Dissolved oxygen (DO) plays a critical role in the development of the juvenile stages of benthic spawning fish and salmonids in particular. Factors influencing the DO regime within spawning gravels include the accumulation of fine sediment, penetration of groundwater or surface water into the gravels, thermal regime, and the consumption of oxygen by sediment and its associated organic fractions. In this field study, we quantify the DO regime within an artificial salmon redd at high temporal resolution. The environment within the redd is shown to be complex, with large variations in DO. Application of a numerical model (SIDO-UK) enables for the first time, the quantification of the relative contributions to DO consumption from thermal regime, sediment accumulation and sediment oxygen demand. Sediment accumulation is shown to have a minor impact on DO in the redd whereas upwelling groundwater is identified as the most likely cause of the major changes in DO. Bed mobility has a minor impact on DO regime of the redd. The effects of fine sediment and oxygen supply on salmon embryo survival are estimated. Implications for river catchment management and prospects for future research are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.