Screening methods to prevent introductions of invasive species are critical for the protection of environmental and economic benefits provided by native species and uninvaded ecosystems. Coastal ecosystems worldwide remain vulnerable to damage from aquatic species introductions, particularly via ballast water discharge from ships. Because current ballast management practices are not completely effective, rapid and sensitive screening methods are needed for on-site testing of ships in transit. Here, we describe a detection technology based on a microfluidic chip containing DNA oligonucleotide functionalized carbon nanotubes. We demonstrate the efficacy of the chip using three ballast-transported species either established (Dreissena bugensis) or of potential threat (Eriocheir sinensis and Limnoperna fortuneii) to the Laurentian Great Lakes. With further refinement for on-board application, the technology could lead to real-time ballast water screening to improve ship-specific management and control decisions.