This study aimed at simulating different degrees of winter warming and at assessing its potential effects on ciliate succession and grazing-related patterns. By using indoor mesocosms filled with unfiltered water from Kiel Bight, natural light and four different temperature regimes, phytoplankton spring blooms were induced and the thermal responses of ciliates were quantified. Two distinct ciliate assemblages, a pre-spring and a spring bloom assemblage, could be detected, while their formation was strongly temperature-dependent. Both assemblages were dominated by Strobilidiids; the pre-spring bloom phase was dominated by the small Strobilidiids Lohmaniella oviformis, and the spring bloom was mainly dominated by large Strobilidiids of the genus Strobilidium. The numerical response of ciliates to increasing food concentrations showed a strong acceleration by temperature. Grazing rates of ciliates and copepods were low during the pre-spring bloom period and high during the bloom ranging from 0.06 (Δ0°C) to 0.23 day−1 (Δ4°C) for ciliates and 0.09 (Δ0°C) to 1.62 day−1 (Δ4°C) for copepods. During the spring bloom ciliates and copepods showed a strong dietary overlap characterized by a wide food spectrum consisting mainly of Chrysochromulina sp., diatom chains and large, single-celled diatoms.