To better understand their fate and toxicity in aquatic environments, we compared the aggregation and dissolution behavior of gum arabic (GA) and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) coated Ag nanoparticles (NPs) in aquatic microcosms. There were four microcosm types: surface water; water and sediment; water and aquatic plants; or water, sediment, and aquatic plants. Dissolution and aggregation behavior of AgNPs were examined using ultracentrifugation, ultrafiltration, and asymmetrical flow field flow fractionation coupled to ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy, dynamic and static laser light scattering, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Plants released dissolved organic matter (DOM) into the water column either through active or passive processes in response to Ag exposure. This organic matter fraction readily bound Ag ions. The plant-derived DOM had the effect of stabilizing PVP-AgNPs as primary particles, but caused GA-AgNPs to be removed from the water column, likely by dissolution and binding of released Ag ions on sediment and plant surfaces. The destabilization of the GA-AgNPs also corresponded with X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy results which suggest that 22–28% of the particulate Ag was associated with thiols and 5–14% was present as oxides. The results highlight the potential complexities of nanomaterial behavior in response to biotic and abiotic modifications in ecosystems, and may help to explain differences in toxicity of Ag observed in realistic exposure media compared to simplified laboratory exposures.