© 2016 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.The distribution, abundance and composition of marine fish assemblages are influenced by changes in behaviour and movement associated with the diel cycle. The majority of studies exploring day–night differences have demonstrated that there is a greater abundance and diversity of fishes during diurnal compared with nocturnal hours, and that fish assemblage composition varies with time of day or night. We investigated fine-scale (hourly) diel cycles in the composition and relative abundance of temperate reef fishes using unbaited remote underwater video systems. We observed short crepuscular changeover periods with the hours around dawn and dusk sharing many species, some of which are nocturnal and others diurnal. Diurnal surveys recorded a greater number of individuals (16,990) and species (70) than nocturnal surveys (1053 individuals and 19 species). There was a clear difference between the diurnal assemblage, which was characterized by benthic invertivores, and the nocturnal assemblage composition, which contained zooplanktivores and generalist feeders. Within the diurnal period the hourly temporal variation was relatively homogenous, indicating that standardization of diurnal sampling to a particular time of day may not be necessary.