AMPA and NMDA type glutamate receptors were studied in isolated catfish cone horizontal cells using the whole-cell and outside-out patch-recording techniques. In whole-cell recordings, cyclothiazide (CTZ) enhanced the peak current in response to glutamate (in the presence of NMDA receptor antagonists). In patch recordings, currents evoked by rapid and maintained applications of glutamate desensitized with a time constant of one millisecond. CTZ blocked this rapid desensitization. Recovery from desensitization of the AMPA receptors was rapid, having a time constant of 8.65 ms. In contrast, the whole-cell and patch responses to applications of NMDA were much smaller than the AMPA receptor responses and did not desensitize. The relative contribution of these two receptor subtypes depends critically on the condition of the synapse; if glutamate levels are tonically present, the NMDA receptors contribute significantly to the postsynaptic response. If glutamate levels fall rapidly following the release of a single quantum of glutamate, then AMPA receptor currents will dominate the postsynaptic response.