CDK9 is a known regulator of cellular transcription, growth and proliferation. Small molecule inhibitors are currently being developed and assessed in clinical trials as anti-cancer drugs. The zebrafish embryo provides an ideal model to explore the effects of CDK9 inhibition in-vivo. This has not been adequately explored previously at the level of a whole organism. We have compared and contrasted the effects of pharmacological and molecular inhibition of CDK9 on somatic growth, apoptosis and cellular proliferation in zebrafish larvae between 0 to 120 hours post fertilisation (hpf) using flavopiridol, a selective CDK9 antagonist, and CDK9-targeting morpholino. We demonstrate that the inhibition of CDK9 diminishes cellular proliferation and increases apoptosis. Subsequently, it affects somatic growth and development of a number of key embryonic structures including the brain, heart, eye and blood vessels. For the first time, we have localized CDK9 at a subcellular level in whole-mounted larvae. This works shows, at a high-throughput level, that CDK9 clearly plays a fundamental role in early cellular growth and proliferation.