The dynamics of the phytoplankton community in the Barra Bonita Reservoir (São Paulo, Brazil) were studied through daily sampling in the field (integrated samples from the euphotic zone) and microcosm experiments, for two short periods: the winter of 1993 (June 30 to July 10) and the summer of 1994 (January 24 to February 2). The goal of the study was to evaluate and compare the variations in the composition of isolated phytoplankton community which occur over short periods of time. Three series were separated into Erlenmeyer flasks for each study period, with samples from the euphotic zone divided into three portions: total, smaller than 64 μm, and smaller than 20 μm. All of the Erlenmeyer flasks were inclubated in situ at the sampling station. The maximum period of incubation was 10 d. Variations of the community in the euphotic zone were characterised by high diversity and a community in a state of non-equilibrium in winter, without the predominance of any species. In the summer, the community presented a low diversity and a state of equilibrium, with the predominance of Microcystis aeruginosa. The microcosm experiments showed that the confinement of the community in the Erlenmeyer flasks, and therefore in isolation from the physical variability of the ecosystem, especially in relation to the mixing patterns, stimulated the return of the community to the initial phases of succession with the predominance of small species and those which grow rapidly (r-selective or C-strategist).