Zooplankton studies in Mexican rivers are few despite the fact that Mexico has >200 rivers. We present data on the seasonal diversity of rotifers during 2013–2014 from the river La Antigua, near Veracruz. We collected samples from 15 stations along a horizontal gradient of ~5 km, from the upper reaches to about 2 km from the sea. The physico-chemical variables analysed were temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, nitrates, phosphates, Secchi depth and salinity. From each site, 80 L of water was filtered with a 50-μm plankton net. Rotifers were identified and quantified using a Sedgewick Rafter cell. The river is shallow (maximum depth 2.5 m during the rainy season). Our observations indicated that the phytoplankton community was dominated by diatoms; the chlorophyll a concentrations ranged from 0.55 to 26.1 μg L−1 over the study period. We found >125 rotifer species belonging to 21 families, mostly from the Lecanidae, Brachionidae, Notommatidae and Lepadellidae. The density of rotifers was low, <40 ind. L−1, but species diversity (Shannon–Wiener) ranged, except for a onetime minimum of 0.25, from 2.0 to 4.0 for most part of the year. We also encountered Notholca cf. liepetterseni, an endemic species to Europe and Lecane yatseni, endemic to Asia. Other new records included Lecane rhytida and Ptygura melicerta. The importance of long-term studies in rivers is emphasized. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.