Abstract In this study, we apply Fry's classification of environmental factors to demonstrate the limiting effects of oxygen and its interaction with temperature on the growth of juvenile P. lethostigma. We also evaluated the properties of two metabolic indices, marginal metabolic scope (MMS) and limiting oxygen concentration (LOC), as indicators of metabolic scope. We found that oxygen limitation has its greatest impact near the optimum temperature for growth of the species. At 29 °C a reduction from 6.00 mg/L to 4.00 mg/L caused a 50% reduction in growth rate while at 27 °C the reduction had no significant effect on growth rate. The results are particularly relevant because these temperatures and oxygen concentrations are commonly observed in nursery areas during summer months. At all temperatures fish from the lowest oxygen treatment (1.75 mg/L) had negative growth rates. Comparisons between daily oscillating oxygen treatments and constant treatments failed to demonstrate significant effects. At temperatures past the optimum, growth rates between the 6.00 mg/L and 4.00 mg/L treatments were not statistically different. LOC was significantly affected by temperature, oxygen, and their interaction. Estimates were positively correlated with oxygen treatment ( R 2 > 0.71) and negatively correlated with temperature at moderate and low oxygen concentrations ( R 2 > − 0.84). MMS was significantly affected by temperature and oxygen and was significantly correlated with oxygen treatment ( R 2 > − 0.91), but correlations with temperature were not as clear. In conclusion, oxygen and temperature interactions have significant effects on metabolic scope and growth rates of fish, well above the accepted hypoxia threshold of 2.00 mg/L and MMS has proved a useful estimator of the metabolic scope of the organism within an environment.