This study evaluated the anesthetic potential of thymol and carvacrol, and their influence on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in the muscle and brain of silver catfish (Rhamdia quelen). The AChE activity of S-(+)-linalool was also evaluated. We subsequently assessed the effects of thymol and S-(+)-linalool on the GABAergic system. Fish were exposed to thymol and carvacrol (25, 50, 75, and 100 mg/L) to evaluate time for anesthesia and recovery. Both compounds induced sedation at 25 mg/L and anesthesia with 50-100 mg/L. However, fish exposed to carvacrol presented strong muscle contractions and mortality. AChE activity was increased in the brain of fish at 50 mg/L carvacrol and 100 mg/L thymol, and decreased in the muscle at 100 mg/L carvacrol. S-(+)-linalool did not alter AChE activity. Anesthesia with thymol was reversed by exposure to picrotoxin (GABAA antagonist), similar to the positive control propofol, but was not reversed by flumazenil (antagonist of benzodiazepine binding site), as observed for the positive control diazepam. Picrotoxin did not reverse the effect of S-(+)-linalool. Thymol exposure at 50 mg/L is more suitable than carvacrol for anesthesia in silver catfish, because this concentration did not cause any mortality or interference with AChE activity. Thymol interacted with GABAA receptors, but not with the GABAA/benzodiazepine site. In contrast, S-(+)-linalool did not act in GABAA receptors in silver catfish.