Bacterial incorporation of glucose, leucine, acetate and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (HBA) was investigated in an artificially divided humic lake (Grosse Fuchskuhle, Germany). Two basins with contrasting influx of allochthonous organic carbon were sampled during late summer stratification (oxic and anoxic layers) and after autumn mixing. High total and cell-specific incorporation rates were observed for glucose and HBA in stratified and mixed waters, respectively, but only a small fraction of bacteria visibly incorporated HBA. The oxic layer of the more humic-rich basin featured a significantly lower fraction of glucose incorporating cells and substantially higher proportions of acetate assimilating bacteria. Niche differentiation was observed in two betaproteobacterial populations: Cells affiliated with the Polynucleobacter C subcluster efficiently incorporated acetate but little glucose, whereas the opposite was found for members of the R-BT065 clade. By contrast, leucine incorporation was variable in both taxa. Considering the high concentrations and rapid photochemical generation of organic acids in humic waters our results may help to explain the success of the Polynucleobacter C lineage in such habitats. Specific substrate or habitat preferences were also present in three subgroups of the actinobacterial acI lineage: The numerically dominant clade in oxic waters (acI-840-1) was absent in the anoxic zone and did not incorporate acetate. A second group (acI-840-2) was found both in the epi- and hypolimnion, whereas the third one (acI-840-3) only occurred in anoxic waters. Altogether our results suggest a constitutive preference for some substrates versus an adaptive utilization of others in the studied microbial groups.