At What Temperature Does Bacteria Grow?

Different bacteria have different optimal growth temperatures depending on their environments. Human gut bacteria thrive at 98 degrees Fahrenheit, while this same temperature would be lethal to most plant bacteria.

Most bacteria found in everyday surroundings thrive at room temperature. Thermophilic bacteria, such as the bacteria present in the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone National Park and bacteria found around deep-sea thermal vents, thrive at high temperatures. Other bacteria thrive in cold temperatures, in Antarctic glaciers and waters. Such low-temperature bacteria can also grow in household refrigerators, making routine disinfection with an antiseptic necessary.

Different bacteria have different ranges of habitable temperatures, defined by the three cardinal phase-change points of water. Bacteria that prefer temperatures around those of warm-blooded animals are called mesophiles. Bacteria that prefer elevated temperatures of above body temperature but considerably below the boiling point of water at standard temperature and pressure conditions are called thermophiles. Bacteria that prefer temperatures around the boiling point of water are called extreme thermophiles. Bacteria that prefer the temperatures around the freezing point of water are called psychrophiles. Finally, bacteria that can survive and grow slowly at the freezing point of water but thrive at room temperatures are called psychrotrophs. These psychrotrophs are what cause frozen foods to spoil with time.