The visual system plays a major role in food/prey recognition in diurnal animals, and food intake is regulated by the hypothalamus. However, whether and how visual information about prey is conveyed to the hypothalamic feeding centre is largely unknown. Here we perform real-time imaging of neuronal activity in freely behaving or constrained zebrafish larvae and demonstrate that prey or prey-like visual stimuli activate the hypothalamic feeding centre. Furthermore, we identify prey detector neurons in the pretectal area that project to the hypothalamic feeding centre. Ablation of the pretectum completely abolishes prey capture behaviour and neurotoxin expression in the hypothalamic area also reduces feeding. Taken together, these results suggest that the pretecto-hypothalamic pathway plays a crucial role in conveying visual information to the feeding centre. Thus, this pathway possibly converts visual food detection into feeding motivation in zebrafish.