Small clay cubes, fired at different temperatures and mounted with nylon touch and close fastener (Velcro®) on acrylic glass plates, were used in an experimental design to study colonization of artificial substrata by lichens. The cubes were exposed in alpine streams for either 5–7 y at five different sites in the Swiss Alps: Flüelatal (three sites) and Brigels (Canton of Graubünden), and Eggerberg (Canton of Valais). Only a few cubes were lost, except at two sites, where complete plates were lost – due to the strong water current and, probably, trampling by cattle. After 3 y, freshwater lichens had grown at three sites. At the most elevated site, colonization was observed after 4 y; at one site no lichen growth was recorded. The first colonizers of the new substrata were the locally most common species. Freshwater lichens preferred the surfaces of clay cubes fired at lower temperature, whereas exposed pieces of local rocks were less frequently colonized. Improvements in the experimental design are suggested.