Bacteria in decomposing matter

I’ve always wanted to see bacteria through the foldscope. As obvious as it may be, I’d never seen bacteria in decomposing matter with my own eyes.

So, after a plant in my house died, I put it a jar and let in decompose for a week in tap water. I took a drop out, and here’s the first glance I saw.


I’m sharing this so fellow explorers don’t give up at this point. I zoomed in further using my phone screen, and started to make out tiny dots had shapes to them. Getting exciting now.

Some of the rod shaped ones could be E. Coli.

Now, comes the part where I had to convince myself that they were indeed alive. And moving. So I placed the video mode. And patiently waited. Ssh. Holding my breath.

It was super cool to see them slow wiggle around. I couldn’t believe my own eyes.

Here’s another peek into their little world. It’s a like literally peeking into a different time zone. They seem to be just hanging out.

To see the motility of these tiny creatures, I created a timelapse.

This video makes me super satisfied today. There is something to spectacular about knowing something in theory and then experiencing it with your eyes.

If you can identify the bacteria based on their shapes/motility, please share in the comments below.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Absolutely incredible @saad. I am quiet surprised that they are just sitting and hanging out. I made a few observations that might be useful:
    1) It’s interesting how much contrast you are getting – seems to have a blue hue. Most often when I image things, the contrast is not this high (which is wonderful). Your illumination is superb.
    2) In many of them, I think I can see a septa (the division plane). I wonder if you would find a few that’s just close to dividing.
    3) You can do a simple gram positive/negative stain to see if you can stain this guys. I got the chemicals on one of my shelves..

    Even decaying matter has a lot to teach us. That’s a pretty high density of stuff.


  2. Saad Bhamla says:

    @manu – interesting you mention the division. I could’ve sworn in one my videos/time lapses, I saw division- it could’ve also been two cells on top of each other.

    This may be a silly question but does that stain help in identification of strain or is just for visualization purposes.


  3. Manu Prakash says:

    The stain will tell you what general class the bacteria belongs to.


  4. laksiyer says:

    @Saad.. these are large bacteria.. definitely not E. coli. A gram stain would be great to do on these. Gram staining is also a badge that every microscopist loves to wear :). You will be able to identify its general group, nothing specific.. bacteria that way need some sequencing to be done. There are biochemical tests too. But these are still large enough for you to do some more study. Do they form biofilms? I suspect they would. Would be great to see what kind of biofilms these guys form. Also look out for gas, change in color and sorry, dont forget to smell it. You might get close if you look at Bestey Dyer’s field guide to bacteria. Ah, nothing like a good smelly bacterium. I think it is time I build the winogradsky’s column.. hopefully very soon.

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