Floods can completely submerge some rice (Oryza sativa L.) fields. Leaves of rice have gas films that aid O2 and CO2 exchange under water. The present study explored the relationship between gas film persistence and underwater net photosynthesis (PN) as influenced by genotype and submergence duration. Four contrasting genotypes (FR13A, IR42, Swarna, and Swarna-Sub1) were submerged for 13 days in the field and leaf gas films, chlorophyll, and the capacity for underwater PN at near ambient and high CO2 were assessed with time of submergence. At high CO 2 during the PN assay, all genotypes initially showed high rates of underwater PN, and this rate was not affected by time of submergence in FR13A. This superior photosynthetic performance of FR13A was not evident in Swarna-Sub1 (carrying the SUB1 QTL) and the declines in underwater PN in both Swarna-Sub1 and Swarna were equal to that in IR42. At near ambient CO2 concentration, underwater PN declined in all four genotypes and this corresponded with loss of leaf gas films with time of submergence. FR13A retained leaf gas films moderately longer than the other genotypes, but gas film retention was not linked to SUB1. Diverse rice germplasm should be screened for gas film persistence during submergence, as this trait could potentially increase carbohydrate status and internal aeration owing to increased underwater PN, which contributes to submergence tolerance in rice. © The Author 2014.