Can Alligators/Crocodiles see underwater? (Crocodile & Alligator Vision Explained 2023)

Crocodiles and Alligators are from the same order Crocodilia that has been wandering on Earth before Paleogene Period. Crocodiles, alligators, and the gharials have belonged to different biological families, but their eyesight on land and water are almost identical. Here, in this post, we have explained crocodiles’ and alligators’ eyesight and how they see underwater.

The answer to the question, “Can Crocodiles see underwater,” is: Crocodiles can see underwater but not very clearly. Crocodiles and alligators have a nictating membrane, transparent film covering their eyes inside the water to avoid entering dirt or bacteria. However, the nictating membrane degrades the sharpness of their vision. They have haziness underwater vision where they can efficiently see the light, movement, and shapes.

Crocodiles and Alligators have good eyesight, and later in this post, we have discussed a lot about their vision in detail. So, without any further ado, let’s begin.

Can Alligators/Crocodiles see underwater?

Crocodiles and Alligators can see underwater. In the freshwater, they can see much better; however, in the murky water, their vision becomes blurry. Sight is one of their powerful senses.

Crocodiles and alligators have three eyelids. The thick reinforced upper eyelids cover their eyes during an attack by drawing their eyeballs back into the sockets for protection. These upper eyelids also avoid direct contact with the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.

And to see underwater, crocodiles and alligators have a lower eyelid or protective membrane called the nictating membrane. It is a transparent film that acts like a pair of built-in underwater googles. It protects them from harmful bacteria and dust and grants them the ability to discern underwater visually.

However, this protection comes at a vision cost. It limits their underwater sight, and they cannot see anything with clarity.

During the day, the pupils of crocodiles and alligators close into a narrow slit, reducing too much light entering the eye. However, in murky waters or at night, their pupils completely open, and their eyes act as powerful night-vision goggles.

Crocodiles can see underwater | Crocodile Vision vs Human Vision (Underwater)

Color Vision-

Many researchers have investigated how crocodiles’ eye works. It is identified that the size and function of their eyes are identical to a human eye. Crocodiles’ eyes also comprise rods and cones that permit them to see the world in color and with details.

However, they cannot recognize millions of color shades similar to humans. Crocodiles and alligators are dichromatic and have red-green colorblindness. That’s why they detect the blood through their smell receptors.


Crocodiles’ eyesight is predominately dependent on the environment. There is a slight difference in the vision between the salt and freshwater habitats. On the land, crocodiles can easily sense dichromatic colors through their vision, but refraction plays a significant role in the water.

Generally, there is more blue light in the saltwater environment, and in freshwater, there is more red light. After the research, it is concluded that the vision of the freshwater crocodiles is more shifted towards the longer and red wavelengths than the saltwater crocodiles, which can see blue color shades best.   

In a nutshell, crocodiles and alligators can see well focused in the air for distant targets and severely defocused underwater. Their visual plays a major role in capturing their prey both on land and underwater. 

Can Crocodiles/Alligators see in the dark or at night? 

Crocodiles and alligators can see much better in the dark compared to humans. They have a layer of a reflective membrane in their eyes, called tapetum lucidum, that reflects the slightest of the light on the retina, amplifying brightness and the strength of the image.

During the bright light of the day, the pigment cell in their eyes acts like a pair of built-in sunglasses, and at night, it retracts to perceive more light from the surrounding.

Crocodile Night Vision
Crocodiles can see in the dark Alligator Night Vision

Crocodiles and Alligators are nocturnal animals. They mostly hunt during night or underwater, where the light’s brightness is very low. Therefore, to enhance their vision, they have more rod density than cones, enabling them to witness even in low-light conditions.

In addition, they can efficiently sense the minimal vibration underwater that allows them to navigate to their prey.

Do Crocodiles have good eyesight?

Both crocodiles and alligators have good eyesight. They see the world in dichromatic color shades with less precise vision than humans. The clarity of their vision is six or seven times lower than the human eye.

And inside the water, their eyesight gets blurrier due to the overlapping of lower eyelids. But they have a “foveal streak” in the retina containing a huge concentration of receptor cells that assists them to see with high clarity in a small visual area.

Crocodiles and alligators can’t focus underwater, but they can sense light and see the shapes of the entities inside the water. It helps them to navigate the direction and identify their prey.

Also, they both have advanced night vision. Due to the presence of more rods and tapetum lucidum in the eyes, crocodiles and alligators can see much better at night or in the dark than humans.

Crocodile vision vs Human vision

Crocodile Vision Human Vision
Can see underwater Cannot see underwater
Are dichromats Are trichromats
Can see in the dark Cannot see in the dark

Here we conclude our article on “Can crocodiles/alligators see underwater,” along with other relevant queries on their vision. In a nutshell, crocodiles and alligators can see underwater, but the range of their vision is totally dependent on the thickness or cleanliness of the water.

Of course, in the clean swimming pool, they can easily see up to a range, but in the murky pond water, they become nearsighted. We will be back with another post. Till then, stay tuned with us and read the FAQ below.


Image Source- BBC

Astounding Facts about crocodile eyes by Smithsonian Channel

American Alligator by Savannah River Ecology Laboratory University of Georgia

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can Crocodiles see at night?

Ans. Yes, Crocodiles can see at night.

Q2. Do Crocodiles eyes glow in the dark?

Ans. Yes, crocodiles’ eyes have tapetum lucidum, a reflective membrane in their eyes. If we fling light on their eyes in the dark, it will glow.

Q3. Are Alligators blind?

Ans. No alligators are not blind. They have good eyesight.

Q4. What Colors are Alligators attracted to?

Ans. Alligators and crocodiles are attracted to bright colors like pink, red, and orange. It is noticed that they show a sense of attraction towards the bright colors.

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