Previous studies with red drum and other species have indicated that diurnal rhythms of circulating thyroid hormones (thyroxine, T(4), and 3-5-3'-triiodo-L-thyronine, T(3)) are synchronized to the light cycle, and not to time of feeding. In this study we set out to address the effects of various lighting regimes on thyroid hormone levels in the red drum. The first experiment was undertaken to determine the effects of long and short photoperiods on diurnal thyroid hormone rhythms, growth rate, feed efficiency and food consumption. Red drum raised under a long photoperiod (16L:8D) grew significantly larger and exhibited greater feed efficiency than their short photoperiod (8L:16D) counterparts. There were no changes in food consumption or the diurnal profile of plasma thyroid hormones, e.g. increased peak amplitude or duration, that would explain this increase in growth rate and feed efficiency. The second experiment was undertaken to determine if diurnal thyroid hormone rhythms in the red drum originate from an endogenous circadian clock. To address this question, red drum were housed under a 12L:12D photoperiod and fed once daily at variable times before the lighting was switched to constant dim illumination for up to 3 days. The rhythm of circulating T(4) levels persisted for two complete cycles with constant amplitude in fish that continued to be fed during constant dim illumination, and did not appear to entrain to feeding. The T(4) rhythm also persisted for three complete cycles under constant conditions in feed-restricted fish, although with a diminished amplitude over time. To our knowledge, these data provide the first evidence for a free-running circadian rhythm of plasma T(4) levels in a fish. These findings implicate the involvement of an endogenous circadian clock that determines when the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axis is activated.