Silver catfish, Rhamdia quelen (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), is an endemic species from Latin America that is raised in cultivation ponds, and consequently may be exposed to low oxygen levels. Therefore, the objective of this study was to verify the lethal concentration (CL50−96 h) of dissolved oxygen levels for silver catfish juveniles. In addition, the effects of different dissolved oxygen levels (1.96±0.08, 3.10±0.10, 4.14±0.09, 5.20±0.07 and 6.16±0.03 mg L−1) on growth and metabolic parameters (glycogen, glucose, protein, lactate levels and catalase activity) were also investigated. CL50−96 h was 0.52 mg L−1 (CI 0.42–0.61 mg L−1) or 6.7% oxygen saturation. After exposure of silver catfish to hypoxia for 30 days, there were no changes in biochemical parameters indicating the use of an anaerobic pathway by the fish. However, the dissolved oxygen levels influenced silver catfish juvenile behaviour, survival and growth, and under the experimental conditions 5.2 mg L−1 (or 65.6% oxygen saturation) is the minimum oxygen level recommended for the growth of this species.