In this review, we consider how the nitrogen-fixing root nodule bacteria, the ‘rhizobia’, acquire various metals, paying particular attention to the uptake of iron. We also review the literature pertaining to the roles of molybdenum and nickel in the symbiosis with legumes. We highlight some gaps in our knowledge, for example the lack of information on how rhizobia acquire molybdenum. We examine the means whereby different metals affect rhizobial physiology and the role of metals as signals for gene regulation. We describe the ways in which genetics has shown (or not) if, and how, particular metal uptake and/or metal-mediated signalling pathways are required for the symbiotic interaction with legumes.