Determining the metabolic rate of larval invertebrates from aquatic habitats is complicated by the problems of small size and the scarcity of suitable measurement techniques. In this study, coulometric respirometry (a new technique for the study of marine embryos and larvae) was used to explore several issues associated with the rate of energy use during embryonic and larval development of marine invertebrates from three phyla. Coulometric respirometry measures rates of oxygen consumption under normoxic conditions by electrochemically replacing the oxygen consumed by organisms during an experiment. This technique is based on the assumption that all electrons consumed by the anodic reactions result in the production of oxygen. We verify this assumption using direct measurements of oxygen production and show that the technique is sensitive enough (1 nmol O2 h-1) to quantify the oxygen consumption of a single individual swimming freely in a relatively large volume (2 ml). Continuous measurements can span days, and embryos in the coulometric respiration chambers develop to the larval stage at normal rates of differentiation. Measurements of metabolic rates were made with the coulometric respirometer during the complete life-span of larvae of three species (asteroid, Asterina miniata; bivalve, Crassostrea gigas; echinoid, Dendraster excentricus). For these species, metabolic power equations had mass exponents near unity (0.9–1.1), showing that metabolic rate scales isometrically with mass during larval growth. Metabolic rates were independent of the concentration of larvae used in the respirometer chambers for a range of larval concentrations from 4 to 400 larvae ml-1 (coulometric respirometer) and from 241 to 809 larvae ml-1 (polarographic oxygen sensor). Metabolic rates were measured using coulometric respirometry and two other commonly used techniques, polarographic oxygen sensors and Winkler’s titration. Polarographic oxygen sensors in small, sealed chambers (100µl) consistently gave the lowest values (by as much as 80%) for the asteroid, echinoid and molluscan larvae. By comparison, rates of oxygen consumption measured using coulometric respirometry and Winkler’s titration (to measure the change in oxygen concentration over time) were similar and consistently higher. Although the polarographic oxygen sensor is the most widely used method for measuring the metabolism of small animals in sealed 100–1000µl chambers, it appears that the metabolism of some larvae is adversely affected by the conditions within these respirometers.