The potential for seed dispersal by fish (ichthyochory) is likely to vary within aquatic plant species, depending on intraspecific variation in phenotypic seed traits. 2. We studied the effect of seed size variation within the unbranched burreed (Sparganium emersum) on the potential for internal dispersal by the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), by feeding them light (<10 mg), medium (10–20 mg) and heavy ( > 20 mg) seeds, seed mass being positively related to seed size. 3. We hypothesized: (i) that ingestion, retention time, survival during gut passage and viability after gut passage of S. emersum seeds would be affected by seed size; and (ii) that this would translate into intraspecific variation in dispersal probability and dispersal distance among seed size categories. 4. Ingestion was negatively related to seed size, while survival during gut passage was positively related to seed size. Seed viability after gut passage was not affected by seed size. Since the negative effect of ingestion was counterbalanced by an equally strong but positive effect on seed survival, the probability of dispersal did not differ between the tested seed-size categories. 5. The time that seeds remained in the digestive tract of carp did not differ between seed sizes, suggesting equal potential dispersal distances for all seeds. Based on optimum swimming speeds of carp, ranging from 0·9 to 1·8 km h1, maximum dispersal distances will most likely range from 13·5 to 27 km. 6. This study highlights the importance of studying all stages of the endozoochorous dispersal process in order to estimate the effect of a phenotypic seed trait on plant dispersal.