Silver nanoparticles, chemically neutral particles in the size range of 1–100 nm, express strong antimicrobial activity and therefore have a broad range of applications. The increased use of consumer products with nanosilver (nanoAg) may result in its release into the environment, and may particularly affect aquatic systems. The mechanisms of the harmful effects of nanoAg against aquatic organisms are unclear. Therefore, in the present study we investigate the pro-oxidative potential of these nanoparticles in experimentally exposed crayfish Orconectes limosus. Markers of oxidative stress and parameters of the antioxidant cell defense system such as total glutathione, glutathione reductase and the level of sulfhydryl groups were examined in the hepatopancreas of both sexes of O. limosus collected seasonally from Białe Lake (Poland) and subsequently exposed to nanoAg particles for 2 weeks. Exposure to nanoAg led to a high concentration-dependent increase in the rate of lipid peroxidation and a decrease of protein-bound SH groups which indicates protein oxidation. These markers of oxidative stress were accompanied by decreased levels of thiols and reduced activity of glutathione reductase. These results indicate a deficiency of reduced glutathione and suggest that the exposed organisms have less efficient antioxidative mechanisms available to counter ROS-mediated cellular stress. Furthermore, we find that confocal microscopy is of limited utility in monitoring the presence of silver nanoparticles in tissues of exposed crayfish. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 1283–1291, 2014.