How to Culture Bacteria: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you interested in science or are you trying to study microbiology? If so, one of the key things that you may need to know is how to culture bacteria. Culturing bacteria involves growing and propagating bacteria in a controlled environment. It is an important aspect of microbiology and is used to study various aspects of bacteria such as growth rate, morphology, and antibiotic resistance. In this article, we will go through the step-by-step process of how to culture bacteria.

Gathering the Necessary Materials

Before you start the process of culturing bacteria, you will need to gather all the necessary materials. Here is a list of things that you need:

  • Agar plates
  • Test tubes
  • Bacteriological loop or sterile pipette
  • Inoculation needle or loop
  • Bacteria culture
  • Bunsen burner
  • Alcohol Lamp

Preparing the Growth Medium

The growth medium is the nutrient-rich substance that allows the bacteria to grow and reproduce. There are different types of growth media depending on the type of bacteria you want to culture. Here is a step-by-step guide to prepare the growth medium:

Step 1: Weigh the Ingredients

Weigh the necessary ingredients to make the growth medium. The ingredients typically include peptone, yeast extract, and agar.

Step 2: Mix the Ingredients

Mix the ingredients in the required proportions in a flask or beaker

Step 3: Heat the Mixture

Heat the mixture until it dissolves completely. Ensure the solution is clear without any undissolved material.

Step 4: Sterilize the Mixture

Sterilize the mixture by autoclaving under high pressure and temperature.

Step 5: Pour the Mixture into Petri Dishes

Pour the sterile mixture into pre-sterilized Petri dishes and let it solidify.

Inoculating the Agar Plate

Now that you have your Petri dishes with agar, you can proceed to inoculate them with bacteria samples. Here is how to inoculate:

Step 1: Sterilize Loop

Sterilize the loop by heating it on a Bunsen burner until it turns red hot.

Step 2: Pick a Colony

Using the sterilized loop, pick a colony from the culture and then streak on the plate/several plates. Ensure that each plate is streaked differently.

Step 3: Repeat the Process

Repeat the process with the other plates for different bacteria samples.


After inoculating the agar plates with bacteria, you need to incubate the plates to encourage bacterial growth. Here is how to incubate:

Step 1: Label the Plates

Using a marker, label the plates to identify which bacteria sample is on each plate.

Step 2: Incubate the Plates

Incubate the plates upside down at the required temperature in an incubator. Some bacteria prefer warm temperatures, while others prefer cooler temperatures.

Step 3: Monitor Growth

Monitor the plates after a few hours and note any growth. You may also observe the appearance of the colonies as some may be smooth while others slightly rough or irregular in shape.

Storage of Cultured Bacteria

Once you have successfully cultured bacteria, you may need to keep the samples for future use. Here is how you can store cultured bacteria safely:

Step 1: Label the Tubes

Using a marker, label sterile tubes or Petri dishes as per requirement.

Step 2: Add a Solid Growth Medium

Pour in a solid growth medium into the labeled sample tubes or Petri dishes.

Step 3: Inoculate the Sample

Inoculate the sample from the cultured plate/incubation. Repeat the process until desired samples are transferred, always using a sterilized inoculation needle or loop.

Step 4: Incubate

Incubate the tubes/plates as done previously with cultured bacteria.

Step 5: Store at Appropriate Temperatures

Store the tubes/plates at the appropriate temperature conditions required to maintain the bacterial strain. For instance, some bacteria strains require refrigeration to remain viable.


In conclusion, culturing bacteria is an essential skill that is required in many scientific fields. With the right materials and processes, it is possible to create a safe, controlled environment where bacteria can be grown and studied.

FAQs on Culturing Bacteria

  • What are the common growth media used to culture bacteria?
  • The common types of growth media used to culture bacteria include Nutrient Broth, Luria Bertani (LB) Broth, Tryptic Soy Broth (TSB), and Blood Agar.

  • What is a bacterial colony?
  • A bacterial colony is a group of bacterial cells grown from a single parent cell in a culture medium under controlled conditions.

  • How long does it take to culture bacteria?
  • The period taken to culture bacteria varies depending on several factors such as the type of bacteria, and the temperature of incubation among others. Generally, it takes around 24-48 hours for bacterial colonies to develop on agar plates.

  • What temperature range is optimal for bacterial culture?
  • The optimal temperature range for bacterial culture ranges between 20-45 °C depending on the type of bacteria. Some bacteria thrive best in warmer environments while some prefer cooler environments.

  • How often do I need to sterilize the inoculation needle?
  • It is essential to continually sterilize the inoculation needle to avoid cross-contamination between the samples. Sterilize the needle between each inoculation.


1. Atlas, R. M. (2010). Handbook of microbiological media. CRC Press.

2. Pelczar, M. J., Chan, E. C. S., & Krieg, N. R. (1988). Microbiology (Vol. 5). Mcgraw-Hill Book Company.

3. Willey JM, Sherwood LM, Woolverton CJ. Prescott, Harley, and Klein’s Microbiology. Chapter 6: Cultivation of Microorganisms. McGraw-Hill Education. 2016.

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