To study the proximal factors inducing diel vertical migration (DVM) in large and small zooplankton species in a plateau lake in China, we investigated the DVM of crustacean zooplankton in lake Erhai bimonthly from November 2009 to September 2010. We hypothesized that the factors affecting DVM behaviour in different-sized zooplankton were different. A linear regression was used to assess the relationships between environmental variables and the vertical distribution of zooplankton. All crustacean zooplankton exhibited normal DVM patterns (down during the day, up at night) across sampling months. The weighted mean depth (WMD) of all zooplankton did not show a significant correlation with the WMD of the dominant phytoplankton and chlorophyll-a. However, a negative relationship was observed between the distribution of zooplankton and water temperature in January, March, and July 2010, but the relationship was relatively weak (R2 between 0.1 and 0.4). The vertical distribution of zooplankton was primarily affected by water transparency (P0.05), whereas the factors inducing DVM behaviour differed between large and small zooplankton. Predation avoidance and phototactic behaviour may be the dominant factors influencing DVM of large species, whereas only phototaxis contributed to the migratory behaviour of small species.