Chick eyes compensate for defocus imposed by spectacle lenses by making compensatory changes in eye length and choroidal thickness, a laboratory model of emmetropization. To investigate the roles of longitudinal chromatic aberration and of chromatic mechanisms in emmetropization, we examined the participation of different cone classes, and we compared the efficacy of lens compensation under monochromatic illumination with that under white light of the same illuminance to the chick eye. Chicks wore positive or negative 6D or 8D lenses on one eye for 3 days, under either blue (460 nm) or red (620 nm) light at 0.67 lux or under white light at 0.67 or 0.2 lux (all measures are corrected for chick photopic sensitivity). The illumination conditions were chosen to differentially stimulate either the short-wavelength and ultraviolet cones or the long-wavelength and double cones. Measurements are expressed as the relative change: the inter-ocular difference in the amount of change over the 3 days of lens wear. We find that under this low illumination the two components of lens compensation were differentially affected by the monochromatic illumination: in blue light lens compensation was mainly due to changes in eye length, whereas in red light lens compensation was mainly due to changes in choroidal thickness. In general, white light produced better lens compensation than monochromatic illumination. NEGATIVE LENSES: Under white light negative lenses caused an increase in eye length (60 microm) together with a decrease in choroidal thickness (-51 microm) relative to the fellow eye. Under blue light, although there was an increase in eye length (32 microm), there was no change in choroidal thickness (5 microm). In contrast, under red light there was a decrease in choroidal thickness (-62 microm) but no increase in eye length (8 microm). Relative ocular elongation was the same in white and monochromatic light. POSITIVE LENSES: Under white light positive lenses caused a decrease in eye length (-142 microm) together with an increase in choroidal thickness (68 microm) relative to the fellow eye. Under blue light, there was a decrease in eye length (-64 microm), but no change in choroidal thickness (2 microm). In contrast, under red light there was an increase (90 microm) in choroidal thickness but less of a decrease (-36 microm) in eye length. Lens compensation by inhibition of ocular elongation was less effective under monochromatic illumination than under white light (white v red: p=0.003; white v blue p=.014). The differential effects of red and blue light on the choroidal and ocular length compensatory responses suggest that they are driven by different proportions of the cone-types, implying that, although chromatic contrast is not essential for lens compensation and presumably for emmetropization as well, the retinal substrates exist for utilizing chromatic contrast in these compensatory responses. The generally better lens compensation in white than monochromatic illumination suggests that longitudinal chromatic aberration may be used in lens compensation.