We visualized individual quantum dots using a combination of a confining nanochannel and an ultra-sensitive microscope system, equipped with a high numerical aperture lens and a highly sensitive camera. The diffusion coefficients of the confined quantum dots were determined from the experimentally recorded trajectories according to the classical diffusion theory for Brownian motion in two dimensions. The calculated diffusion coefficients were three times smaller than those in bulk solution. These observations confirm and extend the results of Eichmann et al (2008 Langmuir 24 714–21) to smaller particle diameters and more narrow confinement. A detailed analysis shows that the observed reduction in mobility cannot be explained by conventional hydrodynamic theory.