Many physiological and behavioural responses to varying qualities of light, particularly during the night (scotophase), have been well documented in rodents. We used varying wavelengths of day-time (photophase) lighting to assess daily responses in locomotor activity in the nocturnal Namaqua rock mouse (Micaelamys namaquensis) and diurnal four-striped field mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio). Animals were exposed to three light–dark cycle regimes: a short-wavelength- (SWLC, blue), a medium-wavelength- (MWLC, green) and a long-wavelength light–dark cycle (LWLC, red). Overall, daily locomotor activity of both species changed according to different wavelengths of light: the diurnal species displayed most activity under the SWLC and the nocturnal species exhibited the highest levels of activity under the LWLC. Both species showed an increase in diurnal activity and a decrease in nocturnal activity under the LWLC. These results indicate an attenuated responsiveness to long-wavelength light in the nocturnal species, but this does not appear to be true for the diurnal species. These results emphasize that the effect of light on the locomotor activity of animals depends on both the properties of the light and the temporal organization of activity of a species.