Spatial and temporal changes in the microbial community structure in a maritime Antarctic freshwater lake were investigated over a single day/night cycle in December 1999. The community structure of key microbial planktonic groups varied with depth and this was related to both physical and chemical stratification. However, in most cases, the community structure observed at specific depths did not change over the time period studied. These results suggested short-term stability in community structure, with only some minor effects of the diel changes in irradiance on the vertical distribution of planktonic organisms. This is in marked contrast to medium- and long-term studies, which show significant changes in microbial community structure with both time and depth.