Food consumption by Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis L.) and ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus [L.]) was studied in single and mixedspecies treatments in the laboratory, where alternative food resources, chironomids and zooplankton, were offered simultaneously. The effects of structural complexity, which was represented by substrate grain size, and of feeding level on food consumption were analysed. Across all experiments, the outcome of competition between perch and ruffe depended on food abundance and on the structural complexity of the environment. Perch and ruffe both changed their food consumption in the presence of a heterospecific competitor. With high food supply, perch consumed more benthic food than ruffe. With low food supply, the consumption of perch decreased strongly, while that of ruffe remained high on fine sediment. Under all conditions tested, the mechanism of competition appeared to be of interference rather than of exploitative nature. It is suggested that with decreasing lake productivity caused by re-oligotrophication, habitat shifts of both species will occur, which will alleviate interspecific competition. Ruffe will forage over fine sediment and perch over coarse sediment, whereby both species will achieve the highest foraging efficiency under conditions of low food supply.
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