The present study evaluated the effects of dietary Zn level on growth performance, serum and hepatopancreas metabolites, expression of genes involved in lipid and energy metabolism, and the signalling pathway of dietary Zn-induced lipolysis. Five isonitrogenous and isolipidic diets were formulated to contain different Zn levels: 46·4 (basal diet), 77·2, 87·0, 117·1 and 136·8 mg/kg, respectively. The results indicated that shrimp fed the diet containing Zn at 117·1 mg/kg had higher weight gain and specific growth rate, and the lowest feed intake and feed conversion rate, than shrimp fed the other diets. The deposition rate of Zn in whole body significantly decreased with increasing dietary Zn level. Dietary Zn prevented the accumulation of free radicals and improved antioxidant activities by increasing Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase and reducing malondialdehyde in hepatopancreas. Dietary Zn supplementation enhanced lipase activity and adiponectin, which could promote TAG breakdown and fatty acid oxidation and lead to reduced lipid in hepatopancreas. The mRNA expressions of ob-rb, adipor, camkkβ, ampk, cd36, mcd and cpt1 involved in Zn-induced lipid catabolism were up-regulated, and the expressions of srebp, acc, fas and scd1 were down-regulated. The mRNA levels of SLC39 family genes (zip3, zip9, zip11 and zip14) in hepatopancreas were up-regulated with increasing dietary Zn level. The results demonstrated that dietary Zn level could significantly affect growth performance, tissue deposition of Zn, lipid metabolites and expression of genes involved in lipogenesis and lipolysis in Litopenaeus vannamei.