This study examined the role of the anal papillae of the freshwater (FW) chironomid larva Chironomus riparius in ionoregulation under ion-poor conditions. The scanning ion-selective electrode technique (SIET) was utilized to characterize the species, direction, and rates of inorganic ion transport by the anal papillae following acute and long-term exposure to ion-poor water (IPW). The major inorganic ions in the hemolymph of larvae treated as above were measured using standard ion-selective microelectrodes. The anal papillae of C. riparius are sites of net NaCl uptake and H(+) secretion under FW and IPW conditions and are not likely to be a major contributor of K(+) exchange. Acute and long-term exposure to IPW increased total net transport of Na(+), Cl(-), and H(+) by the anal papillae, but the mechanisms underlying the increase under the two conditions were different. Acute IPW exposure increased the magnitude of net ion fluxes at sites along the anal papillae, while long-term IPW exposure resulted in increased size of the anal papillae with no change in the magnitude of net ion fluxes. The contribution of the anal papillae to observed alterations of hemolymph ion activities upon exposure to IPW is discussed. Inhibitors of the Na(+)/H(+) exchangers (EIPA) and carbonic anhydrase (methazolamide) provide evidence for Na(+)/H(+) and Cl(-)/HCO(3)(-) exchange mechanisms in the anal papillae. This study demonstrates that C. riparius larvae employ two different mechanisms to upregulate the total net transport of ions by the anal papillae, and these mechanisms are at least partially responsible for regulating hemolymph ion activity.