Most organisms display oscillations of approximately 24 hours in their physiology. In higher organisms, these circadian oscillations in biochemical and physiological processes ultimately control complex behavioral rhythms that allow an organism to thrive in its natural habitat. Daily and seasonal light cycles are mainly responsible for keeping the circadian system properly aligned with the environment. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the control of the circadian clock have been explored in a number of systems. Interestingly, the circadian oscillations that are responsive to environmental stimuli are present very early during development. This review focuses on the advantages of using the zebrafish to study the development of the vertebrate circadian system and light-dependent signaling to the clock. BioEssays 24:419–426, 2002. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.