Arabidopsis was grown in a 12, 8, 4 or 3 h photoperiod to investigate how metabolism and growth adjust to a decreased carbon supply. There was a progressive increase in the rate of starch synthesis, decrease in the rate of starch degradation, decrease of malate and fumarate, decrease of the protein content and decrease of the relative growth rate. Carbohydrate and amino acids levels at the end of the night did not change. Activities of enzymes involved in photosynthesis, starch and sucrose synthesis and inorganic nitrogen assimilation remained high, whereas five of eight enzymes from glycolysis and organic acid metabolism showed a significant decrease of activity on a protein basis. Glutamate dehydrogenase activity increased. In a 2 h photoperiod, the total protein content and most enzyme activities decreased strongly, starch synthesis was inhibited, and sugars and amino acids levels rose at the end of the night and growth was completely inhibited. The rate of starch degradation correlated with the protein content and the relative growth rate across all the photoperiod treatments. It is discussed how a close coordination of starch turnover, the protein content and growth allows Arabidopsis to avoid carbon starvation, even in very short photoperiods.