2.8 and 4 times greater compared to controls. The distribution of assimilates between organs was also affected by the treatment: the carbohydrate content increased in the stem and second leaf but it was not affected or decreased in the root and third leaf. Although less evident, the effect of Cd on carbohydrate distribution and content was similar to that of Ni. The possible mechanisms involved in the abnormal carbohydrate accumulation and distribution are discussed.