Cladophora glomerata (L.) Kütz. is the dominant filamentous algae of the river Ilm, Thuringia, Germany. For most of the year it can be found at open as well as at shaded sites. Photosynthetic acclimation of C. glomerata to different light intensities was detected by chlorophyll fluorescence measurements and pigment analysis. Cladophora glomerata from highlight sites showed decreased values of efficiency of open photosystem II (Fv/Fm) as compared with C. glomerata from low-light sites. Winter populations revealed higher Fv/Fm values than summer populations. A light-induced decrease in efficiency of the closed photosystem II was observed at increasing irradiance intensities. The decrease was higher in C. glomerata from shaded sites compared with plants from open sites. Differences in the photosynthetic electron transport rate of different populations of C. glomerata were shown by photosynthesis–irradiance curves. Summer populations from high-light sites yielded higher maximum electron transport rates than plants from low-light sites, whereas winter populations exhibited significantly decreased values compared with the summer populations. Results of the analysis of photosynthetic pigments corresponded with data from chlorophyll fluorescence measurements. In addition to these long-term acclimation effects, C. glomerata expressed its ability to cope with rapid changes in the light environment by the de-epoxidation of violaxanthin during exposure to high light intensities.