Agar Art with Living Microbes: Introduction, Requirements, Making Procedure, Application, and Keynotes

Introduction of Agar Art with Living Microbes

Agar art or microbial art or agar art with living microbes and germ art are the synonyms in which artwork is created by culturing microbes in certain patterns. The microorganisms used can be bacteria, yeast fungi, or protists (less commonly). The microbes can be chosen for their natural colors. Organisms most commonly used and available are Micrococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosaSerratia marcescens as shown in the picture. Painting with bacteria that is called agar art isn’t entirely new because Sir Alexander Fleming, the scientist responsible for discovering penicillin in the 1920s, began making “germ paintings” of bacteria during his career as a microbiologist. Similarly, Roger Tsien  (biochemist) won the 2008 Nobel prize in chemistry for his contributions to the knowledge of green fluorescent protein (GFP), and applying this GFP, Nathan Shaner (researcher) made a 2006 microbial artwork of a San Diego beach scene.

Agar Art with Living Microbes: Introduction, Requirements, Making Procedure, Application, and Keynotes
Fig. Agar Art with Living Microbes-Left- filling with Microbes, Right-agar art after incubation

Requirements for Agar Art with Living Microbes

Requirements for Agar Art with Living Microbes are as follows-

  1. Bacillus subtilis (cream to brown)
  2. Micrococcus luteus (yellow)
  3. Chromobacterium violaceum (violet)
  4. Escherichia coli (colorless)
  5. Micrococcus roseus (pink)
  6. Proteus mirabilis
  7. Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains having variuous pigments i.e. pyocyanin, pyoverdin, prorubrin and pyomelanin
  8. Serratia marcescens (pink or orange)
  9. Staphylococcus aureus (yellow)
  10.  Vibrio fischeri (bioluminescent)
  11. Yeast species – which are fungi – used include Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yellow-white)
  12. Aspergillus flavus (yellow-green spores)
  13. Aspergillus ochraceus (yellow)
  14. Aureobasidium pullulans (black)
  15. Candida species (whitish)
  16. Candida albicans (whitish buff)
  17. Cladosporium herbarum (brown to black)
  18. Cladosporium resinae
  19. Epicoccum nigrum (yellow, orange, red, brown, and black),
  20. Fusarium species
  21. Rhodotorula species and Scopulariopsis brevicaulis
  22. Protist species used include Euglena gracilis (photosynthetic, green) and
  23. Physarum polycephalum (yellow-green)
  • Inoculating loop
  • Bunsen burner
  • Incubator

Procedure of Agar Art

  • Before starting agar art with living microbes/bacteria, keep all the following points in your mind-
  1. Plan first.
  2. Keep an eye out for colorful isolates.
  3. Paint with a steady hand.
  4. Be ready to experiment.
  5. keep experimenting.
  6. Don’t give up.
  • Allow the plates to warm at room temperature (20 to 25°C), and the agar surface to dry before inoculating.
  • Fill the portrait with colorful microbes.
  • Incubate the agar plate.
  • Observe the agar plate.

Uses of Agar Art

  1. Agar Art with Living Microbes can used in the ‘ASM Agar Art Contest’.
  2. It can also put agar art in gallery or your laboratory to build your self-confidence as a creator.


  1. Microbes can be used as interest.
  2. Try to use normally non-pathogenic/wild strain organisms.
  3. Follow usual guidelines for all contaminated waste.
  4. Safety precautions are mandatory during experiments.
  5. If you are working in the microbiology laboratory and thinking about agar art,  store the colorful organisms.

Further Readings

  3. art/

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