Matthiessen's ratio (distance from centre of lens to retina:lens radius) was measured in developing black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae, Teleostei). The value decreased over the first 10 days post-hatch from 3.6 to 2.3 along the nasal and from four to 2.6 along temporal axis. Coincidentally, there was a decrease in the focal ratio of the lens (focal length:lens radius). Morphologically, the accommodatory retractor lentis muscle appeared to become functional between 10-12 days post-hatch. The results suggest that a higher focal ratio compensates for the relatively high Matthiessen's ratio brought about by constraints of small eye size during early development. Combined with differences in axial length, this provides a means for larval fish to focus images from different distances prior to the ability to accommodate.