Water quality in streams typically changes fast, and sensitive biological indicators are crucial for monitoring these changes in water quality. Diatoms are widely used in biological stream quality assessment. However, interannual and intra-annual variation of diatom population densities is large, often hampering a reliable quality assessment. We studied the importance of different species traits on temporal occurrence of diatom species. We also examined whether temporal occurrence of diatoms is related to species' local abundance or regional distribution using a data set collected in Finnish streams. According to the general linear model (GLM), temporal occurrence of diatoms increased with increasing local abundance and regional distribution. Species that occurred more frequently also had larger niche breadths and nonmarginal niche positions. In addition, cell size and attachment ability were positively related to species temporal occurrence. Our results imply that abundant and widely distributed species with large niches and ability to attach sustain persistent populations in varying environmental conditions typical for streams. We suggest that future studies could concentrate on monitoring these common (abundant) species when detecting the possible changes in the biological state of streams. We advise, however, to consider a relatively large number of species as many of the most common species may have low indicator values.