A study was conducted over eight consecutive days in February 2010 in which daily variations in the vertical distributions of heterotrophic bacteria, mesozooplankton and ichthyoplankton at 1–1200 m in the South-western Atlantic Ocean were investigated. Diurnal and nocturnal samples were collected at an oceanographic station at four regional depths: Tropical Water (TW) (1 m), South Atlantic Central Water (SACW) (250 m), Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) (800 m) and Upper Circumpolar Deep Water (UCDW) (1200 m). Bacterial, mesozooplankton and larval fish densities significantly differed between sample depths but not between sampling tow times. In total, 154 zooplankton species and 18 larval fish species were identified. The highest number of taxa was obtained from the night-time TW trawls. This depth zone had the highest densities of mesozooplankton, larval fish and bacterioplankton (auto and heterotrophic), associated with the highest temperature and salinity and the lowest inorganic nutrient concentrations. Two sample groups were identified based on their mesozooplankton and larval fish compositions: night-time TW and other water masses (daytime TW, SACW, AAIW and UCDW). Thirty-two indicator species were detected in night-time TW. The copepod Nullosetigera impar was, to the best of our knowledge, identified for the first time on the Brazilian coast. Our results showed significant variability in the abundance and vertical distribution of mesozooplankton, bacterioplankton and larval fish along the water column in an oceanic area. We have provided new data and insights on the composition and vertical distribution of mesozooplankton, larval fish and bacterioplankton in deep waters in the South-western Atlantic Ocean.