Dilution bioassays were performed to examine the seasonal and vertical difference in the relative importance of factors limiting growth of heterotrophic bacteria in Lake Biwa. The lake water diluted by 0.2 μm lake filtrate (1:6.6) was enriched either with glucose (C), inorganic phosphorus (P), ammonium nitrogen (N), amino acids (AA), or a combination of these, and incubated for 2 days at the depths where lake water was collected (2.5, 20 and 30 m depths). Experiments showed that at 2.5 m, P was the most deficient resource for bacterial growth, but the magnitude of P limitation depended on water temperature. Among others, amino acids showed a slight but significant stimulation of bacterial growth rates during the fall. At 20 and 30 m, however, growth stimulation by resource addition was rarely detected. Vertically reciprocal translocation experiments revealed that the growth rate was limited by low temperature rather than resource supply at the greater depths. The results support a simple view that bacterial growth rate is basically regulated by water temperature, but high growth rate is not realized in summer because of resource depletion. The present study suggests that both temperature and P supply play a crucial role in biogeochemical cycling of organic matter in Lake Biwa through the bacterial growth rate.