top of page
  • Writer's picturePPS101

Some 'things' in the water

by Jami Galindo

Bacteria grows in diverse conditions and are masters at adaption, which is why you will find these little ninja nearly everywhere.  Certain conditions play a role in how quickly bacteria will multiply, these include:

  • temperature

  • oxygen

  • moisture

  • pH levels

Knowing and avoiding  the “prime circumstances” that support bacteria growth can help prevent bacterial infections and food poisoning.

Keeping mind these prime circumstances, let’s chat about your birds water bowl. Regardless of sterilization of  the bowl and despite the use of sterile water the instant a contaminant (a beak, a foot, a pellet, or anything) is introduced to the water, hundreds or even thousands of germs are now introduced in an prime growing environment. The bowl is filled without a second thought of this, while your bird dips his food and drinks from it. "Parrot soup" is rather unpleasing to us, but the bacteria are throwing a party to celebrate the fact your bird has an impending bacterial infection in the near future.

We recommend that the water bowl be replaced with a closed water delivery system. On our Parrot Problem Solving 101 FB forum we advise about bacterial infections quite often and believe that many of these issues could be minimized by using a closed water delivery system. The ball-type water bottles are not a closed system and will grow bacteria but the contamination from the bird is at least reduced. When the bird licks the ball it spins around contaminating the water in the nozzle. ​​With a closed system design you can eliminate cross contamination because the bird only touches the water that is delivered for consumption and not the water in the storage container. We prefer the Bird Butler / Bird Butler Canada because of the valve release nozzle. This prevents the bird ever touching or contaminating  the water source. There are a few valves to choose from, we recommend the stainless steel valve AND water changes every 2 days minimally and a quick check that everything is functioning properly.

Prime circumstances  for Bacteria Growth ...


Bacteria thrive in warm temperatures, around 98F (37C). Many  strains of bacteria can grow at any temperatures. Ideal temperature is dependent on the species of bacteria. Refrigeration or freezing will not prevent all disease-causing bacteria growth. Refrigeration or freezing (in some circumstances) is sufficient to prevent staphylococcus,and other disease causing bacteria from multiplying.  


Oxygen can greatly affect the growth of bacteria even though some bacteria can survive without oxygen. Commercial foods are vacuum-sealed to address this issue; however,  Once the seal is broken and  exposure to the environment and oxygen occurs. Shelf life of the product is limited before spoilage. Properly sealing food while it is being stored is a good preventive against bacterial growth because inhibits exposure to oxygen.


Bacteria need water to grow. Moist areas are particularly prone to bacterial growth. This includes the  water content in food leaving it an excellent environment for bacteria to grow. Some foods can be freeze-dried to remove most of the water allowing for longer storage without bacterial growth. 

Environmental pH:

pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. Most strains of bacteria prefer to grow in conditions with neutral pH like the human body, but some strains of bacteria can live in slightly more acidic or more alkaline conditions (remember the discussion about adaptability). Cleaning solutions are typically highly acidic which kills bacteria because they cannot survive at extreme pH. More acidic foods can typically be stored longer without spoiling for this reason. Preserving agents that increase the acidity of food are commonly added to help prevent bacterial growth and allow for longer storage.

Growth and Multiplication:

Bacterial growth happens by way of a cell division process called binary fission. Providing no mutational event, the resulting cells are genetically identical to the original cell. Both cells from the division do not necessarily survive; however, the surviving cells typically are many so the bacterial population undergoes an explosion of growth. The speed at which bacteria grow is dependent on the on the bacterial strain and the prime circumstances.

Growth is in 4 phases:

  1. Lag Phase where bacteria adapt themselves to growth conditions. It is the period where the individual bacteria are maturing and not yet able to divide. 

  2. Log phase (sometimes called the logarithmic phase or the exponential phase) is a period characterized by cell doubling (described above). If growth is not limited, doubling will continue at a constant rate so both the number of cells and the rate of population increase doubles with each consecutive time period. Exponential growth cannot continue indefinitely because the conditions degrade and no longer support growth. 

  3. Stationary phase is often due to a growth-limiting factor such as the depletion of an essential nutrient. Stationary phase results from a situation in which growth rate and death rate are equal. So in this phase the bacterial colony has reached its limit but is very much alive and sustained. 

  4. Decline phase (death phase) when bacteria die which is caused by lack of nutrients, environmental temperature fluctuation above or below the tolerance band, or some other injurious condition.

Growth Rates

Bacteria are among the fastest reproducing organisms in the world. In prime circumstances, bacteria can divide (double) every 4 to 20 minutes depending on the strain. Meaning, if you start with one single germ, for the fastest grower by 20 minutes there would be 32 germs; for the slowest grower you would have 2 germs. 

Using an example from ... for a germ with a 15 minute reproduction rate and starting with 1 germ, within 2 hours you would have 256 germs; by 3 hours you would have 16,382 germs; 4 hours, 65,386 germs; and by 5 hours you’d have 1,048,576 germs. In your water bowl you will likely start out with many more than 1 germ.

Read more on the 10 most dangerous bacteria on Earth:

Bacteria images from the website Of Bacteria and Men.

Edited and adapted from the original effort by Sandra Witt 5/6/16


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page