Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an important retinal neurotransmitter. We studied the expression of GABA, glutamate decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) and GAD67 by immunocytochemistry and Western blot, in the retinas of control and dark-reared C57BL/6J black mice. This study asked three questions. First, is visual input necessary for the normal expression of GABA, GAD65 and GAD67? Second, can the retina recover from the effects of dark-rearing if returned to a normal light–dark cycle? Third, does BDNF prevent the influence of dark-rearing on the expression of GABA and GAD? At postnatal day 10 (P10), before eye opening, GABA immunoreactivity was present in the ganglion cell layer (GCL), in the innermost rows of the inner nuclear layer (INL) and throughout the inner plexiform layer (IPL) of control and dark-reared retinas. In P30 control retinas, GABA immunoreactivity showed similar patterns to those at P10. However, in P30 dark-reared retinas, the density of GABA-immunoreactive cells was lower in both the INL and GCL than in control retinas. In addition, visual deprivation retarded GABA immunoreactivity in the IPL. Western blot analysis showed corresponding differences in the levels of GAD65 but not of GAD67 expression between control and dark-rearing conditions. In our study, dark-rearing effects were reversed when the mice were put in normal cyclic light–dark conditions for 2 weeks. Moreover, dark-reared retinas treated with BDNF showed normal expression of both GABA and GAD65. Our data indicate that normal expression of GABA and GAD65 is dependent on visual input. Furthermore, the data suggest that BDNF controls this dependence.