The balance of inhibitory to excitatory (I/E) synaptic inputs is thought to control information processing and behavioral output of the central nervous system. We sought to test the effects of the decreased or increased I/E ratio on visual circuit function and visually guided behavior in Xenopus tadpoles. We selectively decreased inhibitory synaptic transmission in optic tectal neurons by knocking down the γ2 subunit of the GABA(A) receptors (GABA(A)R) using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides or by expressing a peptide corresponding to an intracellular loop of the γ2 subunit, called ICL, which interferes with anchoring GABA(A)R at synapses. Recordings of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) and miniature excitatory PSCs (mEPSCs) showed that these treatments decreased the frequency of mIPSCs compared with control tectal neurons without affecting mEPSC frequency, resulting in an ∼50% decrease in the ratio of I/E synaptic input. ICL expression and γ2-subunit knockdown also decreased the ratio of optic nerve-evoked synaptic I/E responses. We recorded visually evoked responses from optic tectal neurons, in which the synaptic I/E ratio was decreased. Decreasing the synaptic I/E ratio in tectal neurons increased the variance of first spike latency in response to full-field visual stimulation, increased recurrent activity in the tectal circuit, enlarged spatial receptive fields, and lengthened the temporal integration window. We used the benzodiazepine, diazepam (DZ), to increase inhibitory synaptic activity. DZ increased optic nerve-evoked inhibitory transmission but did not affect evoked excitatory currents, resulting in an increase in the I/E ratio of ∼30%. Increasing the I/E ratio with DZ decreased the variance of first spike latency, decreased spatial receptive field size, and lengthened temporal receptive fields. Sequential recordings of spikes and excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs to the same visual stimuli demonstrated that decreasing or increasing the I/E ratio disrupted input/output relations. We assessed the effect of an altered I/E ratio on a visually guided behavior that requires the optic tectum. Increasing and decreasing I/E in tectal neurons blocked the tectally mediated visual avoidance behavior. Because ICL expression, γ2-subunit knockdown, and DZ did not directly affect excitatory synaptic transmission, we interpret the results of our study as evidence that partially decreasing or increasing the ratio of I/E disrupts several measures of visual system information processing and visually guided behavior in an intact vertebrate.