Hypoxia is a pervasive problem in coastal environments and is predicted to have enduring impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Intraspecific variation in hypoxia tolerance is well documented in fish; however, the factors underlying this variation remain unknown. Here, we investigate the role of the heart in individual hypoxia tolerance of the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). We found individual whole-animal hypoxia tolerance is a stable trait in sea bass for more than 18 months (duration of study). We next examined in vitro cardiac performance and found myocardial muscle from hypoxia-tolerant individuals generated greater force, with higher rates of contraction and relaxation, than hypoxic-sensitive individuals during hypoxic exposure. Thus, whole-animal hypoxia tolerance is associated with cardiac hypoxia tolerance. As the occurrence of aquatic hypoxia is expected to increase in marine ecosystems, our experimental data suggest that cardiac performance may influence fish survival and distribution.