Although many lake restoration projects have led to decreased nutrient loads and increased water transparency, the establishment or expansion of macrophytes does not immediately follow the improved abiotic conditions and it is often unclear whether vegetation with high macrophyte diversity will return. We provide an overview of the potential bottlenecks for restoration of submerged macrophyte vegetation with a high biodiversity and focus on the biotic factors, including the availability of propagules, herbivory, plant competition and the role of remnant populations. We found that the potential for restoration in many lakes is large when clear water conditions are met, even though the macrophyte community composition of the early 1900s, the start of humaninduced large-scale eutrophication in Northwestern Europe, could not be restored. However, emerging charophytes and species rich vegetation are often lost due to competition with eutrophic species. Disturbances such as herbivory can limit dominance by eutrophic species and improve macrophyte diversity. We conclude that it is imperative to study the role of propagule availability more closely as well as the biotic interactions including herbivory and plant competition. After abiotic conditions are met, these will further determine macrophyte diversity and define what exactly can be restored and what not.