An indigenous freshwater bacterium (Sphingomonas sp. strain B18) from Lake Plusssee (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) was used to isolate 44 phages from 13 very different freshwater and brackish habitats in distant geographic areas. This bacterial strain was very sensitive to a broad spectrum of phages from different aquatic environments. Phages isolated from geographically distant aquatic habitats, but also those from the same sample, were diverse with respect to morphology and restriction pattern. Some phages were widely distributed, while different types coexisted in the same sample. It was concluded that phages could be a major factor in shaping the structure of bacterial communities and maintaining a high bacterial diversity.