Constraints on lake communities are complex and are usually studied by using limited combinations of variables derived from measurements within or adjacent to study waters. While informative, results often provide limited insight about magnitude of simultaneous influences operating at multiple scales, such as lake- vs. watershed-scale. To formulate comparisons of such contrasting influences, we explored factors controlling the abundance of predominant aquatic invertebrates in 75 shallow lakes in western Minnesota, USA. Using robust regression techniques, we modeled relative abundance of Amphipoda, small and large cladocera, Corixidae, aquatic Diptera, and an aggregate taxon that combined Ephemeroptera-Trichoptera-Odonata (ETO) in response to lake- and watershed-scale characteristics. Predictor variables included fish and submerged plant abundance, linear distance to the nearest wetland or lake, watershed size, and proportion of the watershed in agricultural production. Among-lake variability in invertebrate abundance was more often explained by lake-scale predictors than by variables based on watershed characteristics. For example, we identified significant associations between fish presence and community type and abundance of small and large cladocera, Amphipoda, Diptera, and ETO. Abundance of Amphipoda, Diptera, and Corixidae were also positively correlated with submerged plant abundance. We observed no associations between lake-watershed variables and abundance of our invertebrate taxa. Broadly, our results seem to indicate preeminence of lake-level influences on aquatic invertebrates in shallow lakes, but historical land-use legacies may mask important relationships.