Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1879
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1879

General Invasion History:

Bithynia tentaculata is native to Europe, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, but fossil Bithynia are known from Pleistocene sediments near Lake Michigan. All living B. tentaculata populations in North America are derived from introductions (Mills et al. 1993). Bithynia tentaculata was first reported from Lake Michigan in 1871. It spread rapidly into all of the other Great Lakes except Superior, reaching Lake Champlain by 1882, and the lower St. Lawrence River sometime before 1942 (Mills et al. 1993; University of Michigan Zoological Museum 2013). It colonized the Hudson River in 1879 and is now abundant in tidal fresh regions of the estuary (Mills et al. 1997). It was subsequently introduced to the Delaware and Potomac Rivers (Pilsbry 1927; Marshall 1933; Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 2004). This snail occurs in brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, up to 7 PSU, but in North American estuaries, so far, it has only been reported from tidal fresh waters (Fretter and Graham 1962; Vincent and Gaucher 1983; Strayer 1987; Mills et al. 1997; Fofonoff, personal observations).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

The earliest tidal record of Bithynia tentaculata on the East Coast was near the head of tide in the Hudson River in 1879, at Troy, New York (NY) (University of Michigan 2013), near the mouth of the Erie Canal and at the head of tide of the Hudson River. This snail was also found in Oswego, NY; Lake Ontario; and in the Erie Canal, near Syracuse in 1879. James Lewis, a collector, transplanted snails from the Erie Canal to Troy, where it became abundant by 1883 (Mills et al. 1997). In the Hudson Basin, it occurs from the Champlain Canal in West Troy, at least as far downriver as Peekskill (Strayer 1987; Jokinen 1992; USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2013). It is not clear if this snail ranges into brackish waters of the estuary. In 1985 it was very abundant in the tidal fresh Hudson River, but in a 2008 survey, only one specimen was found (Coote and Strayer 2009). Bithynia tentaculata has been found in nearby streams, including the upper Mianus River (1991) and Sampawams Creek at West Islip (1999), on the southern shore of Long Island, but we do not know if this snail is found in tidal waters of these streams.

The Faucet Snail is apparently established in the Delaware River (Bilger et al. 2005), although there are few collections from the system. It was collected in 1970, in the lower portion of Brandywine Creek in Wilmington, Delaware (DE), presumably in tidal waters (Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 2013). It is abundant in the upper Delaware River in New York (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2013). In 1927, B. tentaculata was collected from the tidal fresh Potomac at Alexandria, Virginia by Pilsbry (1927) and Marshall (1933). It is abundant in the nontidal river, at least as far upstream as Dickerson, Maryland and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (Fuller 1978; Hamilton 1979; Fofonoff, personal observations). It also occurs above the head of tide in the Patapsco and Gunpowder Rivers (2004-2007, Fofonoff, personal observations), but the extent of its present range in the Chesapeake Bay estuary and watershed is not known.

Bithynia tentaculata's invasion of eastern North America began in the Great Lakes, with its first record in Lake Michigan in 1871. It spread rapidly through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence, reaching Lake Ontario by 1879 and Lake Champlain by 1882 (Mills et al. 1993). The snail reached Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron by 1918 (University of Michigan Museum of Zoology 2013), but is not established in Lake Superior, though a few opercula of this species were found in Duluth Harbor in 2006 (Trebitz et al. 2010). Massive irruptions in city water systems along the Great Lakes led to the common name 'Faucet Snail' (Mills et al. 1993). It was abundant in the upper, tidal fresh St. Lawrence River estuary by the 1960s (Vincent et al. 1981), but was probably established there much earlier.

Bithynia tentaculata may have been introduced to the Great Lakes with marsh grasses used to pack fragile goods from European ports, or with dry ballast (Mills et al. 1993). Once established in the Great Lakes, it was transported by ships and barges through the lakes to the St. Lawrence River and the Erie Canal. James Lewis, a shell collector, hastened its spread to the Hudson by transplanting some snails from Syracuse to Troy, on the Hudson River (Mills et al. 1997). Adult Faucet Snails tolerate up to a week of air exposure (Wood et al. 2011), so transport on trailered boats, fishing gear, boots, and machinery used in water is possible, as is shipment with aquatic plants, or natural dispersal by waterfowl.

Bithynia tentaculata has been transported into interior watersheds in North America. In 1960, it was found at several locations in the upper Columbia River watershed in western Montana (1998-2006) (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2007). It has spread to Montana lakes, including Flathead, Georgetown, and Upsata Lakes (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2013). In 2002, surveys resulting from parasite-related mortality of waterfowl, found this snail occurring along more than 400 km of the upper Mississippi River, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa (Sauer et al. 2007; USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2013).


Bithynia tentaculata is a small freshwater snail. The shell is oval, but with a sharp conical spire which is dextrally coiled, consisting of 5-6 whorls. The aperture is less than 1/2 the shell height, and is tear-drop-shaped, with a thick lip. The shell has no umbilicus. The operculum is marked with concentric rings in adult shells, but with spirals in juvenile snails. The shell is glossy and yellowish-brown. Maximum size is around 12-15 mm. Description from: Fretter and Graham 1962; Jacobson and Emerson 1971; Clarke 1981; Jokinen 1992.


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Mollusca
Class:   Gastropoda
Order:   Neotaenioglossa
Family:   Bithyniidae
Genus:   Bithynia
Species:   tentaculata


Bulimus tentaculata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Helix tentaculata (Linnaeus, 1758)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Pleurocera livescens
(= Elimia livescens) Native to the Great lakes and Mississippi, introduced to upper Hudson estuary (Strayer 1987).



Bithynia tentaculata (Faucet Snail) is a small, egg-laying freshwater snail. Sexes are separate. Females begin laying eggs at about 6 mm. The female begins by cleaning a hard surface and then deposits a gelatinous mass containing up to 77 eggs, but mean size of an egg mass is 13 eggs (Fretter and Graham 1962; Vincent and Gaucher 1983). Egg-laying usually begins in spring at ~20°C, but in some populations can continue into October and November. Estimated annual fecundity was 174 eggs per year (Keller et al. 2007).The eggs hatch in ~21-90 days depending on temperature. Development is direct, and the hatching snails have a fully-formed shell and are about~0.8 mm long (Vincent et al. 1981; Jokinen 1992). In some populations, females can reproduce in their first year. Estimated life spans range from ~12 months (Potomac River at Great Falls, Virginia, Hamilton 1979) to 33-39 months in the tidal St. Lawrence River, Quebec (Vincent et al. 1981).

Bithynia tentaculata is a freshwater snail, but can tolerate salinities of at least 7 PSU. It ranges into brackish portions of the Baltic Sea (Fretter and Graham 1962; Carlsson 2006), but has not been reported from brackish water in North America. This snail tolerates a wide range of water quality (pH 6.5-8.4; Ca++ 5-70 mg/L), but tends to prefer alkaline water with a moderate calcium content (Dussart 1979; Vincent and Gaucher 1983; Jokinen 1992). In much of its range, it survives under winter ice cover, but tolerates short exposures to temperatures as high as 33°C (Thibault and Couture 1982). However, it has not been reported south of the Potomac River, and may be limited by temperature (Dillon et al. 2013). The Faucet Snail inhabits a wide range of substrates including mud, sand, gravel, rock, wood, vegetation, and artificial structures. It is most common in shallow water, but occurs as deep as 5 m (Jokinen 1992). This snail tolerates considerable air exposure (Wood et al. 2011), and is abundant in the intertidal zone in the freshwater Hudson River (Strayer and Smith 2000).

Bithynia tentaculata feeds by grazing, scraping algae and vegetation with its radula, like other snails, but it can also filter-feed, trapping particles in a groove on the edge of the body cavity and wraping it in mucus, where it forms a 'sausage' and is transported to the mouth. It obtains considerable amounts of nutrition by this mode. This capability may give it an advantage in eutrophic environments, where phytoplankton is abundant (Fretter and Graham 1962; Brendelberger and Jurgens 1993). This snail sometimes reaches very high abundances, sometimes exceeding 1000/m-3 (Vincent 1979). The Faucet Snail is a common prey for fishes, crayfishes, and waterfowl (Hamilton 1979; Sauer et al. 2007). This snail is remarkable for the diversity of its parasites - at least 73 trematodes are known from its native range in Europe, and at least 3 of these (Cyathocotyle bushiensis, Sphaeridiotrema pseudoglobulus, and Leyogonimus polyoon) have been introduced to North America with the snails (McLaughlin et al. 1993; Sauer et al. 2007; Bergmame et al. 2011; Karatayev et al. 2012).


phytoplankton; periphyton; bacteria; detritus

Trophic Status:




General HabitatFresh (nontidal) MarshNone
General HabitatGrass BedNone
General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatTidal Fresh MarshNone
General HabitatRockyNone
General HabitatNontidal FreshwaterNone
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Tidal RangeLow IntertidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)3Field data (Vincent and Gaucher 1983)
Maximum Temperature (ºC)33.7The maximum data are experimental, based on 48 hour exposure for Bithynia tentaculata from the St. Lawrence estuary Quebec, acclimated to 25 C (Thibault and Couture 1982).
Minimum Salinity (‰)0This is a freshwater species.
Maximum Salinity (‰)7Field data (Fretter and Graham 1962), experimental tolerance, 72 h LC50, 8.6 PSU (Piscart et al. 2011)
Minimum pH6.5Field data (Vincent and Gaucher 1983)
Maximum pH8.4Field data (Vincent and Gaucher 1983; Jokinen 1992)
Minimum Length (mm)6Female size at first egg-laying (Vincent and Gaucher 1983; Jokinen 1992).
Maximum Length (mm)15Fretter and Graham 1962; Clarke 1981
Broad Temperature RangeNoneCold temperate-Warm Temperate
Broad Salinity RangeNoneNontidal Limnetic-Mesohaline

General Impacts

In North American estuarine waters, Bithynia tentaculata (Faucet Snails) are limited to the tidal fresh regions of the St. Lawrence, Hudson, Delaware, and Potomac Rivers, where they are frequently very abundant (Vincent 1979; Strayer and Smith 2000; Fofonoff personal observations). Studies of their impacts have been done primarily in nontidal waters, but it is likely that these impacts extend into estuaries. This snail is a competitor with native freshwater snails, and is also a vector for three Eurasian trematode parasites, and at least one cryptogenic trematode, which have caused extensive mortality of waterfowl along the St. Lawrence River, in the Great Lakes, and along the upper Mississippi River (Hoeve and Scott 1988; MacRae and Lepitzki 1994). The effects of the parasite are a major ecological concern, but also an economic concern, because of the popularity of duck-hunting.

Economic Impacts 

Health: In the early 20th century, this species often infested municipal water supplies in the Great Lakes region, from intake pipes to water faucets, giving rise to the name 'Faucet Snail'. In Erie, Pennsylvania, 'wagonloads' of snails were hauled away from water pumping stations (Mills et al. 1993). In Chicago, fouling of water pipes was a problem as late as the 1950s (Keillor 1993).

Fisheries and Hunting: In the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes and upper Mississippi basin, 4 species of trematodes (3 exotic, one cryptogenic), carried by B. tenetaculata, caused massive mortalities of waterfowl and were a concern of wildlife managers in the 1960s-1980s (Hoeve and Scott 1988; MacRae and Lepitzki 1994). These mortalities have prompted several studies of B. tenetaculata and its parasites (e.g. Hoeve and Scott 1988; MacRae and Lepitzski 1994; Sauer et al. 2007; Cole and Friend 1999; Wood et al. 2011 ).

Ecological Impacts

Competition: Bithynia tentaculata has been noted to replace native snails of the family Pleuroceridae, especially in polluted waters, such as Oneida Lake, New York. This has been attributed to its ability to switch between grazing and filter-feeding (Harman 1968). At Great Falls, Virginia (VA), on the Potomac River, the presence of B. tentaculata decreased density of egg capsules of Pleuorcera virginica and Leptoxis carinata, but it was not clear whether this was due to interference with egg production or egg mortality (Hamilton 1979). However, in the intertidal zone at Dyke Marsh, Alexandria VA, in the Potomac estuary, Pleurocera virginica seems to greatly outnumber B. tentaculata suggesting that these interactions were not severely affecting the native species (Fofonoff, personal observations).

Parasite/Predator Vector: In the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, Bithynia tentaculata is important as the host of several parasites affecting native waterfowl. In southern Quebec, B. tentaculata is the major intermediate host of Cyathocotyle bushiensis and Sphaeridotrema pseudoglobulus,  trematodes native to Eurasia which caused extensive deaths of dabbling ducks and Lesser Scaup (MacRae and Lepitzski 1994). Along the upper Mississippi River (MN-WI), repeated massive mortalities, since 1997, of waterfowl have been linked to trematodes carried by B. tentaculata, including the introduced C. bushiensis, Leyogonimus polyoon, and the cosmopolitan, cryptogenic S. globulus (Cole and Friend 1999; Bergmame et al. 2011). During the 2006 spring migration, an estimated 22,000- 26,000 birds died, mostly Lesser Scaup and American Coot (Fulica americana) (Sauer et al. 2007). We do not know if these parasites occur in B. tentaculata in the Hudson, Delaware or Chesapeake estuaries, or if they have adverse effects on waterfowl in this region.

Regional Impacts

GL-IIILake OntarioEcological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata, here, was found to carry the trematodes Cyathocotyle bushiensis (exotic) Leyogonimus polyoon (exotic), and Sphaeridiotrema sp., (S. pseudoglobulus, exotic, or S. globulus, cryptogenic) which can cause mass mortalities in waterfowl (Karatayev et al. 2012).
L111_CDA_L111 (Oak Orchard-Twelvemile)Ecological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata, here, was found to carry the trematodes Cyathocotyle bushiensis (exotic) Leyogonimus polyoon (exotic), and Sphaeridiotrema sp., (S. pseudoglobulus, exotic, or S. globulus, cryptogenic) which can cause mass mortalities in waterfowl (Karatayev et al. 2012).
L106_CDA_L106 (Niagara)Ecological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata, here, was found to carry the trematodes Cyathocotyle bushiensis (exotic) Leyogonimus polyoon (exotic), and Sphaeridiotrema sp., (S. pseudoglobulus, exotic, or S. globulus, cryptogenic) which can cause mass mortalities in waterfowl (Karatayev et al. 2012).
GL-IILake ErieEcological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata, here, was found to carry the trematodes Cyathocotyle bushiensis (exotic) Leyogonimus polyoon (exotic), and Sphaeridiotrema sp., (S. pseudoglobulus, exotic, or S. globulus, cryptogenic) which can cause mass mortalities in waterfowl (Karatayev et al. 2012).
L114_CDA_L114 (Oswego River)Ecological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata, here, was found to carry the trematodes Cyathocotyle bushiensis (exotic) Leyogonimus polyoon (exotic), and Sphaeridiotrema sp., (S. pseudoglobulus, exotic, or S. globulus, cryptogenic) which can cause mass mortalities in waterfowl (Karatayev et al. 2012).
NA-S3NoneEcological ImpactParasite/Predator Vector
Bithynia tentaculata was a host to two exotic digenean parasites, Cyathocotyle bushiensis and Sphaeridiotrema pseudoglobulus, native to Eurasia, which caused extensive mortality to dabbling ducks (dabbling ducks, including Mallards- Anas platyrhynchos, Black Ducks- A. rubiripes, Pintail - A. acuta, Blue-Winged Teal - A. discors, and Lesser Scaup- Athya affinis) in the lower St. Lawrence River valley, including Gentilly, Quebec on the tidal river, from the 1960s through the 1980s (Hoeve and Scott 1988; MacRae and Lepitzki 1994).
NA-S3NoneEconomic ImpactFisheries
Hunting/Wildlife- Extensive mortalities of waterfowl (dabbling ducks and Lesser Scaup), along the lower St. Lawrence River, caused by 2 species of exotic trematodes carried by Bithynia tentaculata, were a concern of wildlife managers in the 1960s-1980s (Hoeve and Scott 1988; MacRae and Lepitzki 1994).
GL-IILake ErieEconomic ImpactHealth
'In Erie, Pennsylvania, the water supplies became so infested that 'wagon loads' of snails were removed from municipal water pumping stations' (Sterki 1911, cited by Mills et al. 1993).
L047_CDA_L047 (Little Calumet-Galien)Economic ImpactHealth
Fouling of Chicago's water systems by B. tentaculata apparently occurred as late as the 1950s, blocking water service to some homes (Ingraham 1956, cited by Keillor 1993).
L103_CDA_L103 (Chautauqua-Connaut)Economic ImpactHealth
'In Erie, Pennsylvania, the water supplies became so infested that 'wagon loads' of snails were removed from municipal water pumping stations' (Sterki 1911, cited by Mills et al. 1993).
GL-ILakes Huron, Superior and MichiganEconomic ImpactHealth
Fouling of Chicago's water systems by B. tentaculata apparently occurred as late as the 1950s, blocking water service to some homes (Ingraham 1956, cited by Keillor 1993).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
B-VII None 0 Native Estab
B-IX None 0 Native Estab
B-X None 0 Native Estab
B-XI None 0 Native Estab
GL-I Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan 1871 Def Estab
GL-II Lake Erie 1880 Def Estab
GL-III Lake Ontario 1879 Def Estab
M060 Hudson River/Raritan Bay 1879 Def Estab
M130 Chesapeake Bay 1927 Def Estab
M090 Delaware Bay 1970 Def Estab
NA-S3 None 1977 Def Estab
B-XII None 0 Native Estab
B-XIII None 0 Native Estab
L111 _CDA_L111 (Oak Orchard-Twelvemile) 2009 Def Estab
L114 _CDA_L114 (Oswego River) 1879 Def Estab
L106 _CDA_L106 (Niagara) 2009 Def Estab
L123 _CDA_L123 (St. Lawrence River) 1928 Def Estab
L047 _CDA_L047 (Little Calumet-Galien) 1871 Def Estab
L013 _CDA_L013 (St. Louis River) 2006 Def Unk
L072 _CDA_L072 (Pigeon-Wiscoggin) 1926 Def Estab
L034 _CDA_L034 (Tacoosh-Whitefish) 1926 Def Estab
L054 _CDA_L054 (Muskegon) 1934 Def Estab
L052 _CDA_L052 (Grand River) 1935 Def Estab
L085 _CDA_L085 (Detroit) 1935 Def Estab
L115 _CDA_L115 (Salmon-Sandy) 1880 Def Estab
L105 _CDA_L105 (Buffalo-Eighteenmile) 1880 Def Estab
L127 _CDA_L127 (English-Salmon) 1882 Def Estab
L103 _CDA_L103 (Chautauqua-Connaut) 1888 Def Estab
L094 _CDA_L094 (Maumee River) 1911 Def Estab
L096 _CDA_L096 (Sandusky) 1911 Def Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


2002-2016a Malacology Collection Search.

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Jacobson, Morris K.; Emerson, William K. (1971) <missing title>, Dover Publications, Inc., New York. Pp. <missing location>

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MacRae, Maria; Lepitzki, Dwayne A. W. (1994) Population estimation of the snail Bithynia tentaculata (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia) using mark-recapture and the examination of snail movement in pools, Canadian Field-Naturalist 108(1): 58-66

Marsden, J. Ellen; Hauser, Michael (2009) Exotic species in Lake Champlain, Journal of Great Lakes Research 35: 250-265

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McKindsey, Christopher W.; Mclaughlin, J. Daniel (1994) Hatching dynamics of eggs as further evidence for the existence of two separate species of Sphaeridiotrema (Digenea) in Eastern North America, Journal of the Helminthological Society of Washington 61(1): 126-127

McLaughlin, J. Daniel; Scott, Marilyn E.; Huffman, Jane E. (1993) Sphaeridiotrema globulus (Rudolphi, 1814) (Digenea): evidence for two species known under a single name and a description of Sphaeridiotrema pseudoglobulus n.sp., Canadian Journal of Zoology 71: 700-707

Mills, Edward L.; Leach, Joseph H.; Carlton, James T.; Secor, Carol L. (1993) Exotic species in the Great Lakes: a history of biotic crises and anthropogenic introductions., Journal of Great Lakes Research 19(1): 1-54

Mills, Edward L.; Scheuerell, Mark D.; Carlton, James T.; Strayer, David (1997) Biological invasions in the Hudson River: an inventory and historical analysis., New York State Museum Circular 57: 1-51

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Pearce, Timothy A.; Evans, Ryan (2008) Freshwater Mollusca of Plummers Island, Maryland, Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington 15(1): 20-30

Pilsbry, H. A. (1927) Bithynia tentaculata in the Potomac, Nautilus 46(2): 69

Piscart, Christophe; Kefford, Ben J.; Beisel, Jean-Nicoloas (2011) Are salinity tolerances of non-native macroinvertebrates in France an indicator of potential for their translocation to a new area?, Limnologica 41: 107-112

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Sauer, Jennifer S.; Cole, Rebecca A.; Nissen, James M (2007) Finding the exotic faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata): investigation of waterbird die-offs on the Upper Mississippi River national wildlife and fish refuge, USGS Open-File Report 1065: 1-3

Stewart, Timothy; Dillon, Robert T. (2004) Species composition and geographic distribution of Virginia's freshwater gastropod fauna: A review using historical records., American Malacological Bulletin 10(1/2): 79-91

Strayer, David (1987) Ecology and zoogeography of the freshwater mollusks of the Hudson River Basin, Malacological Review 20: 1-68

Strayer, David L. (1999) Effects of alien species on freshwater mollusks in North America, Journal of the North American Benthological Society 18(1): 74-98

Strayer, David L.; Smith, Lane C. (2000) Macroinvertebrates of a rocky shore in the freshwater tidal Hudson River, Estuaries 23(3): 359-366

Strayer, David; Smith, Lane C. (2000) Macroinvertebrates of a rocky shore in the freshwater tidal Hudson river., Estuaries 23(3): 359-366

Tashiro, Jay S.; Colman, Steven D. (1982) Filter-feeding in the freshwater prosobranch snail (Bithynia tentaculata): Bioenergetic partitioning of ingested nitrogen and carbon), American Midland Naturalist 107(1): 114-125

Thibault, Y.; Couture, R. (1982) Etude de la resistance thermique superieure de Bithynia tentaculata Linne (Gasteropode, Prosobranche) en fonction de l'acclimatation., Revue Canadienne de la Biologie Expérimentale 41(2): 97-104

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Trebitz, Anett; Shepard, Gerald; Brady, Valerie; Schmude, Kurt (2015) The non-native faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) makes the leap to Lake Superior, Journal of Great Lakes Research 41: 1197-1200

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