Bacterial Incubator Temperatures

Bacteria species each have their preferred temperature growth range. Those that inhabit the body, such as the fecal coliform group that lives in human intestines, prefer body temperature. Other bacteria choose cooler or warmer ideal temperatures. Growing a mixed batch of bacteria at a specific temperature allows only those groups that like that temperature to proliferate and form colonies.

  1. 86 to 95 Degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 35 Degrees Celsius)

    • A temperature of 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit is used commonly for incubation. The less than body temperature range allows a wide variety of environmental bacteria (grouped as mesophiles, which are bacteria that are happy at medium temperatures) to grow. Examples of these are Staphylococci (which live on the cooler outside surface of the human body) and Pseudomonas, a bacterium found occasionally on the inside surfaces of machinery.

    95 to 98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 37 Degrees Celsius)

    • Escherichia coli, a coliform bacterium, thrives at roughly body temperature. To check food samples for fecal contamination, for example, a temperature of 95 to 98.6 degrees is used, along with a specific growth medium to discourage non-coliform growth.

    122 to 134.6 Degrees Fahrenheit (50-57 Degrees Celsius)

    • Some bacteria are called thermophiles, meaning they thrive at high temperatures. An example of this is Bacillus stearothermophilus, a bacterium commonly used to test an autoclave sterility process. Setting an incubator to 122 to 134.6 degrees will prevent most other bacteria growing and encourage the thermophile growth.

    Other Temperatures

    • Incubators can be set to any temperature to grow a specific range of bacteria.

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  • Photo Credit Bacteria Colonies image by ggw from

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