Abstract The soles Solea solea and Solea senegalensis are marine flatfish that use coastal and estuarine nursery grounds, which generally present high food availability, refuge from predators and favourable conditions for rapid growth. Two important nursery grounds for these species juveniles have been identified in the Tagus estuary, one in the upper part of the estuary (nursery A) and another in the south bank (nursery B). While S. solea is only present at the uppermost nursery area, S. senegalensis is present at both nurseries. Although they are among the most important predators in these nursery grounds, there are no estimates on their food consumption or on the carrying capacity of the system for soles. The Elliott and Persson [1978. The estimation of daily rates of food consumption for fish. Journal of Animal Ecology 47, 977–993] model was used to estimate food consumption of both species juveniles in both nursery areas, taking into account gastric evacuation rates (previously determined) and 24 h sampling surveys, based on beam-trawl catches carried out every 3 h, in the summer of 1995. Monthly beam trawls were performed to determine sole densities over the summer. Density estimates and daily food consumption values were used to calculate total consumption over the summer period. Sediment samples were taken for the estimation of prey densities and total biomass in the nursery areas. Daily food consumption was lower for S. solea (0.030 g wet weight d −1 ) than for S. senegalensis (0.075 g wet weight d −1 ). It was concluded that thermal stress may be an important factor hindering S. solea 's food consumption in the warmer months. Total consumption of S. solea over the summer (90 days) was estimated to be 97 kg (wet weight). Solea senegalensis total consumption in nursery A was estimated to be 103 kg, while in nursery B it was 528 kg. Total prey biomass estimated for nursery A was 300 tonnes, while for nursery B it was 58 tonnes. This suggests that food is not a limiting factor for sole in the Tagus estuary. However it was concluded that more in-depth studies into the food consumption of other species and prey availability are needed in order to determine the carrying capacity of this system for sole juveniles.

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