Arsenic is a carcinogenic metalloid, exists in two important oxidation states—arsenate (As–V) and arsenite (As-III). The influence of arsenate with or without silicate on the growth and thiol metabolism in rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. MTU-1010) seedlings were investigated. Arsenate was more toxic for root growth than shoot growth where the root lengths were short, characteristically fragile and root tips turned brown. The multiple comparison analysis using Tukey’s HSD (honest significant difference) tests indicated that the rate of arsenate accumulation and its conversion to arsenite by arsenate reductase were significantly increased in all arsenate treated seedlings while in seedlings treated jointly with arsenate and silicate, arsenate accumulation and its conversion to arsenite decreased. Silicate content was detected in the seedlings treated with silicate alone and under co-application of arsenate with silicate. In the test seedlings arsenic toxicity increased ascorbate and glutathione contents along with the activities of their regulatory enzymes, viz., ascorbate peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione–s-transferase to reduce the toxicity level induced by arsenic whereas ascorbate oxidase activity was decreased to maintain sufficient ascorbate pool under arsenate treatment. Phytochelatins production were increased in both root and shoot of the test seedlings under arsenate exposure to alter the detrimental effects of arsenic by chelation with arsenite and their subsequent sequestration into vacuole. Thus, joint application of silicate along with arsenate showed significant alterations on all the parameters tested compared to arsenate treatment alone due to less availability of arsenic in the tissue leading to better growth and metabolism in rice seedlings. Thus use of silicon in arsenic contaminated medium may help to grow rice with improved vigour. © 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.