Laboratory biofilters (pilot-scale, 201 and laboratory-scale, 5 1) were constructed in order to model the bioaccumulation of manganese (Mn) under flow conditions similar to those occurring in biofilters at groundwater treatment sites. The biofilters were operated as monocultures of Leptothrix discophora, the predominant organism in mature Mn oxidising biofilms. Biologically mediated Mn bioaccumulation was successfully modelled in both filter systems. The data obtained showed that in the small-scale biofilter, the Mn concentrations that gave the highest rate of Mn bioaccumulation, shortest maturation time, highest optical density (biomass) and growth rate were between 2000 and 3000 mugl(-1). The non-problematic scale-up of the process from the laboratory-scale to the pilot-scale biofilter model suggests that Mn biofilters may be 'seeded' with laboratory grown cultures of L. discophora. By initially operating the biofilter as a re-circulating, batch culture, with an initial Mn concentration of similar to 2500 mugl(-1), it is hoped to reduce the filter maturation time from months to days. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.