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 Exotic Species in Minnesota Waters

What are Exotic Species?
Exotic or aquatic nuisance species are non-native plants or animals that have been introduced into areas where they do not naturally occur. They can, but don't always, outcompete natives by reproducing faster, competing for food and habitat more efficiently, or thriving in the absence of natural predators. Not all species introductions become established or cause problems, but if they do, elimination is almost always impossible causing devastation to the local environment and economy.

As our world becomes more globally linked through international trade, the risk of accidental releases of exotic species will likely continue to increase. Some common ways these plants and animals are possibly being spread throughout Minnesota is by boaters, gardeners, anglers, aquarium and water garden hobbyists, biological supply traders, and nursery traders.

Do you recognize any of these aquatic invaders?

Purple Loosestrife

Curly-leaf Pondweed



Lookout for these aquatic invaders…
Coming to a lake near you?

Round Goby

Zebra Mussel

Spiny Water Flea

Eurasian Ruffe


Are they in my lake?
Exotics aren't everywhere, but they could be in your lake.

To find out, search the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Web page to get an updated list of EXOTICS IN MINNESOTA WATERS.

What can I do to prevent the spread of exotics?
Prevention is key because elimination is almost always impossible in natural waters.
Clean your Boat
Report New Sightings
Know the Regulations
Plant only Native Species
Don't Release Pets and Plants


Clean your Boat
Recreational boaters and anglers pose a risk for spreading harmful aquatic exotic plants and animals. This is especially true if you use your boat on more than one water body within a short period of time, or if you moor your boat in the water for an extended time. Here are some simple things that you can do as a boater or angler to prevent the spread of exotics:

  • Remove aquatic plants and animals
  • Drain lake or river water
  • Dispose of unwanted live bait on land
  • Rinse boat and equipment with high pressure, hot water, especially if moored for more than a day (Boat Washing)


  • Dry everything for at least 5 days

Report New Sightings
Often, citizens are the first to discover new infestations. In many zebra mussel-infested lakes in the United States, citizens have detected them first, long before they encrusted docks and pilings, or littered shorelines. Early detection helps prevent and contain the spread of exotics, thus aiding in the protection of water resources throughout the state. Report suspicious plants and animals to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Sea Grant or the Region 3 United States Fish and Wildlife Service office listed below.

Know the Regulations
Exotic Species Laws

Plant only Native Species
Before you buy or sell any plants, find out if it could be an invasive species
Wildland Invasive Species Program
Plant Conservation Alliance

Don't Release Pets and Plants
Releasing non-native plants and animals from aquariums or water gardens into natural water bodies is not humane, ecological or legal! These species can transmit parasites and diseases, take over native plant and animal populations, degrade water quality, inhibit recreational activities, and interfere with surface water withdrawal for power generation and agriculture, not to mention the devastating effect on local fisheries.

Instead of releasing pets and plants into natural water bodies, return them to a local pet shop for resale or trade or donate them to a school or another hobbyist.

Where Can I Find More Information about Exotic Species?

Statewide resources
Minnesota Sea Grant (218) 726-8712 (FREE Exotic Species publications)
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (651) 296-2835 or 1-888-646-6367
Region 3: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (608) 783-8434

Regional Resources
Great Lakes Information Network
Great Lakes Sea Grant Network

National Resources
National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse
Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force
Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
Sea Grant Nonindigenous Species Site

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