Porewater toxicity tests have been used as indicators of whole sediment toxicity. However, many species commonly tested in porewater predominately reside in the water column and otherwise have little to no direct contact with sediment and associated porewater. We assessed the feasibility of porewater toxicity tests with fingernail clams Musculium transversum, a benthic macroinvertebrate that inhabits soft bottom sediments and feeds by filtering surface and porewater. Fingernail clams were exposed to water or sediment in a 96 h laboratory test with a 5 x 2 factorial experimental design. The five treatments included sediments from four sites in the Mississippi River and one sediment-free control (well water). In all treatments, clams were exposed to the sediments or water either directly (no enclosure) or indirectly (enclosure, suspended above the sediment surface). There were three replicates for each of the ten treatment combinations. Overall, survival of fingernail clams did not vary among the five treatments (p = 0.36). In treatments without enclosures, survival of clams in the sediment-free control was not significantly different (p = 0.34) from the sediment-containing treatments. Survival of clams in the sediment-free control averaged 85 - suggesting that direct sediment contact is not necessary for survival in short-term tests. In contrast, survival of clams in the sediment-containing treatments differed significantly (p = 0.03) between exposures with (mean, 77) and without (mean, 89) enclosures. Thus, fingernail clams may provide an alternative species for evaluating benthic macroinvertebrates in short-term laboratory porewater tests. However, more information on their physiological requirements and the development of sublethal endpoints is recommended before their use in tests of longer duration. (C) 2000 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.