In vivo studies with Daphnia magna remain inconclusive as to whether engineered nanoparticles (NPs) are internalized into tissues after ingestion. Here we used a three-pronged approach to study the in vivo retention and efflux kinetics of 20 nm citrate stabilized Au NPs ingested by this key aquatic species. Daphnids were exposed to suspended particles (600 μg L−1) for 5 h after which they were depurated for 24 h in clean water containing algae. Light microscopy was used to follow the passage of Au NPs through the gastrointestinal tract, Au body burdens were determined by ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to examine the presence and distribution of Au NPs in tissues. Results revealed that the elimination of Au NPs was bi-phasic. The fast elimination phase lasted <1 h and the rate constant at which Au (of Au NPs) was eliminated was 1.12 ± 0.34 h−1 (±SE) which accounted for ∼75% of the ingested Au. The remaining ∼25% of the ingested Au NPs was eliminated at a 100-fold slower rate. TEM analysis revealed that Au NPs in the midgut were in close proximity to the peritrophic membrane after 1 and 24 h of depuration. There were no observations of Au NP uptake at the microvilli. Thus, although Au NPs were retained in the gut lumen, there was no observable internalization into the gut epithelial cells. Similar to carbon nanotubes and CuO NPs, our findings indicate that in daphnids the in vivo retention of Au NPs does not necessarily result in their internalization.