Fish gills are target organs for waterborne metal ions and this work aimed to investigate the effects of waterborne Ni2+ (10, 25 and 50 mg L−1) on goldfish gills. A special focus was on the relationship between Ni uptake and the homeostasis of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the gills, the tissue, in direct contact with the metal pollutant. Ni-accumulation in the gills occurred as a function of exposure concentrations (R2 = 0.98). The main indices of oxidative stress, namely carbonyl proteins (CP) and lipid peroxides (LOOH), decreased by 21-33% and 21-24%, as well as the activities of principal antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and glutathione-dependent peroxidase, by 29-47% and 41-46%, respectively, in gills of Ni-exposed fish. One of the main players in the antioxidant defense of gills seems to be catalase, which increased by 23-53% in Ni-treated fish, and low molecular mass thiol-containing compounds (L-SH), exceeding untreated controls by 73-105% after fish exposure to 10-50 mg L−1 of Ni2+. The increased level of L-SH, mainly represented by reduced glutathione, was supported by enhanced activities of glutathione reductase (by 27-38%), glutathione-S-transferase (56-141%) and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (by 96-117%) and demonstrates the ability of the antioxidant system of gills to resist Ni-induced oxidative stress.