Some animals have the remarkable capacity to acclimate across generations to projected future climate change1, 2, 3, 4; however, the underlying molecular processes are unknown. We sequenced and assembled de novo transcriptomes of adult tropical reef fish exposed developmentally or transgenerationally to projected future ocean temperatures and correlated the resulting expression profiles with acclimated metabolic traits from the same fish. We identified 69 contigs representing 53 key genes involved in thermal acclimation of aerobic capacity. Metabolic genes were among the most upregulated transgenerationally, suggesting shifts in energy production for maintaining performance at elevated temperatures. Furthermore, immune- and stress-responsive genes were upregulated transgenerationally, indicating a new complement of genes allowing the second generation of fish to better cope with elevated temperatures. Other differentially expressed genes were involved with tissue development and transcriptional regulation. Overall, we found a similar suite of differentially expressed genes among developmental and transgenerational treatments. Heat-shock protein genes were surprisingly unresponsive, indicating that short-term heat-stress responses may not be a good indicator of long-term acclimation capacity. Our results are the first to reveal the molecular processes that may enable marine fishes to adjust to a future warmer environment over multiple generations.