For more than 20 years scientists of the ‘Food-chain studies’ Group of the former Limnological Institute have been studying interactions within the pelagic food web. Purpose of research was to explain the structure and dynamics of the zooplankton and fish communities in lakes and reservoirs in relation to biotic and abiotic environmental factors. A so-called multi-species approach was used, in which all common and abundant species within a specific ecosystem were studied on the individual and population level with the same degree of detail. The recent results and the scientific approach used are evaluated and the main gaps in knowledge about food-web dynamics in shallow eutrophic lakes are identified and discussed. It is concluded that instead of the purely functional approach used so far, future studies should also include evolutionary aspects which determine the success of an organism in a given environment and that more attention should be paid to central questions in ‘community ecology’.