The application of UV-Vis and time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence (TRLF) spectroscopies to direct speciation of uranium(VI) in environmental samples offers various prospects that have, however, serious limitations. While UV-Vis spectroscopy is probably not sensitive enough to detect uranium(VI) species in the majority of environmental samples, TRLFS is principially able to speciate uranium(VI) at very low concentration levels in the nanomol range. Speciation by TRLFS can be based on three parameters: excitation spectrum, emission spectrum and lifetime of the fluorescence emission process. Due to quenching effects, the lifetime may not be expected to be as characteristic as, e.g., the emission spectrum. Quenching of U(VI) fluorescence by reaction with organic substances, inorganic ions and formation of carbonate radicals is one important limiting factor in the application of U(VI) fluorescence spectroscopy. Fundamental photophysical criteria are illustrated using UV-Vis and fluorescence spectra of U(VI) hydrolysis and carbonato species as examples.