Inorganic divalent mercury complexes (Hg2+) and monomethylmercury complexes (MeHg) are the main mercury species in aquatic systems and their toxicity to aquatic organisms is of great concern. Tetrahymena is a type of unicellular eukaryotic protozoa located at the bottom of food chain that plays a fundamental role in the biomagnification of mercury. In this work, the dynamic accumulation properties, toxicological characteristics and mechanisms of Hg2+ and MeHg in five Tetrahymena species were evaluated in detail. The results showed that both Hg2+ and MeHg were ingested and exhibited inhibitory effects on the proliferation or survival of Tetrahymena species. However, the ingestion rate of MeHg was significantly higher than that of Hg2+. The mechanisms responsible for the toxicity of MeHg and Hg2+ were different, although both chemicals altered mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP). MeHg disrupted the integrity of membranes while Hg2+ had detrimental effects on Tetrahymena as a result of the increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In addition, the five Tetrahymena species showed different capacities in accumulating Hg2+ and MeHg, with T. corlissi exhibiting the highest accumulations. The study also found significant growth-promoting effect on T. corlissi under low concentration exposure (0.003 and 0.01 μg Hg/mL (15 and 50 nM)), suggesting different effect and mechanism that should be more closely examined when assessing the bioaccumulation and toxicity of mercury in aquatic ecosystems.