Water gardeners

Water gardeners play an important role in protecting Minnesota waters from aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Invasive species impact water gardeners. Invasive plants like hydrilla and invasive animals like mystery snails can grow rapidly, completely overtaking ponds. Diseases can impact the health of your garden plants and animals. Invasive species cause recreational, economic and ecological damage—changing how residents and visitors use and enjoy Minnesota waters.  

Water Garden WYSD

Water gardeners can unintentionally introduce aquatic invasive species. Unwanted seeds, eggs, larvae, small animals, and plant fragments can hide within purchases of desired plants or animals. Incorrect species might be sent to you by mistake. Sometimes plants and animals are released or escape into the environment during heavy rains and flooding events where they can suffer or cause environmental damage.

Did you know? It is illegal to introduce non-native species into a free-living state, such as being released, planted or escaping into public waters because they can harm the environment, recreation, and the economy. Never release water garden plants or animals into the environment.  


To help protect Minnesota waters and comply with state law, here are some best practices to reduce your risk of introducing invasive species: 

Before Making Purchases

Protect yourself and the environment by becoming better informed before you buy.

Know the laws in Minnesota. Keep up to date on invasive species regulations.

  • It is illegal to place any non-native aquatic plant into public waters, or to plant them where they may accidentally spread to a public water.
  • It is illegal to possess, import, purchase, transport, or introduce prohibited invasive species.
  • You can possess, sell, buy, and transport regulated invasive species, but they may not be introduced into a free-living state, such as being released or planted in public waters.
  • Invasive species regulations differ between states. For example, yellow floating-heart (Nymphoides peltata) is commonly sold nationwide, but it is a prohibited invasive species in Minnesota.

Learn to recognize invasive species.

Choose species native to Minnesota whenever possible.

Purchase by species name, not common name, whenever possible.

  • Become familiar with the scientific names of organisms you’re interested in purchasing. Unlike common names, scientific names are unique to each species and do not change by region. For example, Egeria densa, or Brazilian waterweed, is also known as “Anacharis,” a name commonly used in aquarium and water gardening stores. Searching and ordering organisms through their scientific name will greatly reduce the chances of ordering AIS by mistake.
  • Not all businesses list organisms by their scientific name. It is better to order from businesses that list their organisms’ scientific names. If a scientific name is not listed, ask if it can be provided to you. If it cannot be provided to you, then it will be difficult to know if you are unintentionally buying AIS.

Checking Your Purchases

Before you leave the store or once you receive your organisms:

  • Inspect purchases for unexpected species such as eggs, larvae, leeches, snails, crayfish, seeds, plant fragments, etc. 
  • Rinse off hitchhikers, seal them in a plastic bag, and dispose in the trash.
  • Check to make sure you received the organisms you ordered and nothing else. Orders can get mixed up or mistakes can be made, especially if you are ordering online.
  • Report prohibited invasive species received or suspicious aquatic plants and animals for sale to the DNR: Rafael Contreras-Rangel, AIS in Commerce Prevention Planner, [email protected], 651-259-5350. Always take a picture and note the location or website.

Never release aquarium pets or plants into the environment. It is illegal to release most non-native species.

Caring For Your Pond or Water Garden

Getting Started

  • Build far away from waterways and flood-prone areas to ensure heavy rainfall won’t carry your garden plants and animals to nearby waterways.
  • Choose regionally native or low-risk plants. These species pose far less risk and are easier to maintain.
  • Purchase from local, licensed nurseries. They are more likely to be aware of state and federal regulations.
  • Rinse plants in a bucket to remove all dirt, seeds, vegetation, eggs, animals, and other materials before planting.
  • Remove all dirt, seeds, vegetation, eggs, or other materials from animals before adding them.

Safe Upkeep

  • Ensure your water garden remains isolated from natural waterways and flood-prone areas.
  • Relocate or install protective structures if your water garden is at risk of flooding.
  • Weed out any unwanted plants to avoid unintentionally growing invasive species.

If You Have an Animal or Plant You Can No Longer Care For

Never release animals or plants into the environment, it is illegal to release most non-native species.

Consider these alternatives if you can no longer care for your plants and animals:

  • Dispose of unwanted plants in a sealed plastic bag in the trash. Do not compost, because seeds and other reproductive parts may remain viable even after composting. Also consider:
    • Dumping rinse water on dry land.
    • Freezing all debris, packing materials and unwanted plants in a sealed plastic bag. This ensures the plants are dead before they are carried to landfills or other locations where living plants could still cause harm.
  • Contact a retailer for possible returns.
  • Find a surrender event near you to rehome your pet.
  • Give or trade with other hobbyists or a local hobbyist society.
  • Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance on humane disposal of animals.

For information and guidance on what to do if you have a prohibited invasive animal, contact Rafael Contreras-Rangel, AIS in Commerce Prevention Planner, [email protected], 651-259-5350. 

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