In this paper, we present a detailed investigation into the suitability of atomic force microscopy (AFM) cantilevers with integrated deflection sensor and micro-actuator for imaging of soft biological samples in fluid. The Si cantilevers are actuated using a micro-heater at the bottom end of the cantilever. Sensing is achieved through p-doped resistors connected in a Wheatstone bridge. We investigated the influence of the water on the cantilever dynamics, the actuation and the sensing mechanisms, as well as the crosstalk between sensing and actuation. Successful imaging of yeast cells in water using the integrated sensor and actuator shows the potential of the combination of this actuation and sensing method. This constitutes a major step towards the automation and miniaturization required to establish AFM in routine biomedical diagnostics and in vivo applications.