Photocurrents of cones in the retinas of a small fish, Danio aequipinnatus (Cyprinidae) were recorded with suction pipette electrodes. Spectral sensitivity was measured between 277 and 697 nm. Four spectral classes of cone were found, with lambdamax at 560, 480, 408, and 358 nm. For the latter, we provide the first complete characterization of spectral sensitivity of a vertebrate ultraviolet (UV) photoreceptor. All cones responded with similar kinetics, except for a subset of the 560-nm cones, which were distinctly faster. The alpha-bands of the three cones absorbing maximally in the visible have the same bandwidth when log sensitivity is plotted versus normalized frequency, and in this respect they are indistinguishable from primate cones ("Mansfield's rule"). An eighth-degree polynomial in lambdamax/lambda based on this combined data set (fish, primate) is presented as a template that is likely to have predictive value in describing cone spectra from other vertebrates. The alpha-band of the UV cone, however, is somewhat narrower than predicted by this function, is similar to other UV visual pigments, and an eighth-degree polynomial that describes its shape is also presented. These measurements also provide information on the beta-band (i.e. cis peak region), difficult to obtain by microspectrophotometry. The beta-band of cone pigments is found at longer wavelengths as the alpha-band shifts toward the red. A secondary rise in cone sensitivity around 280 nm indicates that photons absorbed by aromatic amino acids in the opsin (gamma-band) excite the transduction cascade, but the quantum efficiency is not as high as when absorption occurs in the retinal-protein chromophore.