||The discovery of melanopsin, the non-visual opsin present in intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), has created great excitement in the field of circadian biology. Now, researchers have emphasized melanopsin as the main photopigment governing circadian activity in vertebrates. Circadian biologists have tested this idea under standard laboratory, 12h Light: 12h Dark, lighting conditions that lack the dramatic daily colour changes of natural skylight. Here we used a stimulus paradigm in which the colour of the illumination changed throughout the day, thus mimicking natural skylight, but luminance, sensed intrinsically by melanopsin containing ganglion cells, was kept constant. We show in two species of cichlid, Aequidens pulcher and Labeotropheus fuelleborni, that changes in light colour, not intensity, are the primary determinants of natural circadian activity. Moreover, opponent-cone photoreceptor inputs to ipRGCs mediate the sensation of wavelength change, and not the intrinsic photopigment, melanopsin. These results have implications for understanding the evolutionary biology of non-visual photosensory pathways and answer long-standing questions about the nature and distribution of photopigments in organisms, including providing a solution to the mystery of why nocturnal animals routinely have mutations that interrupt the function of their short wavelength sensitive photopigment gene.