Components of the pelagic food web in four eutrophic shallow lakes in two wetland reserves in Belgium ('Blankaart' and 'De Maten') were monitored during the course of 1998-1999. In each wetland reserve, a clearwater and a turbid lake were sampled. The two lakes in each wetland reserve had similar nutrient loadings and occurred in close proximity of each other. In accordance with the alternative stable states theory, food web structure differed strongly between the clearwater and turbid lakes. Phytoplankton biomass was higher in the turbid than the clearwater lakes. Whereas chlorophytes dominated the phytoplankton in the turbid lakes, cryptophytes were the most important phytoplankton group in the clearwater lakes. The biomass of microheterotrophs (bacteria, heterotrophic nanoflagellates and ciliates) was higher in the turbid than the clearwater lakes. Biomass and community composition of micro- and macrozooplankton was not clearly related to water clarity. The ratio of macrozooplankton to phytoplankton biomass - an indicator of zooplankton grazing pressure on phytoplankton was higher in the clearwater when compared to the turbid lakes. The factors potentially regulating water clarity, phytoplankton, microheterotrophs and macrozooplankton are discussed. Implications for the management of these lakes are discussed.