Can one see bacteria making use of a compound microscope? The prize is a mindful “yes, but”. Usually speaking, it is theoretically and also practically feasible to see living and unstained bacteria through compound light microscopes, including those microscopes which are offered for educational functions in schools. There room several problems to consider, however.

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Why bacteria are difficult to see

Bacteria are difficult to see with a bright-field compound microscope for several reasons:

They are small: In order to view their shape, it is vital to use a magnification of about 400x to 1000x. The optics must be great in order to resolve them correctly at this magnification.Difficult to focus: in ~ a high magnification, the bacter cells will certainly float in and out that focus, particularly if the great of water between the cover glass and the slide is as well thick.They room transparent: Bacteria will show their shade only if castle are present in a colony. Individual cells existing on the slide space clear. Consistent bright-field optics will only display the bacteria if one close the door the condenser iris diaphragm. This is as result of the distinction in the refractive index between the water and the bacter cells.Difficult come recognize: an untrained eye may have actually problems distinguishing bacteria from tiny dust and dirt i m sorry is present on the slide. Part bacteria also type clumps and therefore the is challenging to see the individual cells.

Research organizations and progressed amateurs use phase contrast optics to view bacteria. This system converts the distinctions of the refractive index of the bacteria into brightness. The transparent bacteria have the right to then be checked out dark on glowing background. In bright-field, closing the condenser iris diaphragm will likewise make the bacteria appear darker, yet at the same time one additionally introduces artefacts (“fringes”) around the individual cells. This is due to the fact that of the diffraction the light. One possibility is to stain the bacteria, however in this case the fixing and also staining procedure may present other artifacts, and also it kills the bacteria.

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How to observe bacteria

Most human being do not have a phase comparison microscope, which makes it much simpler to see bacteria. The is still possible to see them, if your microscope has actually a condenser. Right here are part suggestions.

Use the 40x objective: with the 10x eyepiece you get 400x total magnification. This is sufficient to see them. Of course you have to start concentrating with the 4x and also 10x objective an initial and then job-related your method upwards.Completely near the condenser: This will increase contrast and depth of field. If your microscopic lense does not have actually a condenser, then you can not be able to see them. In this situation I indicate that friend buy part ready-made slides through stained bacteria.Use very tiny water: as soon as making the slide, use very little water and also make sure that there space no bigger particles under the sheathe glass. There need to be a slim film that water beneath the sheathe glass. Otherwise the bacteria can float vertically and go out of focus. The sheathe glass should not to rise on the water. Together a matter of fact, the is much better if the water is so tiny that the is not even able to spread beneath the whole cover glass.Keep bacterial density low: If there room too numerous bacteria in the sample, climate they will certainly overlap and also you will only see a clump.

What is a safe resource of bacteria?

For recreational or education purposes, one must never use spoiled food or (heaven forbid!) usage bacteria derived from the human body and also grown ~ above agar plates. The risks associated are just not precious it, particularly when working v students. Various other sources, such as soil or humus have other disadvantages. The impurities make it complicated to store bacteria from various other particles apart, particularly if one uses bright-field optics. Ideally friend would prefer to have only bacteria, without numerous other things. I recommend the following:

Cheese: that is also feasible to scrape some bacter cells off from specific kinds the cheese. Brevibacterium deserve to be found on Limburger cheese, for example. One needs to be aware that part cheeses usage a combination of bacteria and also fungi, however, and also that the larger fungal cells may outweigh the bacteria. That is also feasible to purchase freeze-dried bacteria.Freeze dried: that is feasible to to buy freeze-dried bacteria because that the purpose of make yogurt. Take a tiny amount of it and put it right into water to dissolve before putting the under the microscope.

What is the easiest solution to watch bacteria?

Commercial slide showing stained spiral-shaped bacteria.

The easiest and least complex solution to watch bacteria using light microscopes is to buy a prepared irreversible slide. The bacteria space then stained and in a saturated high concentration. The image above shows bacteria of such a slide. This is not just safe, yet becasue they room stained they deserve to be quickly seen additionally with microscopes that carry out not have very good optics.


If you just want to look at microorganisms and also do no mind so lot if they room bacteria or not, then i recommend baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). These are not bacteria but likewise interesting to watch. Include some water and sugar and also watch them division after a couple of hours. The is also possible to get some fungus from assorted cheeses. This fungi deserve to be eaten and also are safe.

In summary, over there are less complicated (and probably also an ext interesting) specimens to observe than bacteria. Ns you want to check out individual cells, climate I do recommend that you begin out through yeast suspensions. These eukaryotic cells are lot larger and can be more easily identified.

Large environment-friendly algae (eukaryotes) and also bacteria (prokaryotes) – the tiny dots.

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Yoghurt bacteria flourish in long chains.

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