Ende, S.S.W. (2015). Culturing soles on ragworms: Growth and feeding behaviour. PhD thesis, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
Despite the high market demand and intensive research efforts since the 1960s commercial culture of common sole (Solea solea L.) has been unsuccessful. Problems related to availability and price of suitable raw materials (invertebrates) and the low tolerance to crowding have hampered the development of intensive sole culture. Alternative extensive pond cultures systems are currently explored where common sole can graze on natural food. The general aim of this study was to get insight into which factors limit growth of common sole foraging on ragworms in ponds. The results did not show any nutritional effects that may hamper the growth of common sole. At non-limiting conditions, i.e. when fed chopped ragworms and when housed in sediment free tanks, common sole showed higher food intake, higher growth rates and higher nutrient utilization efficiencies than when fed mussels or a formulated diet. The results however suggest that growth in a pond with ragworms was limited by reduced foraging capabilities of common sole. To explore this hypothesis, the effect of prey size, predator size and prey density were tested. Overall, intake of buried ragworms was reduced by more than half in contrast to intake of unburied ragworms. Intake of buried ragworms was reduced regardless of ragworm size or common sole size. Increasing ragworm density only resulted in satiation intake values in smaller common sole. Our results additionally indicate that the presence of common sole hampers ragworm performance in a pond. Ragworms reduced their feeding activities when receiving water from tanks which contained common sole and ragworms, i.e. when common sole could graze on ragworms. Results from this PhD study suggest that the growth of common sole in ponds is not limited by nutritional but by their foraging abilities. However, the results of this study are too incomplete to fully predict growth performance of common sole in a pond. Factors such as temperature, oxygen supply or feeding activity need to be investigated to make comprehensive growth predictions.