AIM 101


What are AIM and how do they differ from OIT and AIS?

AIM are aquatic plants and animals available for sale that can negatively impact ecosystems, economies or public health. These organisms are commonly found in the live food, aquarium, pet, biological supply, live bait, water garden and aquaculture industries.

“AIM” refers specifically to those organisms in trade (OIT) that are aquatic invasive species (AIS). Learn more about the AIS issue at

Back to top

Why should I care about AIM?

AIM and other aquatic invasive species can cause serious problems for both the aquatic ecosystems they invade and the humans who rely on them. Invasive plants and animals force out native species and threaten ecological stability. This in turn hurts commercial and agricultural economies and makes recreational activities and aquaculture all but impossible.

The specific problems an individual organism can cause depend on its biology, as well as the physical, chemical and biological makeup of the ecosystem it invades. Learn more about specific AIM at our Meet the Invaders section.

Back to top

Why are AIS so successful?

Aquatic invasive species can grow and reproduce in their new habitats virtually unaffected by predators, competitors, parasites or diseases. Plus, AIS often have biological characteristics that allow them to exploit their new habitats. For example, the invasive plant Hydrilla sprouts earlier in spring than its native counterparts. This head start leaves less light for natives, making it harder for them to grow once they do begin to sprout.

Back to top

How do AIM get into our waterways?

AIM can be accidentally or intentionally introduced by those who own them. For example, water garden plants can be accidentally spread when heavy rains and flooding wash them into a nearby stream, or a pet owner may intentionally release his turtle into a retention pond when the turtle becomes too big for its tank. Find more information in the How Invasions Happen section.

Back to top

How can I prevent the spread of AIM?

There are simple steps you can take to curb the spread of aquatic invaders in the marketplace. Explore the tabs above to learn more about AIM and activity-specific prevention measures to follow. And be sure to comply with state and federal regulations limiting the sale, transport and use of invasive plants and animals.

Back to top

How can I tell if I have an AIM?

There’s no comprehensive list of aquatic invaders in the marketplace. If you’re sure of the name of your plant or animal, explore this website to learn more. You can find out if a factsheet is available or if the species is listed as having non-invasive alternatives. You can also search our regulations database to see if it’s regulated in your state or in the U.S, which could be a clue to its potential to cause harm. If you’re not sure of the species name, contact your state natural resources agency.

Back to top

How do I know if the organism I have or want is legal?

If you’re sure of the name of your plant or animal, search our regulations database to see if it is restricted in your state or in the U.S. If you’re not sure of its name, contact your state natural resources agency.

Back to top

What can I use instead of an AIS?

There are many non-invasive plant and animal alternatives that can fill the same roles as the invaders you might have traditionally used. For example, instead of using purple loosestrife to add color to a Midwestern water garden, use a tropical water lily or the native purple iris.

Back to top

What should I do with an unwanted plant or animal?

Most importantly, never put an unwanted plant or animal into a waterway. Likewise, make sure that you properly get rid of the water and packaging that your plant or animal came in or used. This ensures that eggs, diseases and plant parts will also stay out of our waterways.

Plants—Bag and freeze aquatic plants, then add them to your garbage. Avoid composting unwanted plants because their seeds could still sprout.

Animals—Return your animal to the store, find it a new home with a friend or family member, or donate it to a pet store, university or zoo. If you’re unable to find a new home for your animal and you’re considering euthanasia, consult a veterinarian.

Water—Add bleach to the water—just enough to smell it. Pour the solution into a toilet or sink, never a storm drain.

Packaging or habitats—Treat unwanted habitats and packaging with a 5 percent bleach solution—or just enough so that you can smell the bleach—and throw the treated material in the garbage. Get more detailed information in the Preventing Invasions section.

Back to top

What’s being done about AIM?

Various groups are working hard to combat the spread of AIM. Researchers are developing methods, such as the Notre Dame STAIR, to help predict which organisms in the marketplace pose the greatest threat of invasion. Natural resource managers are spending millions to remove and control AIM already in the environment, and are implementing regulations to keep new AIS out of the marketplace.  And environmental educators are raising awareness of AIM and the simple ways to keep them out of the environment.

Back to top