The diazotrophic communities in a rice paddy field were characterized by a molecular polyphasic approach including DNA/RNA-DGGE fingerprinting, real time RT-PCR analysis of nifH gene and the measurement of nitrogen fixation activities. The investigation was performed on a diurnal cycle and comparisons were made between bulk and rhizosphere / root soil as well as between fertilized / unfertilized soils. Real time RT-PCR showed no significant difference in the total quantity of nifH expression under the conditions investigated. The functional diversity and dynamics of the nifH gene expressing diazotroph community investigated using RT-PCR-DGGE revealed high diurnal variations, as well as variation between different soil types. Most of the sequence types recovered from the DGGE gels and clone libraries clustered within nifH Cluster I and III (65 different nifH sequences in total). Sequence types most similar to Azoarcus spp., Metylococcus spp., Rhizobium spp., Methylocystis spp., Desulfovibrio spp., Geobacter spp., Chlorobium spp., were abundant and indicate that these species may be responsible for the observed diurnal variation in the diazotrophic community structure in these rice field samples. Previously described diazotrophic cyanobacterial genera in rice fields, such as Nostoc and Cyanothece, were present in the samples but not detectable in RT-PCR assays.