In most ascidians, the tadpole-like swimming larvae dramatically change their body-plans during metamorphosis and develop into sessile adults. The mechanisms of ascidian metamorphosis have been researched and debated for many years. Until now information on the detailed time course of the initiation and completion of each metamorphic event has not been described. One dramatic and important event in ascidian metamorphosis is tail regression, in which ascidian larvae lose their tails to adjust themselves to sessile life. In the present study, we measured the time associated with tail regression in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. Larvae are thought to acquire competency for each metamorphic event in certain developmental periods. We show that the timing with which the competence for tail regression is acquired is determined by the time since hatching, and this timing is not affected by the timing of post-hatching events such as adhesion. Because larvae need to adhere to substrates with their papillae to induce tail regression, we measured the duration for which larvae need to remain adhered in order to initiate tail regression and the time needed for the tail to regress. Larvae acquire the ability to adhere to substrates before they acquire tail regression competence. We found that when larvae adhered before they acquired tail regression competence, they were able to remember the experience of adhesion until they acquired the ability to undergo tail regression. The time course of the events associated with tail regression provides a valuable reference, upon which the cellular and molecular mechanisms of ascidian metamorphosis can be elucidated.