© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.Copepods are important contributors to the zooplankton community in lakes. Being “sandwiched” between predators and resources, they are sensitive to changes in the environment. It has been proposed that the proportion of calanoids of total copepod abundance or biomass could be a valuable indicator of eutrophication. We investigated relationships between environmental factors and the abundance, biomass and size of calanoid and cyclopoid copepods as well as their proportions in summer in 68 Danish freshwater lakes (587 lake years) with contrasting nutrient levels and pH. When lake pH was < 6.0, mean lake depth and trophic state were the most important factors and calanoids completely dominated the copepod community. In shallow lakes with a mean depth < 2.5 m and with pH > 6.0, the proportion of calanoids in terms of biomass decreased substantially with increasing phosphorus and chlorophyll a concentrations but stayed around 50% at > 2.5 m depth irrespective of nutrient level. Time series of the lakes, recovering from eutrophication, confirmed this multi-lake pattern although the trajectory varied from lake to lake. We conclude that the proportion of calanoids in terms of biomass might be a valuable indicator of trophic state in shallow but not deep lakes and only when pH > 6.