Abstract A study of photocatalytic properties of Bi 4V 2O 11− δ for the degradation of common organic dyes such as methylene blue (MB) under visible light was carried out. Other identified bismuth based visible light photocatalysts such as Bi 2GaVO 7, Bi 2YVO 8 and Bi 2AlVO 7 were reinvestigated to understand their structural, and photocatalytic properties. Our experiments involving the synthesis of Bi 2YVO 8 indicated merely a mixture of BiYO 3 and BiVO 4, instead of the reported oxide containing bismuth in +3 and +5 oxidation states (J. Luan, et al., Mater. Res. Bull. 43 (2008) 3332). We have further shown the similarity of Bi 2AlVO 7 and Bi 2GaVO 7 photocatalysts with that of the metal ions substituted Bi 4V 2O 11− δ (BIMEVOX; ME = Al, Ga) based on the results of powder X-ray diffraction, UV–vis diffuse reflectance and photocatalytic studies. In general, photocatalytic behavior of Bi 4V 2O 11− δ and Bi 4V 2− x M x O 11− δ (M = Al, Ga; x = 0.4) were found to be moderate for the decomposition of MB under visible light irradiation.