We use cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By using our site, you accept our use of cookies. You can review our cookie and privacy policy here.
  • Service & Support

    Contact Us

    Our Customer Service team is available from 8am to 6:00pm, ET, Monday through Friday. Live chat is available from 8am to 5:30pm ET, Monday-Friday.

    Email Customer Service
    Live Chat

    International Sales & Service

    We serve educators in more than 170 countries worldwide. Create a quote request on our website or contact our International Sales Team.

    International Ordering
  • Shopping

    Login or register now to maximize your savings and access profile information, order history, tracking, shopping lists, and more.

  • Quick
  • My Cart

    My Cart

    Your Shopping Cart is currently empty. Use Quick Order or Search to quickly add items to your order!

Care Guide: Caenorhabditis elegans

Living Care Information

Caenorhabditis elegans
commonly known as c. elegans

Quick Start Information

  • We ship C. elegans on a Nematode Growth Agar plate that has been inoculated with worms and Escherichia coli as a food source.

  • C. elegans cultures will remain viable for approximately 2 weeks, after which you will need to establish your own cultures.

  • Maintain the cultures at room temperature of 25° C (77°F).

About the Organism

  • C. elegans is a free-living soil nematode that eats bacteria. It is an important model organism for studies of genetics, development, and cell biology.
  • Over 10,000 individual C. elegans can live on a single petri dish.
  • There are 2 sexes: hermaphrodites and males.
  • Adults will live 2-3 weeks.
  • A wild type C. elegans adult body consists of 959 cells.
  • C. elegans have 5 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Nematoda
  • Class: Chromadorea
  • Order: Rhabditida
  • Family: Rhadditidae
  • Genus: Caenorhabditis
  • Species: elegans


We ship the cultures on a plate that has been inoculated with worms and Escherichia coli as a food source. When you receive your culture, remove the tape that seals the plate, and maintain the culture at room temperature with reduced light. Use the culture within 2 weeks. If you wish to maintain it for longer than 2 weeks, you must establish your own cultures.


A petri dish filled with Nematode Growth agar can be used to house the cultures.


We recommend E. coli OP50 or, E. coli K-12 plates or E. coliK-12 tubes as a food source. If you plan to subculture your worms, you will need to have a supply of bacterial culture on hand.

Maintaining and culturing

To successfully culture this organism, it is important to maintain sterility. Transfer a small amount (0.25 mL or 5 drops) of a 24-hour broth culture of E. coli onto the surface of a nematode growth agar plate and spread the liquid evenly over the surface. Incubate the plate overnight at 37°C to produce a bacterial lawn. Using a sterile scalpel, cut a small block of agar from an active plate of C. elegans and place the block on the surface of the new agar plate, face down, so the worms will be in contact with the new agar. Incubate the worms at 25°C for optimal growth. The new plate of cultures will be ready for use in about 3 days. Subculture every 2 weeks.


Carolina provides living organisms for educational purposes only. As a general policy, we do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. In some states, it is illegal to release organisms, even indigenous species, without a permit. These laws protect native wildlife and the environment.

We suggest that organisms be:

  • Maintained in the classroom.
  • Donated to another classroom or science department.
  • Disposed of properly. Cultures and instruments that have been in contact with cultures can be soaked for 24 hours in a 10% bleach solution. After this treatment is complete, all instruments and plates can then be bagged and disposed of in the regular solid waste.


E. coli k-12 and E. coli OP-50 are classified as Biosafety Level 1 organisms. Before you work with bacterial cultures, wash your hands with soap and water, ensure that the work area is draft free, and wipe down the work surface with 70% alcohol or a similar disinfectant. Never work in an area where food is prepared or consumed.


No video or video playlist applies for this organism.


What is the life span of C. elegans?

At 25°C the entire life span of C. elegans ranges from 15 to 18 days. From egg to adult takes 3 days.

How many individual worms are on an N2 plate?

Although the number of individual worms on a plate varies, there will be enough for at least 30 students to make a slide and view them under a microscope.

Are there different sexes of C. elegans?

There are 2 sexes: male and hermaphrodite. Although each is roughly a millimeter long, mature males tend to be smaller than the hermaphrodites and their tails are fan-shaped. A culture will contain many more hermaphrodites than males. The larger hermaphrodite has a pointed tail and can self-fertilize. Males can fertilize hermaphrodites, but the hermaphrodites cannot fertilize one another.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com