The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of different levels of diet crude protein on the performance and stress resistance rate (Re) of Oreochromis niloticus larvae and fingerlings. In the first experiment, 5, 15 and 25 day-old animals were submitted to 1, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 minutes of air exposure on a sieve. In the second experiment, tilapia larvae were fed with 32, 40 and 55% crude protein (CP) diets. Animals after 15 and 30 days of feeding (21 and 36 days of life, respectively) were submitted to the air exposure test for 7 and 10 minutes. Re was estimated based on survival 24 hours after the tests. In the first experiment, it was observed that 5-day-old animals were more resistant than animals with 10 and 20 days of feeding (15 and 25 days of life, respectively), when Re starts to decrease for longer than 7 minutes. In the second experiment, the different diets affected survival, performance and Re, and, in general, the worst results observed were the ones for the animals which received the 55% CP diet. The air exposure tests were efficient to evaluate the effect of diet on the resistance rate of Nile tilapia.