During early ontogeny, visual opsin gene expression in cichlids is influenced by prevailing light reg-imen. Red light, for example, leads to an early switch from the expression of short-wavelength sensitive to long-wavelength sensitive opsins. Here, we address the influence of light deprivation on opsin expression. Individuals reared in constant darkness during the first 14 days post-hatching (dph) showed a general developmental delay compared with fish reared under a 12:12 hr light-dark cycle (control group). Several characters including pigmentation patterns and eye development , appeared later in dark-reared individuals. Quantitative real-time PCR and fluorescent in situ hybridization at six time points during the 14 days period revealed that fish from the control group expressed opsin genes from 5 dph on and maintained a short-wavelength sensitive phenotype (sws1, rh2b, and rh2a). Onset of opsin expression in dark-reared Midas cichlids was delayed by 4 days and visual sensitivity rapidly progressed toward a long-wavelength sensitive phenotype (sws2b, rh2a, and lws). Shifts in visual sensitivities toward longer wavelengths are mediated by thyroid hormone (TH) in many vertebrates. Compared to control fish, dark-reared individuals showed elevated dio3 expression levels-a validated proxy for TH concentration-suggesting higher circulating TH levels. Despite decelerated overall development, ontogeny of opsin gene expression was accelerated, resulting in retinae with long-wavelength shifted predicted sensitivities compared to light-reared individuals. Indirect evidence suggests that this was due to altered TH metabolism.