• crayfish;
  • diet selection;
  • fish;
  • Lepomis;
  • nonindigenous;
  • Orconectes;
  • predation;
  • prediction;
  • pumpkinseed sunfish;
  • snails

Abstract Global homogenization of biota is underway through worldwide introduction and establishment of nonindigenous (exotic) species. Freshwater ecologists should devote more attention to exotic species for two reasons. First, exotics provide an opportunity to test hypotheses about what characteristics of species or habitats are related to successful establishment or invasibility, respectively. Second, predicting which species will cause large ecological change is an important challenge for natural resource managers. Rigorous statistical relationships linking species characteristics to probability of establishment or of causing ecological impacts are needed. In addition, it is important to know how reliable different sorts of experiments are in guiding predictions. We address this issue with different spatial scales of experiments testing the impact of two predators on native snail assemblages in northern Wisconsin USA lakes: an exotic crayfish, the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus); and a native fish predator, the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibossus). For the crayfish, laboratory experiments, a field cage experiment, and a snapshot survey of 21 lakes gave consistent results: the crayfish reduced abundance and species richness of native snails. Laboratory and field experiments suggested that pumpkinseed sunfish should have a similar impact, but the lake survey suggested little impact. Unfortunately, no algorithms exist to guide scaling up from small-scale experiments to the whole-lake, long-term management scale. To protect native biodiversity, management of freshwater exotic species should be targeted on lakes or drainages that are both vulnerable to colonization by an exotic, and that harbour endemic species. Management should focus on preventing introduction because eradication after establishment is usually not possible.