The seasonal colonization and vertical zonation of adpressed and upright algae on Phragmites stems in Lake Belau, Germany, was investigated from November 1988 to October 1991. During the autumns and winters from 1988 to 1990 the dominant adpressed species included the diatoms Epithemia adnata, E. sorex, E. turgida and Rhopalodia gibba, while during the same seasons in 1990 and 1991, Cocconeis placentula var. euglypta was abundant. The upright diatoms were most abundant on the middle sections of the stems, whereas those epiphytes with most of their cell surfaces directly in contact with the substratum constituted the greatest part of the biomass on the lowest sections of the stems. Epithemia spp. and R. gibba attained their highest abundances near the sediment as well as buried beneath the most dense periphyton aggregations, while there were dense populations of C. placentula var. euglypta on the entire surface of the stems. Cocconeis is able to tolerate higher light intensities, with photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) values averaging 38 μmol m−2 s−1, than Epithemia and Rhopalodia, which settle at a significantly lower PAR (26 and 20 μmol m−2 s−1, respectively). The change in dominance among the adpressed species from Epithemia and Rhopalodia to Cocconeis can be explained by changes in the grazing habits of the snail Acroloxus lacustris.