Microalgal biofilms are sensitive to environmental conditions. Impacts of contaminants on assemblages of marine biofilm are often investigated in laboratories or in mesocosms. Such experiments are rarely representative of the effects of contaminants on biofilms under natural conditions. Studies in field situations, with enough power to detect impacts, are necessary to develop a better understanding of the effects of contaminants on ecological processes. Metals are a common contaminant of marine systems and can cause disturbances to assemblages. Using a new technique to experimentally deliver contaminants to microalgal assemblages, hypotheses were tested regarding the effects of zinc on microalgal biofilms growing on settlement panels in subtidal and intertidal habitats. PAM fluorometry was used to assess the amount and physiological state of biofilms on panels. Control panels deployed for 1 month in each habitat had significantly greater amounts of biofilm than those exposed to zinc. After deployment for 3 months, the results varied with location. The observed effects on the biofilm did not, however, cause significant changes in the macro-invertebrate assemblages that developed on the panels.