1. Two enclosure experiments were carried out in Laguna Bufeos, a neotropical varzea lake located in the floodplain of River Ichilo (Bolivia). The experiments aimed (i) to assess the relative importance of bottom-up and top-down control on the plankton community, (ii) to assess the relative impact of direct and indirect effects of planktivorous fish on the zooplankton, and (iii) to attempt to identify the mechanisms responsible for these effects. 2. During the first experiment, bottom-up control seemed to dominate the planktonic food web. Compared with fishless enclosures, oxygen concentrations, chlorophyll a levels and the population densities of all cladoceran zooplankton taxa increased in enclosures with fish. Birth rates of Moina minuta, the dominant taxon, were substantially higher in the presence than in the absence of fish, whereas death rates did not differ between treatments. These results are the first to suggest that the positive effects of fish on crustacean zooplankton via effects on nutrient cycling and the enhancement of primary production can compensate for losses because of fish-related mortality. 3. During the second experiment, the direction of control appeared to vary between trophic levels: the phytoplankton appeared to be bottom-up controlled whereas the zooplankton was mainly top-down controlled. Chlorophyll a concentrations were enhanced by both fish and nutrient additions. The majority of the zooplankton taxa were reduced by the presence of fish. Birth rates of most cladoceran taxa did not differ between treatments, whereas death rates were higher in the enclosures with fish than in the fishless enclosures. Bosminopsis deitersi reached higher densities in the presence of fish, probably because of a release from predation by Chaoborus. 4. We convincingly showed strong deviations from trophic cascade-based expectations, supporting the idea that trophic cascades may be weak in tropical lakes.