Biochemical and physiological acclimation to different light environments is crucial for plant growth and survival. In high light (HL), feedback de-excitation (qE) is a well-known photoprotective mechanism that dissipates excess excitation energy in the light-harvesting antenna of photosystem II (PSII) and relieves excitation pressure in the photosynthetic electron transport chain. The xanthophylls zeaxanthin (Z) and lutein (L) function in qE, but also have roles as antioxidants. Although several studies have shown that qE is important during short-term fluctuations in light intensity, here we show that it is not required for the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana in prolonged HL conditions in the laboratory. Mutants that are deficient in qE alone, qE and Z synthesis, or in qE, Z synthesis and also L synthesis were able to grow at 1800 micromol photons m(-2) s(-1) and exhibited no major symptoms of photooxidative stress. The mutants (and wild type) acclimated to HL by increasing photosynthetic capacity and decreasing light harvesting, which together rendered qE less important for photoprotection. At a metabolite level, the HL-grown mutants appeared to compensate for their remaining qE deficit with increased alpha-tocopherol and ascorbate levels compared to the wild type. The specificity of this response provides insight into the relationship between qE and the antioxidant network in plants.