Sponges (phylum Porifera) are metazoans which lack muscles and nerve cells, yet perform coordinated behaviours such as whole-body contractions. Previous studies indicate diurnal variability in both the number of contractions and the expression of circadian clock genes. Here, we show that diurnal patterns are present in the contraction–expansion behaviour of the demosponge Tethya wilhelma, by using infrared videography and a simulated night/day cycle including sunrise and sunset mimics. In addition, we show that this behaviour is at least strongly influenced by ambient light intensity and therefore indicates light-sensing capabilities in this sponge species. This is supported by our finding that T. wilhelma consistently contracts at sunrise, and that this pattern disappears both when the sponge is kept in constant darkness and when it is in constant light.