Left-right asymmetries in the zebrafish habenular nuclei are dependent upon the formation of the parapineal, a unilateral group of neurons that arise from the medially positioned pineal complex. In this study, we show that both the left and right habenula are competent to adopt left-type molecular character and efferent connectivity upon the presence of only a few parapineal cells. This ability to impart left-sided character is lost in parapineal cells lacking Sox1a function, despite the normal specification of the parapineal itself. Precisely timed laser ablation experiments demonstrate that the parapineal influences neurogenesis in the left habenula at early developmental stages as well as neurotransmitter phenotype and efferent connectivity during subsequent stages of habenular differentiation. These results reveal a tight coordination between the formation of the unilateral parapineal nucleus and emergence of asymmetric habenulae, ensuring that appropriate lateralised character is propagated within left and right-sided circuitry.