Water gardens, or aquatic gardens, generally are designed to house and display aquatic plants and fish. They range in size from small patio container gardens to large ponds, both natural and human-made. Despite their beauty, water gardens can lead to introductions of invasive plants and animals into natural waterways.
Many of the plants and animals traditionally used in water gardens are non-native, and can become invasive if introduced into natural waterways. Such introductions can be accidental or purposeful. For example, major rainstorms can wash plants, seeds, fish and other animals from a water garden into an adjacent waterway where they can flourish. Likewise, draining water or dumping water garden plants and animals into a nearby waterbody can lead to an invasive species becoming established. Introductions into natural waterways can have harmful environmental and economic consequences. This is one reason why many states prohibit release of organisms into natural waterways.
Many states regulate what organisms can be sold for use in water gardens. However, many aquatic plants and animals are available through the online marketplace, which is only loosely regulated. Therefore, it is important for individuals to be aware of their state’s regulations to ensure that organisms being considered for purchase are not prohibited. (To find out which species are regulated in each state visit www.takeAIM.org.) Because even non-regulated species could become invasive if introduced into natural waterways, it is also important for water gardeners to know the specific steps that they can take to ensure that their water gardening activities don’t lead to introductions of invasive organisms.
The following guidelines are intended to provide water gardeners* with consistent invasive-species-prevention recommendations. Accordingly, water gardeners, water gardening societies, retailers, and outreach professionals who work with water gardeners are encouraged to use this information to guide their own activities and when developing outreach tools. More information and examples of outreach tools incorporating these recommendations are available on the Web including www.takeAIM.org and www.Habitattitude.net.
Please note that these guidelines are not intended for those involved with creating or conducting outreach on rain gardens or stormwater retention basins, although some of the individual recommendations may apply.
When constructing a new water garden:
When adding plants and animals:
When doing maintenance:
*Content on this page excerpted from the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force. See Voluntary Guidelines to Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species: Water Gardening